Top Tips For Antique & Vintage Treasure Hunting

You know we love a bit of antique bargain hunting here at Divine Savages, and in our quest to locate more amazing vintage finds we’ve spoken to some of the best people in the business – experts, traders and thrifty lovers who have shared their top tips for finding antique and vintage treasures.

When decorating our home we always like to source some vintage bargains, whether that’s a new piece of furniture, artwork or pieces for styling. Finding vintage items not only saves things from going to landfill, you can often pick up a bargain far cheaper than buying new – plus you’ll usually find these pieces will last forever – unlike that flat pack of MDF.

We found these vintage chest of drawers and dining table and chairs on eBay!

Our favourite reason though is that vintage pieces add instant character to your space, and we love giving unique pieces a new home – like the awesome midcentury set of drawers we found for a steal on ebay. They instantly transformed our bedroom, and gave us plenty of much needed, stylish storage at the fraction of the price of buying new.

Read on to uncover some top insider secrets on where best to find those bargains, and why our experts love vintage so much.

Collette's home is dressed with fabulous treasures she sources on her buying trips, like this beautiful lamp, and don't even get us started on that dog! 

Collette runs the fabulous The Vintage Trader, an online decorative antiques and interiors shops. Her beautiful home is bursting with amazing antiques, be sure to check it out on Instagram @thevintagetraderuk

Collette’s top tip for sourcing vintage antiques is to get to the fair or market early! A lot of deals go through between traders even before the public arrive, so be there as soon as the gates open.

 “Also, politeness goes a long way, I have found traders prefer to deal with me because we have built up a relationship over time and I am fair. It's always good to haggle but not too hard as this can put the traders off - they are trying to make a living too”.

 We asked Collette where her go to market was…

“IACF have markets up and down the country, these are always well attended by a wide selection of dealers from small vintage jewellery to larger pieces of furniture and a fair bit of quirky in the middle, you never know what you will find!  Ardingly is closest to me and quite a few European dealers sell here too so this is one of my favourite markets”.

… and her most treasured find?

“I found this amazing lamp at a fair in France, in the dark at 2am and it's definitely a keeper. It's almost always a case of 'you win some you lose some'... luckily this had all its bits (not always the case!)  and it also still worked once the electrician had a look and rewired it”.

And for anyone who wants to combine some travelling with their antiques hunting, Collette has a final top tip for  you. “I really enjoy my buying trips over to France, the Grande Braderie de Lille is a great fair at the end of August, the whole town shuts down for the largest flea market in Europe with a 1/2 marathon also thrown in for good measure. There's a fun festival atmosphere across the town so be prepared to party too”. Sounds like the perfect excuse to us!

Speaking of travelling, we also caught up with the lovely Kate Pearce who runs Kate Pearce Vintage in New York.  

This 19th century rocking horse was from a waterfront estate on Long Island, New York, whilst the vintage poufs and rug in the second image are from some of her favourite dealers on Instagram (Royal Rug Vintage and Kazimah Carpets, respectively).  

Kate's been obsessed with everything old from a very young age, growing up attending estate sales with her mother where she quickly learned that they are the single-best way to obtain antiques and vintage for your home at affordable prices. “If you can be first in line at estate sales or house clearances, you can get your hands on one-of-a-kind items at steep discounts”.

“I also find a lot of treasures at my local thrift stores, and the one perk of thrift stores over estate sales is that the thrift store workers are often not as knowledgeable as estate sale companies, and that sometimes translates into scoring something of value for even less”.

Based in New York, Kate has access to some fantastic flea markets and vintage shops, so if you ever find yourself in town and want to rummage, Kate recommends you head to Brooklyn Flea and the Hell's Kitchen Flea Market for an epic thrifting experience.

“If I can offer one word of advice about thrifting and buying vintage, it would be that the easier an item is to get your hands on, the higher the price is going to be. For example, if you are willing to spend your morning waiting on a line outside an estate sale 30 minutes from your home, you will likely get your hands on some amazing goods for exceptionally low prices”.

So it’s worth going that extra mile when hunting for your next bargain – all part of the fun too! 

Now imagine your favourite vintage store, and a Parisian flea market all rolled into one – then add those secret off-the-beaten track furniture shops and the Bric-a-brac junk shop of your dreams. Sound good?! 

Sunbury & Sandown antiques fairs have a huge selection of vintage goodies! 

We had the pleasure of sitting down with Jenny and Ed who run two of the UK’s premiere antiques fairs – Sunbury and Sandown. Their markets attract over 800 stalls from all over Europe, exhibiting a vast range of Antique, Vintage & Retro goods. So these need to be on your treasure hunting list for sure!

Exciting news for this year is that the Sandown Antiques calendar is running two Sunday dates, so those of you that work during the week have an opportunity to get down and rummage! Mark 2nd June & 15th September in your diaries now!

So what are Jenny and Ed’s top tips – we managed to get them to reveal some insider secrets just for you!

"Get there early, as both fairs are a mecca for the trade; interior designers, prop buyers for many of the major film studios and shop owners use the fairs for their go to place to buy so later in the morning a lot of the ‘on trend’ pieces are snapped up".

