Thursday, December 29, 2016

Five Reasons Why You Should Be Buying Antiques

I have a goal for you in 2017, I want to you to buy more antiques. I'm going to rather demand it of you, in fact, but I'm also going to make a damn good case for it. If you're anywhere in the Northeast right now, you're getting battered with a snow/sleet/muck storm today, so you've got the time.
Pull up a chair, grab another cup of coffee, and let's talk old stuff.

*that's all caps because I truly intend for it to be shouted

set of three late 19th century English brass measures
via Skinner's Auction

1. Antiques are Affordable
     - Now, I know that goes against all the stuff you've heard over the years, but truly, antiques are almost always the most budget friendly option when you're filling your home. It's why my house is filled with antiques...well that and about nine other reasons. If you think antiques are too pricey, you're shopping at the wrong place. You could just as easily say cars are too expensive, and then I'd point out that's because you're at the Ferrari dealership (cars are such a silly thing to waste money on).
        I buy my antiques in quite a few places, and honestly it's not even hard to find good deals, I'm not even going to say "It takes a little time and effort". If ever there was a time to stuff a bag with old stuff, it's now, as baby boomers are down sizing and the market is getting flooded with antiques on the cheap. I could decorate my home five times over on a shoe string budget at a flea market.

        On top of that, antiques will hold their value far better than your modern purchases. The antiques market fluctuates, and I'm not saying you should count on your collection as your retirement fund...even though that's what I'm doing... but an 18th century blanket chest, used as a coffee table, will still be worth what you paid for it (or more) in twenty five years. A Raymour and Flannigan coffee table, used as a coffee table for twenty five years won't even be worth burning.

I only paid $40 for this magnificent mid 19th century dresser. It's in excellent condition, even with the drawers crammed with clothing (as they currently are) they all still open and close like butter. 

           Best places to find great deals on antiques:
            1. Thrift shops. Goodwill, ReStore, Salvation Army. People just drop stuff off, no one   researches it, and that means awesome beautiful antique pieces show up there daily for a song. I like to buy furniture and glassware especially at thriftshops and second hand shops.

            2. Auction. OH MY GOD the spectacular things you can buy at auction for the price of a tacky pandora necklace or a pair of ugg boots! And these days it's SO easy. You can do it all online!
            Here's links to some of my favorite auction houses:



            3. Flea Markets
                Why would you not want to go to the flea market?? There's something for everyone, and it's an absolute hoot!

            4. Antique Shops and Shows
                The perfect way to spend a leisurely day. Antique shows offer the chance to see the goods of many many dealers all in one place- all the easier for you, dear antique shopper! This Sunday I'm going up to shop the Sturbridge Antique Show. I can't wait!

            5. Online (craigslist, buy/sell/trade FB pages etc)
                Again, shopping from home, it couldn't be easier, and it's amazing the deals you can score!
I found this awesome vintage stemware set for $1 a piece at the goodwill a few months ago!
And my friend Jess bought this lovely vintage MCM Lane cedar chest for $5 at a tag sale!
2. Antiques have soul
             Look, I see the insides of loads and loads of people's houses. When I'm delivering furniture, or buying pieces, or when I randomly wander into a great antique house out of curiosity (I swear this has only happened once). And when I'm in your house, I'm judging it, and I'm judging you. Sorry (not sorry). The houses that look the best WITHOUT EXCEPTION are the ones filled with art and antiques. You know which ones suck? The ones filled with Homegoods and Pier 1 crap. You're not impressing anyone with those mass produced tchotchkes. I'm not even giving you a participation ribbon.
             Antiques carry with them a little bit of every person who has owned them previously, they are little time capsules. Sometimes they quite literally tell stories, like this wonderful antique writing box my parents gave me for christmas-

The inscription on the inside of the lid reads:
"This box was given by Miss Caroline French to Miss Annie G. Codman.
It was said to be made of the wood of Dr. John Codman's pulpit in Dorchester-
that is out of the old pulpit- which had been pulled down about 1882"

             Sometimes their stories are more subtle but no less important, the ink blotches on the inside lid of a secretary desk, the soft signs of wear on an antique ring. These pieces have withstood the test of time, but not come through their centuries long journey unchanged. And now you have the opportunity to leave your mark as well, to be part of the legacy. I think that's about as close as we humans can get to magic. You can pick and choose which treasures to own, which stories speak to you personally, and thusly your home becomes your own individual art gallery, over which you have complete control (well almost complete control, the poor husband gets some say).

             A house full of Ikea is a sterile, basic bitch, travesty, it is the tapioca of dwelling places.
             A home filled with antiques is an inspiration.

