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Creative Collector: Place a Vintage-Furniture Steal

A simple stroll into an antiques mall, around a flea market or to a thrift store to purchase vintage furniture could involve you ever spending more than you intended unless you observe a few straightforward rules. Here’s the way to create your next purchase an educated person.

First rule: Always go for what you’re drawn to, whether it looks like it’s old or made by a slick designer. You can suss out craftsmanship and markings later. Here are a few pointers for purchasing, however, so you don’t drag house any lemons.

Turn the piece over. Make sure all the original wood, plastic screws, nails and everything is there, and that the wood fits. Differences in colour usually signify repairs. Expect some wear and tear on old items. Sometimes, older bits with fixes, especially professional-grade fixes, aren’t even devalued. Start looking for quality joinery methods such as dovetailing, corner blocks and mortise-and-tenon (tongue-and-groove) joints — all fantastic signs you’ve landed a stone.

Open doors and drawers. Wiggle knobs. Sit down. Armoires, buffets and dressers must be treated as such. If something’s amiss, you’ll understand right away. Chairs, stools, benches and sofas shouldn’t give. Proceed along if the seller won’t let you examine.

Check the upholstery. Other than obvious signs of harm, do polyurethane cushions seem difficult? Is fabric wrapped along seams or slightly stained? If you’re have to reupholster a piece, that needs to be reflected in its price; try to negotiate cost.

Inspect the end. Wood furniture is generally painted, stained, lacquered and oiled. If you’re open minded about a few dings and chips, then the world is your oyster. Remember: If you’re investing in something really, really old, its original end ought to be intact, however decrepit. Otherwise, it’s not worth just as much — maybe not even half.

Antiques or reproductions? Both can be expensive, and there are benefits to purchasing either. Some folks are sticklers for the actual thing, while antiques aren’t practical for many others. Repros have come a long way, with enhanced finishes and strong construction. Baker (colonial revival) and White on White (midcentury modern) are two popular dealers.


Brian Patrick Flynn, the Decor Demon, painted five thrift-store finds out in a wealthy high-gloss red and utilized stylized trellis-patterned Robert Allen fabric ($22 a lawn) about the cushions to get a cohesive mod-retro feel. He picked each one because of the intriguing back. I have seen lone dining chairs like these go for as little as $5 in flea markets, and he spent only $85 on five chairs.

Glenn Robert Lym Architect

Who does not love a basic farm table? Perfectly worn, and likely passed from generation to generation, it usually has boards which run the length, not width, of this table. It needs to be sturdy, heavy and well constructed with mortise and tenon joinery. This one even has leaves.


Eames 1950s DSW (Dining Height Side Chair Wood) fiberglass armchairs and side chairs — with solid wood legs and chrome struts — encircle this mod kitchen table. These chairs were initially manufactured in organic colors such as Straw and Seafoam; flip them over and you’ll likely see “Herman Miller” or “Zenith” (albeit rare) stamped on the seats.

Economy Interiors

Some reproductions look as good as the actual thing and are created only too. Take this coffee table, for example. Can you tell it’s not in the 1950s?

Though repainted, this dusty rose dresser is still darling, befitting a romantic cabin boudoir and worth every single penny. The mirror and hardware are intact. Make sure you open and close the drawers before taking the plunge with some thing like this, though.

Lisa Borgnes Giramonti

I am a sucker for a good leather seat. Worn out and scraped? No matter. The longer lived in the better. This stylish, tufted, black number looks impossibly comfortable.

Lucid Interior Design Inc..

Some genius designer repurposed a 1900s oak banker’s desk as a bathroom vanity. I’ll state it again: genius. The desk likely had a rolltop which was busted or wasn’t utilized. These are a few of the heaviest, most solid pieces known to collectors. It is a fantastic example of someone thinking outside the box.

Christine Tuttle Interior Design

The designer points out that this vintage loveseat has been reupholstered in Lee Jofa linen damask and that she put Larsen silk velvet about the 19th-century walnut side chairs. The luxe fabrics actually bring these bits back to their former glory.

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