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Buying Guide: Antique and Vintage Furniture Do’s and Don’ts

Buying Guide: Antique and Vintage Furniture Do’s and Don’ts

At first glance, the world of antique and vintage furniture can seem overwhelming — especially if you don’t know which pieces to avoid and which to invest in. Here is your buying guide.

Do: Buy Pieces in Good, Useable Condition

This may seem obvious, but it can be easy to overlook major flaws when a piece is a bargain price or the perfect size for a room. To avoid regret, take the time to ensure everything functions properly and that the piece is usable.

Don’t: Buy Unusable Pieces

Is a piece rickety or ready to fall apart? Regardless of price, don’t purchase it unless you can identify what is wrong and know how to fix it. Often indicative of water exposure or extreme temperatures, conditions that cause wood to swell and shrink, loosening glue in joints, and destroyed paints and finishes, rickety pieces most likely will not function again without a lot of repair.

Do: Buy Pieces That Fit Your Space

When out antiquing, it’s very easy to get distracted by unusual or beautiful pieces that aren’t what you’re looking for. Resist buying a piece just because you love it! You must have the perfect spot before bringing a piece home. A good way to prepare for antique shopping is to create a list with measurements of the spaces you’re hoping to fill.

Don’t: Buy Pieces That Will Just Sit in Your Garage

It’s easy to bring home a piece of furniture that needs work with every intention of bringing it back to life. Make sure you’re being realistic when it comes to actually making that intention a reality. It’s also helpful to set a limit on the amount of project pieces you allow yourself so that your garage doesn’t come overrun with them.

Do: Buy Dated or Ugly Upholstery

Vintage and antique upholstered pieces that are in good condition but are covered in outdated fabric are perfect candidates to reupholster or update with a slipcover. In some cases, they can be brought into the present by simply adding a couple pretty pillows and a throw. Keep your eyes open for the hallmarks of quality furniture: down-filled cushions, horsehair filling (as opposed to foam), and solid wood frames.

Don’t: Buy Smelly, Stained or Potentially Infested Upholstery

Unless you’re willing to strip a piece down to the frame, stay away from upholstered pieces that are stinky, soiled, heavily stained or show signs of bugs. The “sniff test” is a real thing! While mustiness can be aired out, strong pet or smoke odors are almost impossible to get out of all the layers of foam and batting.

Do: Buy Easy-toFix Pieces

There are seemingly endless amounts of reasonably priced vintage or antique pieces on the market simply because they have small cosmetic issues like broken or missing hardware, water rings, or minor scratches in the finish. Don’t be afraid to look past these easy-to-fix issues and grab that bargain!

Don’t: Buy Pieces That You Can’t Repair

Simply put, don’t purchase a damaged or nonfunctional piece unless you know how to fix it. While some repairs are simple and straightforward, others are not and require specific knowledge and skills — especially when the structural integrity of a piece is compromised. Pass up pieces that are beyond your ability to repair.

Do: Buy Timeless Pieces You Love

If the style of a piece looked good decades ago and still looks good today, chances are it’s a purchase that will continue to look good decades from now. That’s the best thing about buying vintage or antique — the timeless quality they add to your space.

Don’t: Buy Something Just Because It’s Cheap

A bargain isn’t a bargain if it clutters up your home. Read that last sentence again! It can be really hard to turn down a good deal, but try taking the price out of the equation. Do you love it enough to pay more for it? Do you have the perfect spot for it? If the answer is yes to both, by all means buy it. If not, it’s most likely not worth buying.

Do: Jump at One-of-a-Kind Finds

If you spot a one-of-a-kind piece that you love, and you have the perfect place for it, don’t hesitate! Overthinking it and waiting could result in losing out to another shopper. That’s just the nature of shopping secondhand. Consider going into a shopping trip knowing what you’re looking for (color, measurements and style) so it’s easier to recognize a gem when you see it.

Don’t: Hesitate and Miss Out

There are potential purchases you need to think about or shop around for, and then there are those you cannot walk away from. If you can’t stomach the thought of someone else snapping up a certain piece, it might be one to bring home. Be aware that shopping secondhand can be an emotional rollercoaster; it helps to mentally prepare for the ups and downs beforehand.

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