There’s something fascinating about antique furniture. It helps us connect with the past. When you look at a piece of old period furniture, the first thing that strikes your eye is craftsmanship – they don’t make them like they used to do, do they? But it’s much more than that. Maybe the particular piece you just bought doesn’t have historical value, maybe it did not belong to someone famous, but it still has a history. An antique dining room set, for instance. Can you imagine the house or the houses it used to belong to, the people who sat around that table, the stories they told, the birthdays they celebrated, love, anger, grief – when you bought the table, you bought all that and now it’s your turn to add your own part to that history.
Aesthetic and functional
Whether you’re planning on becoming a collector or you’re simply looking for original items to decorate your new home, you need to do some research and learn how to distinguish between mid-century modern, Art Deco and classical furniture. Reading about different periods and styles is a wonderful opportunity to discover new, well, old, things you might like. Maybe you were thinking about buying an antique dresser and suddenly discover an armoire would look much better in the master bedroom. When you buy an antique piece you have to consider both aesthetics and functionality, and when an item meets both criteria, then it is definitely a good investment.
You don’t have to worry about buying a complete set of antique furniture all at once, start with small steps and buy the pieces one at a time. Maybe you only found a couple of Louis XV chairs, it would be a pity not to buy them because you’re missing the table. Grab them and keep looking for that table, and if you happen to discover an ornate gold-framed mirror from the same period buy that too
What to look for when you buy antique furniture?
Obviously, the first thing you need to check for is authenticity. To make sure a certain piece is really Art Deco or mid-century look it up on the Internet and examine pictures of furniture from that era. See if they match.
Vintage pieces should be gently used — not falling apart. Check the structure of the items and make sure it is sound, otherwise restoration works could be quite expensive.
Next, check the finish, the hardware and the legs. Visible signs of normal wear and tear are to be expected, and desirable. On the contrary, you should be suspicious if the finish is shiny, as this indicates the item has been re-varnished.
At the same time, you should check to see if the hardware has been replaced or the legs have been repaired – and, more important, how. If you see glue marks or nails holding the legs in place, this means they have been restored or replaced. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing, but that might be a good reason to haggle a bit.
Also, make sure the drawers and hinges open and close smoothly. When you’re buying antique chairs or sofas check if they are structured so they can be reupholstered if needed.
It takes a lot of time and patience to furnish a whole house with antique furniture, it’s not like a quick trip to the store to buy a new mattress. But, as many antique lovers already know the hunt is half the fun!