"Hire a van or even better, bring a friend with a 4x4. If you fall in love with that 19th century French antiques armoire it’s going to be tricky getting it back on the train. Don't worry if you don't have transport though as there are shippers & delivery services on-site who charge by post code".

"Bring a tape measure and list of what you need. With so much to see you’ll easily get side tracked and come back with a 1930’s Arts & Crafts bronze mounted galleon when you really were looking for a piece of taxidermy".

"And lastly, if you love it then buy it, chances are it won’t be there next time or will be snapped up by the person behind you". 

You've been warned! Next we asked the lovely Sam Hansard, better known as @vintagecuratorinteriors, for her advice when it comes to styling your home with vintage finds... 

Sam's collection of vintages finds, including a valuable oil portrait she nearly didn't buy! 

Sam runs an interior consultancy and styling service to help clients who find themselves in an interior 'rut'.

“My top tip is to always be on the lookout and importantly to be flexible. If something speaks to you, buy it because you may not ever see another one quite like it and you will regret it if you walk away. Nothing haunts us like the things we didn’t buy! If you love it, you will find it a home somewhere and if you don’t you can always sell it on. Also, If you don’t have the time to hunt for things yourself, then your best bet is to enlist the help of a sourcing expert (like me!) who will be well networked within the industry and can often find you multiple pieces in a short space of time”.

What’s the best thing you ever found?

“The best thing I have ever found was an oil portrait of a lady. It was right at the back of a small, dusty antiques centre in the middle of nowhere and it had quite a lot of damage on it; but her face just spoke to me. Initially I walked away but after a sleepless night I knew I had to buy her so I rang the dealer first thing. A few months later the painting was damaged by water and we had to get the insurers in. It turns out that the painting is quite valuable and is from the studio of Luca Giordano dated 1634 – 1705. I have had her restored and she really is a beauty”.

Another one of our favourite accounts for vintage treasures on the gram is @mustardvintage and we had a quick natter with the lovely Gemma, who had some great insights.

Gorgeous Mcintosh sideboard, perpetual wall calendar and vintage plans chest - all from Mustard Vintage

What's your top tip?

“Buy what we call in the industry ‘clean’ pieces. Furniture and homeware that is in good to excellent condition. You may pay a bit more for these pieces, but it’s an investment and in the long-term they will be more likely to hold their value (or even increase). We hear from so many people who want to part exchange because they’ve bought a nice piece of vintage furniture that requires work, but just never got around to doing it – so be honest with yourself about what you can and can’t do from the outset”.

What pieces should you pour your money into, and where can you afford to save?

“Choose statement pieces that will make a room, such as a dining table, sideboard or armchair. Choose quality. You usually get what you pay for, so take time to select pieces that offer quality and longevity.  Choose wisely. We would always recommend buying a classic, quality piece by a renowned maker such as G Plan, McIntosh, Younger etc. as these pieces either retain or increase in value, are high quality, and are beautifully made. For smaller, decorative pieces you can save money by buying in bulk – choose a few pieces that you like from one dealer and ask if they will do you a discount. It also saves time making multiple trips and/or postage costs”. 

Hands up if you’re a fan of the fabulous @vintageinteriorxx?! We definitely are...

Pauliina transformed this vintage TV set into the ultimate cat bed!

Pauliina effortlessly styles her home with gorgeous vintage and thrift finds and you’ll discover more at her blog. You need to check out her vintage cat bed made from a mid century television set, it’s incredible! Read on for Pauliina’s top tips…

“Keep your eyes open, you never know where you can find your best vintage items. I particularly love summer antiques fairs, where sellers from around from the world come to sell their antiques”.

If you ever find yourself in Finland, Pauliina recommends the big fleamarket Juthbacka in Uusikaarlepyy in the west of the country. “It is the biggest flea market in Finland, and one of my all time favourites”.

Pauliina also recommends focusing on one or two items to build a collection that brings you joy. “I love to collect vintage Arabia coffee cups from the 60s and 70s. I really love the colours and happy patterns in these lovely cups”.

And lastly, that one special piece? “One of my best find ever is old lamp which is designed by Paavo Tynell”

Another source of vintage inspiration is @amysvintagedecorium...

From left to right: Vintage globes, a stunning stretched Domus fabric panel, on-trend wicker pieces and a painting in its fabulous new home.

Amy sources and sells vintage home décor, and we loved hearing her tips on how best to find those amazing pieces.

“I'm always hunting for vintage treasures, either for my Etsy shop or for my own home! I have a lot of luck scoring great and unusual vintage pieces at flea markets. The mix of items usually tends to be better than your general thrift store, but you’re going to have to keep your eyes open, and you may have to dig in some piles to spot something good! If you’re seeking something specific, ask the vendor if they have that certain item you’re looking for, because even if they don’t, they can possibly direct you to who does! This method works surprisingly well!

I really like Antique malls or group Vintage shops, all the hard work has been done for you, and you have so much in so many styles in one space to peruse and even find something you didn’t know you had to have! A lot of them will negotiate a bit on pricing too.

So there you have it – some top tips from the best in the biz! We hope their advice helps you secure your next antique treasure. Now get out there and start looking!

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