Scouring Pinterest and Instagram for design inspo at all hours usually results in heading straight to your favorite brick and mortar store or website to find replicas of everything you just stared at. But in actuality, you could be doing yourself a huge disservice by buying items such as mirrors, cocktail glasses, and rugs new, rather then seeking out their older, original counterparts.
According to Jacquie Denny and Brian Graves, co-founders of Everything But The House—an online estate sale marketplace that lets you bid on everything from antique decor to rare artwork starting at $1—you know you’ve hit the jackpot when the items are either still in the box or have been very well-maintained.
“Even if the items aren’t thoroughly up to par, they’re not a lost cause,” they say. “Small dents or nicks may lower the value a bit, but that doesn’t mean there isn't still a market for them.”
So, before you fill up your shopping cart (yet again) with straight-out-of-the-factory wares, consider this list of items you should never buy new.
“If you love patina and provenance, and the work of masters such as Johannes Vermeer, Rembrandt, and van Gogh, then 1stdibs makes the art hunt and finding oil paintings in the likes of those artists a delight. They are a reputable source, where authenticity is verified,” says Heather Basso of Studio H Interiors. “We love using real materials with history in the homes we create. Experiencing luxury is a visual journey for us, and real paintings show age through a chip here or there, or through a yellowed canvas, rather than a stark white reproduction. No two people are born alike, and our interiors should hold true to this same philosophy.”
Coffee Table Books
One thing SwatchPop! co-founder Kristen Yonson never buys new for her home? Coffee table books.
“These books aren't for reading, but mostly for filling a shelf, cabinet, or perfectly curated nook,” she says. “An easy tip is to go to garage sales or the library to get hardcover books with neutral-colored bindings for a clean, yet textured shelf accessory. The more the better for shelving, and the bigger the better for coffee and side tables. Bonus points if it's a coffee table book that relates to your interests, but how often are you going to open it, anyway?”
When it comes to rugs, it’s all about in with the old and out with the new, according to Carter Kay and Nancy Hooff of Carter Kay Interiors. “An antique rug can set the tone of an entire space. We scour the globe for beautiful Oushaks and Serapis style rugs, but often have the best luck in our own backyard at Scott Antique Markets (near the Atlanta airport),” say the designing duo.
“Antique rugs tend to appreciate in value over time, with some doubling in price over a decade of use, whereas modern rugs really have no resale value. Plus, new rugs are not really made today like they used to be, with a higher wool quality and softer texture. Many modern rugs are woven with low-quality wool that sheds and wears quickly.”
So, what should you look at when buying vintage? Craftsmanship (avoid machine-made rugs), care (not overly exposed to sunlight, over-vacuumed, or washed with harsh chemicals), and void of smoke and pet odors. Also, you want a rug that is worn—but worn evenly.
Leather Club Chairs
When looking for the perfect vintage leather club chair, Denny recommends keeping an eye out for ones that have the original leather, or ones that have been rebuilt with vintage leather. “The best types of club chairs show distress to the leather, but don’t have a heavy amount of peeling or cracking. And, of course, you want to ensure that the chair is supportive,” she adds.
Wooden Side or Dining Tables
A hand-crafted vintage wooden table can add so much personality to a room—and the best part is, you don’t have to be worried about scratching or nicking it. When buying your table, Denny says to remember that cracking and warping from shrinkage over time is normal, and an indication that you have an original, handcrafted piece. You should also look for high-quality and rare woods (such as maple, oak, walnut, rosewood, and mahogany), and for the inlays and veneers to also be made from rare woods, in addition to hand-gorged nails or dovetailed joints.
Unique Kitchen Gadgets
“An ice cream maker, a bread machine, a food dehydrator, and a pasta machine often represent our interest in becoming culinary masters at home, but in reality, our limited schedules often result in these objects seeing little to no use before finding their way to new homes,” says Graves. “So, if you’re ready to try your hat at something new in the kitchen, it might be better if it’s previously owned. But always check cords that need to be plugged in regularly, in order to make sure they’re intact."
Glassware and Servingware
According to Christiane Lemieux, founder and CEO of The Inside, cocktail glasses, barware, and serving ware are much better sourced in a mix-and-matched style from flea markets. Her go-to? Brimfield Antique Flea Market in Massachusetts.
“You can curate the best bar this way, and ditto for brass cutlery, serving platters, and bowls—an eclectic grouping makes the table,” she says. To tell if these vintage goods are the real deal, look at the patina: The shape and design will give away if it’s provenance, whereas if it’s new, it will have a different color. Lemieux also looks for one-of-a-kind napkins and tablecloths when in Paris, adding, “I’ve found plenty where the embroidery is all hand-done, and would break your heart.”
There’s nothing better than a traditional antique chandelier, per Lemieux’s rulebook. “The new ones don’t really hold a candle to the old,” she adds. “With crystal, there is a patina and a depth that new crystal does not have. The new versions are by and large very white and bright, and don’t offer the beauty that comes from the aging process.”
If you can find a mirror with the original silver—even if it may be a little distressed—it’s so much more interesting than anything you can buy new. To tell the difference, Lemieux suggests looking closely at the glass: “Modern glass is free of bubbles, but old glass can have a slight waviness or random bubbles within. Any manufacturing imperfections may indicate the mirror's age,” she advises.
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