Vintage Fun

By Diane Schlindwein

January 2, 2009 5 min read


Antiques can bring great character to your living space

Diane Schlindwein

Creators News Service

If you want to give your house special warmth that makes it more inviting, adding antiques can help you say "welcome" to family and friends.

These days important interior designers like Chicago-based Nate Berkus are singing the praises of antiques. Berkus, the author of "Home Rules: Transform the Place You Live Into a Place You'll Love" ($28, Hyperion), believes that old objects bring character to a room.

Berkus discovered that people today are more willing to take risks in decor. In other words, they are mixing pieces that probably wouldn't have been placed together years ago.

In his book, he asked readers to picture a modern living room with stone floors, a white sofa and shiny painted tables. Then he advises adding a pair of old candlesticks and a recovered chair. "The room looked good without the old pieces, but with them it gains depth and contrast," wrote Berkus, who appears regularly on The Oprah Winfrey Show. In fact, he promotes living in a home that feels "collected over time."

Antique dealers agree with that concept. "I've been in some beautiful homes where everything was new and contemporary, but they were just missing something," said Glenda Tate, the owner and operator of The Antique Wood, a shop in the historic district of downtown Wichita Falls, Texas. "Antiques make a house feel like a home. Just the right piece here or there can make all the difference."

As in all investments, when collecting antiques it is important to spend your money wisely. A true antique is a piece of furniture or an item that is over 100 years old. Furniture, art and glassware that are decades old but haven't been around for at least a century are called vintage pieces.

Tate said there are plenty of places to look for affordable antiques and vintage furniture. "For sure, antique stores are a good place to go," she said, adding that antique dealers generally have thoroughly researched their most important merchandise. "Sometimes I sell things for not a lot of money, but if I have a treasure, I mark it that way."

Tate enjoys going looking for her pieces. "I also like estate sales and auctions," she said. Although some people attend estate sales thinking they'll purchase a piece and be able to ask about its history, that isn't usually the case.

"The people running those sales and auctions really don't want family members around. But I do like to find pieces that people can tell me about. That way I can share information with the customers who are buying it," she added.

Dealers who sell antiques generally look for merchandise in the same places as the everyday collector. "Flea markets are fun places to go because you don't know what you'll find," Tate said. "I also like thrift stores. You can sometimes find something wonderful that someone donated. Either they didn't realize its value or they just didn't want something. I leave those thrift stores so excited."

No matter where you get them, antiques can work with any decor. Unless you have rooms to fill, buy just a few special pieces -- and be sure they are pieces you can use. "What good are lovely things if you can't leave them out to enjoy?" Tate asked. "However, I admit that I do get a little nervous when our grandchildren are bouncing a basketball or throwing a ball around."

There is such a thing as having too many antiques, she added. "I remember being in a house where everything was antique. It was like a mausoleum and even smelled musty. So you don't want to go overboard."

If you hope to add particular pieces to your home, get to know the local antique dealer and show them your "wish list." Or you can follow Berkus' lead and make it a practice to check out antique, thrift, resale and consignment shops when you're visiting a new town. "Whenever I travel, I break open the Yellow Pages to locate these kinds of stores," he wrote.

Berkus suggested being creative with antiques. For example, an old chest can be used for a coffee table. He is a big fan of making over bargain finds with paint or by adding an expensive shade to a lamp.

Antiques not only look nice, but they are a good investment, Tate said. The values of antiques keep rising -- and if they are in fairly good shape, then the older the better. She said the Internet is best place to research the true value of a piece and recommends and for sites to either buy antiques or compare prices.

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