There is always a taste for antique furniture. A widely available taste these days.
Antiques are popular in part because of supply chain delays and rising prices for many bespoke or mass-market products. The public is also turning to sustainability: environmentally conscious buyers oppose single-use furniture and try to reuse and recycle.
As always, pop culture comes into play. Period-specific shows like “Bridgeton,” “Downton Abbey,” and “Outlander” add romance to the style of a bygone era. “Mad Men” created a craze in the mid-century modern furniture market. Designers also have a renewed interest in 70s and 80s decor.
All of this attracts legions of designers and ordinary people at auctions, antique stores and real estate sales. Online platforms, such as antique furniture retailer Chairish and collectibles site 1stDibs, also reported an uptick in sales.
From a design standpoint, the good news is that it’s easy and stylish to incorporate antiques into any room and mix them with pieces from any era, say the designers.
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A classic 18th century cherry dresser may feature an attractive brushed copper modern handle. A curved ’60s floor lamp might brighten a room clad in Laura Ashley wallpaper.
More 20th-century vintage pieces keep popping up, whether it’s a beautifully carved Edwardian side table, a Le Corbusier lounge chair, a Pop Art-era mirror, or something as charming and small as an antique book or ceramic.
All sorts of old things are moving beyond the boundaries of “traditional” decor. Mix in the room to create interesting stories.
Antique lovers past and present
Designers known for their masterful blend of periods include Billy Baldwin, whom Architectural Digest called “the dean of American interiors in the 1950s and 1960s.” He created stylish homes for social figures and enjoyed a mix of modern and antique furniture. The older pieces “give a taste of the room,” Baldwin said.
Known for stylish, eye-catching interiors, Jay Spectre is obsessed with Art Deco. Female decorators like Elsie de Wolfe and Sister Parish excel at delivering elegant, turn-of-the-century European furniture spaces that allow you to breathe in light-filled contemporary spaces.
Today, for example, designer Kelly Wearstler brings an adventurous style to homes and boutique hotels.
“My aesthetic is about bartending; always old and new, raw and refined, masculine and feminine,” she says.
Modern art and colorless rugs make a good base for mixing furniture styles and eliminate any oldness, says designer Georgia Zikas of West Hartford, Connecticut.
An example of a simple update: One of Zikas’ clients got a pair of beautiful vintage crystal Watford lamps from her mother. They replaced outdated pleated shades with crisp, white, tapered shades.
Different parts of the country seem to be leaning in certain directions when it comes to antiques.
“For example, in my South, French antiques are most coveted because of our historic French heritage,” says Lance Thomas, lead designer at Thomas Guy Interiors in Lake Charles, Louisiana.
“I’ve found coastal cities like West Palm Beach, Florida, and Malibu, California, to lean more toward vintage and vintage Italian contemporary pieces. The Midwest leans more toward American antiques.”
Thomas said more clients are asking for antiques than ever before. He and his team recently went on a two-week sourcing trip to France to find them.
how to buy
If you’re buying unseen antiques, use a reliable auction site, Thomas says.
“There are some really good fakes and replicas out there that will fool even the most experienced buyer,” he said. “A reputable auction site will usually review and list the item as genuine.”
Some of his tips for authentic antiques: With mirrors, “be careful with decontamination. Old mirrors are made of tin and mercury or silver, which over time oxidizes to create ripples and spots on the front. This patina is A good sign is that it’s antique.”
For cabinets and vanities, check how they are constructed. Look at the back of this piece, it’s unlikely to be painted. “Are there dovetails instead of well-hidden Phillips screws? Look for hinge mechanisms—are they hand-forged or machine-made?” Thomas said.
Engraved and painted details can help confirm the age of a piece, as they indicate the furniture-making capabilities of that era.
“Many pieces from the 18th century will have similar decorations to their 20th century counterparts. But the precision and accuracy between the two periods has greatly improved,” Thomas said. For example, curved floral details may not be as rounded as 18th century pieces because they don’t have the tools to create perfect curves.
Beau Ciolino, author of the new book “Maybe a Housewarming” (Abrams) with Matt Armato, recommends the app www.estatesales.net for sales alerts in your area.
“The best part about antiques is that it’s accessible,” Ciolino said. “While vintage auction houses are known for their fine antiques, we also love reading Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, consignment stores and real estate sales.”
Other options include eBay, Etsy, and ZZ Driggs, which all sell and rent vintage furniture. You might not be able to buy a James Mont Art Deco leather recliner for $3,000, but maybe you can afford its $75 a year rent.
A source once reserved for the design industry has been opened to the public in New York City. Gallery @ 200 Lex is a 33,000 square foot collection of vintage and vintage furniture from dozens of dealers. You can also view what The Gallery’s resellers post on Incollect.
Ciolino and Armato say they have seen a “furniture flip” trend.
“While flipping a house can take a lot of cash and time, many furniture flippers are taking worn-out pieces and either restoring them to their original splendor or re-staining, painting and replacing hardware to create a brand new piece and then selling it They may keep them in their homes,” Giolino said.
It’s usually best to leave the redecoration to the professionals, he said.
Wooden items, especially those without intricate details, are great for DIY beginners, Armato says. “A vanity or side table can often be done with only light sanding, paint or stain, and a sealant coating like clear enamel or linseed oil, if you prefer. Some metal pieces like outdoor iron chairs are also great for DIY.”
Mary Maloney of Bee’s Knees Interior Design in Hopkinton, Massachusetts, reawakens old wooden furniture with cheerful hues.
“My mom taught me how to spot great work that needs a little love and remodeling,” Maloney said. “I still cherish my first purchase – a cute little dresser that I found on a vintage trip with her over 40 years ago. When I updated our guest room, I painted it sunny yellow .”
Antique furniture often requires a gentle general cleaning before unwanted wear and scratches can be removed or covered.
Unless antique lights have been rewired, it’s best to take them to a professional. You might want to update the shadows.
Kim Cook writes frequently for The Associated Press on design, decor and lifestyle topics. She can be found at @kimcookhome on Instagram and can be reached at [email protected]
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