Vintage furniture and decor can add much-needed character to a home, giving your space a collected and worldly feel. By decorating with items you’ve purchased secondhand, you also are helping out Mother Nature by embracing the practice of upcycling. It’s a win-win! Not sure how to buy vintage? From questions about quality and makers to value and price-point, buying heirlooms can be daunting. Here are a few pro tips to help you navigate the vast world of secondhand goods.
Know where to go
There are a wide variety of venues to buy used furniture and decor. Take some time to scope out the area’s offerings, perusing vendors at places like the Antique Mall at Mayberry and inspecting the goods at local shops like Fabulous Finds and Smith Mountain Lake Discovery Shop. Think flea markets, estate sales and architectural salvage yards too.
Look to see if any local nonprofits have shops. Quite a few community organizations have thrift stores filled with all sorts of treasures. Locally, the Moneta Goodwill accepts quality donations ranging from clothing to household items, and they sell these secondhand goods at reasonable prices. It’s doubly beneficial to shop at venues like Goodwill because the money you spend at the shop goes back to the community, supporting those in need by providing services like job training.
SMITH MOUNTAIN LAKE VINTAGE RETAILERS
ANTIQUE MALL AT MAYBERRY
1170 Celebration Avenue
361 Scruggs Road
13697 Booker T. Washington Highway, Suite 100
OLDE MILL PRIMITIVES
1167 Wildcat Road
QUEEN BEE CONSIGNMENTS
12126 Old Franklin Turnpike
Union Hall, VA
14190 Booker T. Washington Highway
SARAH’S PLACE ANTIQUES & COLLECTABLES
13105 South Old Moneta Road
SMITH MOUNTAIN LAKE DISCOVERY SHOP
400 Scruggs Road, Suite 500
VIRGINIA FOUND GOODS
710 Pocket Road
Make a plan
When perusing a flea market or an antique mall, you very easily can be overwhelmed by all the amazing gadgets and dozens of vendors if you don’t know what you are looking for. Without a game plan you can fall prey to spending extra money and bringing home things you don’t necessarily need. If you’re asking yourself, “Do I really need this punchbowl and dozen matching cups for $100?” The answer is probably no.
When shopping vintage, it pays off to makes purchases with intention. Come up with a plan before you start your spree by creating a shopping list and deciding on a budget.
Do your research
Do your due diligence before you start shopping. Look up what the piece of furniture or decor is selling for online on big e-tailers like eBay, Etsy and Chairish. This will help give you context on cost and help you understand if a shop is over- or underpricing its inventory. For instance, if you see a jadeite vase on eBay for $40 and then see a very similar one at a local shop for $65, it might be overpriced, depending upon what the eBay vendor would charge for shipping. Another note: make sure you research not only what items are listed for online, but what they sell for, which will give you a more accurate sense of market value.
Beyond cost, do some research on the item itself. If you are in the market for a midcentury credenza, know who the big manufacturers and designers are of the era. And be sure to look up what kind of materials make for a quality credenza from that time period. (We suggest wood like walnut and teak.)
Or if you are on the hunt for European antiques, brush up on periods and the characteristics and materials that define that era. You’ll be better able to find what you need and ask the right questions if you come equipped with some knowledge.
If you don’t know much about what you are looking for, that’s okay too. Come armed with questions. Tap a shop owner or antique dealer for their knowledge, and they’ll be able to help answer all your questions.
Look for markdowns and sales
You wouldn’t be a savvy shopper if you didn’t look for deals. Some shops and estate specialists mark down vintage pieces after they’ve been sitting on the floor for some period of time. At estate sales, it pays to wait until the last day to get the item at a discounted price. Inquire with the seller if prices are firm or if they mark down inventory after a certain amount of time.
It’s always worth it to inquire with the shop owner if there is a “best price” for an item too. Avoid haggling over price point, but a respectful negotiation over the value of goods is usually welcome. Some vendors may give you a better deal if you buy multiple items. You are also likely to get a better deal if you pay with cash. ✦