How to Shop Vintage Stores Like an Interior Designer
When shopping for vintage or antique pieces, you most likely find yourself in search of something that sparks your interest and emotions. Finding a piece that you can connect with on a personal level is incredibly special. Better yet is a piece that relates to your family history, a designer you love or a period you identify with. At LUDC, we have found that many clients seek out meaningful décor, furniture and art pieces naturally. In their travels or throughout generations of lineage, our clients have effortlessly acquired beautiful collections that fit seamlessly into their homes. Unfortunately — for some — choosing such pieces and blending them in with an existing design scheme is not so easy. Our team has made some fantastic finds over the years. Thus, we hope we can offer a few tips and tricks to help you along your way to building an incredible collection. Today, we want to share with you how our team shops vintage stores and how to find antiques like a designer. We will offer a peek into some of our favorite boutiques, vendors and destinations for antique and vintage items — both brick-and-mortar and online! Stay tuned for additional advice on antiques and vintage shopping in our vintage furniture shopping guide — soon to come!
Demand for Collectibles Soars During the COVID-19 Pandemic
A year spent safer-at-home has changed our perspective on many things — both individually and as a nation. We have come to value both social and private spaces a bit more — longing for connection while cherishing time spent alone. Furthermore, we have recognized our need for personal, specialized homes — awash in color, character and complex emotions. Our homes have transformed from clinically clean demonstrations of our commitment to minimalism into warm, welcoming interiors. As such, demand for collectibles and other nostalgic pieces has soared. Journalists across publications have noted a change in spending habits throughout recent months. With fewer Americans able to travel and gather with loved ones, many have turned towards collectibles. They have embraced art and furniture that recall their trips and beloved memories. Writers like Ronda Kaysen with The NYT recently described a surge in demand for any and all things nostalgic.
. MILLENNIALS LEAD THE CHARGE FOR NOSTALGIC VINTAGE AND ANTIQUE FINDS .
In her article “A Pandemic-Driven Love Affair With All Things Vintage” for The New York Times, Ronda Kaysen details a changing tide. She writes that many of last year’s hottest décor and furniture items were inspired by periods of the past. For instance, the mushroom lamp and the grasshopper lamp both reemerged as home lighting giants in 2020. Kaysen chalks the pre-loved trend up to “a growing hunger for antique and vintage furnishings.” The trend began “about two years ago, but has accelerated during the pandemic.”
Ronda Kaysen explains that this interest has piked mostly amongst Millennials — tying into interiors trends like eclecticism and Grand Millennial design. This generation is “drawn to a vintage and antique look by Instagram.” They are “attracted to hard-to-find items and designer names they may have only recently discovered.” Learning how to find antiques like a designer or collector has become a fun and rewarding game. The patience and dedication involved in hunting down, bidding on and waiting for delivery across the nation or overseas adds to the experience. Over the last year, demand for “top vintage and antique categories like rugs, desks and table lamps” has surged. Some pieces fetch values 20% above what they would have been in 2019. On 1stDibs, “some categories [are] up as much as 80 percent.” In our newly re-domesticated era of custom sourdough bread starters and hand-knit sweaters, antique and vintage pieces just make sense.
How to Shop Vintage Stores like a Seasoned Collector
When it comes to shopping vintage stores, start by getting excited! We find there’s something exhilarating about seeing a piece, connecting with it, and re-imagining it in a modern way. As our team shopping for antiques, we also think about the design, where it originated from, and its functionality. We want our clients to be able to use the piece even if it’s vintage. Some of our best finds have been in vintage shops like Reeves Antiques or on 1stdibs. Their unique, one-of-a-kind items have added a timeless richness to our interior designs. That being said, here are our top tips to shop vintage stores like an interior designer.
. #1 GO IN WITH AN OPEN MIND .
Instead of going shopping with the intent of finding a certain piece, go in with an open mind. This gives you the freedom to browse and take it all in. You never know what little treasure you might find. Then again, you may not find something today, and that’s okay. Or you may find a piece you love but don’t need – that’s okay too! When you don’t limit yourself to looking for specific things, you can end up finding exactly what you need without even knowing it.
. #2 LOOK FOR HIGH QUALITY WHEREVER YOU SHOP .
