How to shop for antiques – The experts reveal their favourite treasure hunting techniques

We talk the confusion out of shopping for antiques.

With more and more people investing in antique furniture due to a focus on sustainability and mass consumerism, we spoke to Camilla Clarke and Ottalie Stride, co-creative directors from interior design studio, Albion Nord, on their top tips on how to shop for antiques.

The good news is you don’t need to be an expert to enjoy antiques shopping, but it pays to spend a little time learning the basics before visiting the auctions, fairs, and markets.

HOW TO SHOP FOR ANTIQUES ONLINE

shop for antiques

1. ONLY BUY WHAT YOU LOVE

Ensure that what you’re buying is something that you love. Antiques are hardy and have endured the elements this far; they are likely to fail you now. By choosing something that you’re really fond of from the off will likely mean that you will be pleased with the piece for years to come.

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2. CHECK THE AUTHENTICITY OF THE SELLER

Check the credibility of the seller by reading reviews and confirm if they have affiliations with large, regulated bodies such as LAPADA or BADA. Trustworthy dealers are likely to help with condition reports, will gladly impart their extensive knowledge on the piece and provide videos to help you with your purchase.

3. WILL IT WORK WITH YOUR CURRENT INTERIORS?

Make sure that what you’re buying works with the other pieces in your house. The last thing you want is to get home with your purchase and realise that it doesn’t fit with the rest of your scheme.

how to shop for antiques

Photography: Davide Lovatti

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4. BE AWARE OF HIDDEN COSTS

Consider hidden costs when buying online; shipping, restoration and re-upholstery are the most common costs that you should look out for.

5. ASK FOR A RECEIPT

Always get a receipt when you buy online. This will protect you should anything go wrong with the piece you bought.

6. MEASURE EVERYTHING

Always check the size of a piece and whether fits the space you have in mind. A helpful tip is to cut out a card or paper template and put it in the spot you have in mind for complete peace of mind.

Photography: Paul Raeside

7. TRY TO SEE IT IN PERSON

If possible, always try to see the piece you hope to buy in person. The quality of an item may not be accurately portrayed in a photograph and seeing it up close will give you a peace of mind before you make the purchase.

8. ASK FOR DETAILED PHOTOGRAPHS

Check the condition of the piece as far as possible. Reports and detailed photographs should be available to you as a buyer and you should request a video or additional photograph if there are angles which haven’t been covered. Key information should be provided in the description of a piece, such as age, timber, condition and if any restoration has been conducted over the years.

9. BE MINDFUL OF CHEAP IMITATIONS

Value often reflects quality. Buy cheap, buy twice.

art

Photography: Davide Lovatti

See Where to buy art – essential guide to collecting art

SHOPS TO VISIT

This very much depends on your price bracket, but there are four major routes to choose from. If you fancy a roadtrip, the most affordable antiques can be found in the European Flea Markets (Lille, Munich and Amsterdam are the most famous). Brussels has a wonderful selection of antique shops selling very reasonably priced antiques and Mid-century pieces.

If you’re looking for something slightly closer to home, the IACF (International Antiques & Collectors Fairs) are held in seven locations across England (Alexandra Palace, Newbury, Newark, Shepton Mallet, Peterborough, Runway and Ardingly).

You can find a calendar highlighting when and where the next fair is, and there is often something every month. For the best sweep, it’s good to arrive early and bring a trolley. The grounds are vast and there are so many stalls you risk forgetting where you bought things if you collect at the end of the day. Antiques here are incredibly affordable and there is a real plethora of antiques and curios. They are also great for decorative objects, glassware and ceramics.

shop for antiques

Photography: ICAF Fairs

For a one-stop-shop, you can’t do much better than visiting the Battersea Decorative Antiques & Textiles Fair. There are three a year (Spring, Autumn and Winter) and most of the most prominent antiques dealers from across the country have a stand, exhibiting their latest stock. The prices here really vary but the quality of antiques is unquestionably higher than those of the flea markets. Buying competition here is rife so ready your elbows, have a clear plan of the dealers you want to see first and arrive as early as possible to be first in the queue (you also get a glass of champagne while you wait). Our go-to stands are Lee Wright, Brownrigg, AntiqBR, Catherine Despas, Foster & Gane.

shop for antiques

Photography: Brownrigg

The thousands of antiques dealers are available to visit by appointment or you can just drop in; there are many wonderful pockets to discover all over the country where dealers congregate; Lillie Road (Catherine Despas, Dorian Caffot Defawes, M.Charpentier, Puckhaber, Streett Marburg) & Pimlico Road (Howe, Gallery 88) in London, Arundel (Spencer Swaffer) and Petworth (John Bird, Augustus Brandt, Kiki Design) in Sussex and Tetbury in Gloucestershire (Lorfords, Brownrigg, AntiqBR) are all places we regularly visit.

shop for antiques

Photography: Augustus Brandt

Auction houses are another obvious avenue to explore. Again, depending on your price bracket you can narrow your search and choose accordingly. There are hundreds of fantastic auction houses across the country offering a variety of specialities from inexpensive antiques at places such as Stride’s auctions to more high-profile auctions such as Sotheby’s who sold the contents of Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé’s home.

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