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Antiques: Your Family's Future Heirlooms

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Most projects require at least a few pieces of significant furniture. In traditional interiors, this usually means incorporating antiques or antique reproductions. For many, purchasing such a significant furnishing can be a frightening experience. Where to begin? Buying antiques to decorate with is a bit more complicated than strictly buying furnishings for their aesthetic value. Some research is required in order to make a savvy purchase and investment.

Determining the type of furnishing is half the battle. Does your room need a breakfront or hall table? Your interior designer can help you select which piece will make the most impact for your particular room or rooms.

The style of the furnishings is the next decision to be made in your search. Are you looking for an English George I Black-Japanned secretaire or a French Louis XV bureau plat? Both are desks, but which one to choose? Again, this is an area in which your designer can help you, as the style of the selected furniture will affect the overall look and feel of the room. However, there is some homework you must do for yourself and your investment.

Here are some helpful tips to buying antiques:

— Buy quality. It is better to buy one item of remarkable quality than to buy several items that are not as unique.

— Visit the very best antique shops, especially those that have a long track record in your city.

— Most large cities have art and antiques shows. Attend these shows to educate yourself and hone your knowledge about specific period furniture.

— Auction houses such as Sotheby's and Christie's are good sources for purchasing fine furniture and also are good places to learn.

— Allow yourself to be guided by experts.

Trust in their criteria and experience, and don't be afraid to ask for help.

— Take items home to see whether they truly fit and are to your liking.

— Take your time. Do not attempt to decorate your entire home at once. It is better to take your time and do a little bit at a time. This will allow each item to find its place within your home.

— Even a high-quality reproduction will never be the same as an original piece. Don't settle for less.

— Trust your taste. If an antique catches your eye, go for it. Buy what you love, but do your research.

— Don't be shy about mixing. Mix antique objet d'art with ethnic, Oriental and even rustic pieces. The mix will give your home soul.

— When in doubt, go for symmetry and balance. Items in pairs give a bit of serenity to collections.

— When introducing art, as contrast, skip some decades or buy pieces from different periods to help create visual interest.

Try to be as thorough in your research as possible. Ask your dealer for as much information as possible, including provenance and, if applicable, museum-exhibit listing or catalog. Antiques bring enjoyment every day, but they are an investment. The more information obtained today, the better for you and your family's future heirlooms tomorrow.

Joseph Pubillones is the owner of Joseph Pubillones Interiors, an award-winning interior design firm based in Palm Beach, Fla. To find out more about Joseph Pubillones, or to read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

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