Craftsmanship is important when you’re shopping for vintage pieces. Look at the material and check out the stitching on the upholstery. Find out what type of wood the manufacturer used. If you can find the manufacturer, look them up on your phone. It’s important to recognize pieces made with high-quality materials. These items will last longer and continue to look beautiful over the years. When shopping for vintage art, one thing that always catches our eye is a beautiful, ornate frame. This frame style gives the piece a traditional, luxe feel and creates a stunning contrast when mounted in a modern space. Another thing to look for when you’re buying art is a signature. Having a signature is a good indication the artwork is real and original.
. #3 WAIT FOR THE PIECE THAT STOPS YOU IN YOUR TRACKS .
When you’re thinking about incorporating vintage pieces in your home, you want to make sure you select pieces that speak to you. Whether it’s the lines of the piece or its shape, if it made you stop and look, then it’s got that something! Even if it’s not in the color you love, remember it can be painted or reupholstered. The most important thing to look at is what kind of “bones” it has. Does the underlying structure or shape bear potential? Some other pieces we’re always on the lookout for are mirrors, accessories made from natural stone, and vintage photos. Mirrors are great because they give the illusion of more space and add depth. Natural stone accessories, on the other hand, are a fabulous way to bring in texture and add a splash of organic pattern. Vintage photos instantly give a space a timeless feel and are a great conversation starter.
. #4 AVOID KITSCH AND CLUTTER .
Timeless interiors are collected and curated — not overflowing with knick-knacks or senseless clutter. Whether you are looking for a bookshelf accessory or vase for a cocktail table, each piece should be chosen carefully. It’s always best to be intentional about what pieces bring into your home. Instead of purchasing random or miscellaneous items, consider using pieces that are historical, iconic or useful. We love incorporating accessories like jewelry, books, an accent chair or vintage prints into our designs. They’re unique and we love that there’s a story behind everything.
. #5 ASK QUESTIONS — ABOUT PROVENANCE, PERIOD AND PREVIOUS PICTURES .
One of the best ways to shop vintage stores is to ask questions. Because the curator of the antique shop has a trained eye, one should be unafraid to borrow it. Ask about the materials, the manufacturer and how the shop sources their pieces. Delving into the provenance of each piece is important for establishing current and future resale value. Defining the period ensures you are purchasing an historic piece rather than a reproduction or period-inspired piece. Asking for earlier photos offers a timeline of condition. Take time to build a good relationship with the shop owner and give them an idea of what you are looking for. You never know when that perfect piece will come in — and they could give you a great tip. You might find a piece you absolutely love but are concerned about the high price of the item. If this occurs, consider calling on a conservator or other art specialist who can detail the condition and report on the piece.
How to Find Antiques Like a Designer
. #1 GO ONLINE WITH 1STDIBS, LIVEAUCTIONEERS & EBTH .
The first step in learning how to find antiques like a designer is rejecting the idea that pieces can only be shopped in person. Online auctions and specialty shops — like 1stDibs, EBTH and LiveAuctioneers — offer myriad ways to find what you are looking for. Even obscure, perfectly pedigreed pieces with exceptional provenance exist throughout these sites. The vendors filling each site range from antique stores to auction houses and from vintage boutiques to art galleries. Together, they offer incredible finds from across the country and worldwide.
. 1stDibs .
Whether you love Danish Mid-Century Modern furniture or French ceramics, 1stdibs offers a curated experience like none other online. Browsing available pieces — which range from avant-garde and contemporary to historic and inspiring — is like taking a stroll through a bazaar or market. It offers you access to vintage pieces from around the world that might otherwise be inaccessible. From fashion to home furnishings, you can find it all on 1stdibs. It’s an amazing resource for one-of-a-kind vintage finds. We’re always browsing their accent chairs (because you know we love a good accent chair) and scrolling through their Instagram for inspiration.
. LIVEAUCTIONEERS .
LiveAuctioneers describes itself as the “world’s largest art, antiques & collectibles online marketplace.” Unlike other retailers — and quite a few auction sites — LiveAuctioneers is subscription-free. It offers price results through its comprehensive Auction Price Results Database. The marketplace also provides users with an auction house directory and allows buyers to bid live or in advance. Shoppers can find paintings by California Impressionists, sculptures by Mexican Modernists and antiquities from across the globe on LiveAuctioneers. For those excited to return to the in-person auction block, LiveAuctioneers posts local auction schedules for participating houses.