3. Antiques are Functional
        There was, long ago, a school of thought that antiques mustn't be touched, mustn't be used, that they should sit in the creepy formal living room that you only use with guests you don't particularly like, and otherwise they should collect dust. This is absolute madness. Antiques are meant to be used, to be enjoyed. You should be able to sit in an 18th century chair, to check your fine self in a two hundred year old mirror, and to store your clothes in a Victorian dresser. These objects were, almost without exception, better made, of better quality materials, and are still, even in their old age, more useable that whatever the hell Target has in their home decor aisle.
          We now live in a very disposable society. We buy things with the expectation that they will break, and be replaced every few years. The manufacturers, who in NO WAY have your best interests in mind, know that full well, and make their wares with as many cut corners as they possibly can. The proof is in the pudding with antiques, THEY HAVE LASTED, and they will last, and you can use them. And formal sitting rooms are silly, unless you're holding seances in them.

I bought this sweet early 19th century curly maple slant front desk from a thrift shop for well under $100. It's about two hundred years old, and I use it almost every day. I like to blog at it as the writing surface is a nice height,
also LOADS of storage! 

4. It's the Right Thing to Do
         If you're not going to do it for the the good of your home, do it for the good of your society. Buying antiques is the right thing to do from so many different directions:

 1. It supports small local businesses. Antiques dealers are not big mega-corporations, they're your neighbors. They live in your community, and spend their money locally. You should support local businesses, otherwise our country will become a flaming cesspool of lame-ness.

2. Antiques are green. They're the greenest! You don't need to chop down another tree to build some new piece of furniture (actually most new furniture is built with what basically amounts to cardboard and spit). You don't need to purchase a flatware set that was made in China and shipped to Restoration Hardware. Antiques leave no carbon footprint. They exist already, they require nothing, and in no way tax our natural resources.

3. You should preserve history, right? Right?! That's always a good thing! I won't hit you over the head with it (YES I WILL) but we, all of us, have a duty to preserve our culture and history, or someone else's culture, just culture in general. Give some antiques a good home so in a hundred years your great great grand children can marvel at the creations of a world gone by.

Beautiful early 20th century landscape painting I purchased at a little antique shop in Maine last week.
It was $22. A bargain!

5. Antiques are Beautiful
    Finally, and ever so importantly. I buy antiques because there is so little on the modern market that an compete in terms of beauty. There's so much from which to choose, it's cliche but there really is something for everyone. You could collect only objects that are mustard yellow, or only men's linen nightshirts (you weirdo), or just lead soldiers, or anything of the millions of amazing and breathtaking unique objects that grace the aisles of the flea market and the stalls of the antique show.

Antiques were thoughtfully made, often by hand and by a craftsman to begin with, and were thusly lovely from the start, but time has been their second creator, and has worked its own gentle artistry on the antique. You can't fake the subtle shades of twelve paint surfaces layered on top of each other over a hundred years and then worn velvet smooth by hundreds of grubby hands. You can't fake the oxidation of a copper weathervane, left out to herald the wind through a century of blazing August heat and blistering January storms. You can't imitate the mellow color and patina of an 18th century cherry dresser, that has stored clothes and done its job damn well through war and peace, feast and famine, through all the years of our great nation. It's a beauty inside and out. It's a humanity that a modern, mass produced, conveyor-belted decorative object can never have.

You should buy antiques because they are beautiful, and because people who buy antiques are beautiful too.
A pair of Chippendale side chairs with pierced Gothic splats
Likely from the Norwich, CT area 1780-1805
via Liverant Antiques
An English slip decorated pearlware mug c.1820
Via John Chaski Antiques

19th century trade sign
via Pook and Pook Auction
Late 19th or early 20th century weathervane
via Garth's Auction
Deep crimson cupboard, mid 19th century
via Garth's Auction

Early 19th century apothecary cupboard
via Skinner's Auction


  1. Anonymous12/29/2016

    finding then on side of road, transfer station.

  2. Antique furniture is so muvh better built than ts new crap

  3. Well said!

  4. But time has been their second creator. The passage of time will finish the job is what I say after making a piece of furniture. Your words are so true.

  5. Great article! So true and makes me feel good about our house, filled with lovely old pieces. You can copy a Pottery Barn room, but you can capture the spirit of the past with antiques!

  6. So true, when someone comes to my small condo, they say it has character and warmth, so cozy, and all due to the antiques, and furniture that I have. Love my victorian pieces!

  7. I am always troubled by the Young person who will wash out a plastic bag and reuse it, because they want to "save the planet" but can't see that the 18th century table with a solid 24 inch wide, one piece top should be cherished. It has been stewarded until today by individuals before who recognized that there are no trees left, on the planet to provide another board like that again. It is a survivor. Why use our precious natural resources to keep getting new STUFF.

  8. I vote for you getting your own show on HGTV! You are still, hands down, the best painter I've seen, in any blog, or anywhere I have shopped! Plus, I like your spunk - and you are a good writer, which bodes well for your speaking ability on camera, as well! Here's to a New Year of opportunity!

  9. Anonymous1/08/2017

    I couldn't agree more. I am 35, and was born into antiques. Buying things no one else has is by far more pleasing than buying Chinese junk!