. EBTH .
With so many online marketplaces available nowadays, discovering how to find antiques like a designer has never been easier. While enthusiasts once searched through garage sales, antique shops and estates fresh from probate, they can now find pieces virtually. EBTH — shorthand for “Everything But the House” — replicates the estate auction experience for online shoppers. According to the company itself, Everything But the House “is a curated and authenticated marketplace to find and sell everything worth owning.” EBTH describes itself as “the trusted source for everything secondhand.” Unusual pieces like folk art from 18th century America or quirky designer purses from the 1930s exist in droves on the site. They pride themselves on being a “marketplace for the uncommon” and for their full-service, white-glove sales and delivery process. Whether you are in search of Art Nouveau stained-glass, vintage geode bookends or South American Animalia, EBTH has something for everyone.
. #2 SHOP LOCAL WITH INSIDER TIPS .
Shop locally through consignment shops, antique dealers, flea markets, estate sales and more — but not without insider tips. Pop in to hotels in your area with great art collections, boutiques with stunning furniture or shops with gorgeous displays for sourcing ideas. During this time, however, shopping in person might remain a no-go due to the COVID-19 pandemic. If this is the case but you still want to support local small businesses, we suggest scrolling through Etsy. Etsy allows shoppers to categorize pieces based on period, style and material. It also lets buyers delineate between local, state, national and international sellers. Currently, we love the vintage and antique Japanese ceramics sold on Etsy! For those who can shop in person, below is an outline of a few of our favorite local antiques and vintage shops!
. REEVES ANTIQUES .
Reeves Art + Design is a local, family-owned and operated art studio and antique store in Houston. We’ve worked with Reeves for a while now to source vintage pieces for clients as well as pieces for Laura’s home. It’s one of our go-to spots for finding vintage items locally. Laura added some fabulous chairs from Reeves to her home.
This pair of armchairs are campaign-style and stained in black. The base of these chairs also boasts beautiful brass detailing. They are from the Hollywood Regency period in the 1960s and are upholstered in a lush light gray velvet. The arm-less chairs pictured above were designed by Michael Taylor for the Baker Furniture Company. They are also from the 1960s and freshly upholstered in lush gray velvet. This is just a small example of their wonderful selection. Our team is always in for a unique and gorgeous find every time we visit.
. OLD BLUE HOUSE ANTIQUES .
No matter what you’re looking for, you can probably find it at Old Blue House Antiques in Houston. This sweet shop carries everything from home goods and clothing to cute vintage items for kids. They have a large space which is conveniently located close to the Laura U Studio — just down the way on Westheimer Road!
. KEIL’S ANTIQUES .
Keil’s Antiques in New Orleans is a family owned and operated business. They’ve been sourcing antiques for over 100 years and know a thing or two about vintage pieces. They have a fabulous selection of antique mirrors, accent chairs, and secretary desks. They’re one of my favorite spots for sourcing vintage pieces. Every time we take a trip to New Orleans, we set aside time to pop into their store and check out what they have.
. #3 CHOOSE WHAT YOU LOVE — WITHOUT RESERVATION .
When learning how to find antiques like a designer, the best advice one can absorb is choosing what you love without reservation. Getting excited about a piece and truly connecting with its design and history — flaws and all — is what this process is really about. While it is important to consider condition and parse through documents regarding provenance, emotional connection is often superior to resale value. Add character to your home while placing your personality on display by picking pieces that speak to your heart and soul.
Closing Thoughts About Shopping Antiques & Vintage as an Interior Designer
Your home represents the past and the present – your family’s heritage, your character and your hopes for the future. As you discover how to find antiques like a designer, look for pieces made with high-quality materials that excite you. Find pieces that you connect with and don’t be afraid to ask questions! Shop with an open mind and try not to get discouraged if you cannot find something at first. Shopping for vintage pieces isn’t about finding the perfect thing. It is about finding the furnishings that speak to you and tell your story. For more design ideas and inspiration follow us on Instagram.