Browsing antiques at a fair, shop or market is the perfect way to spend a crisp autumn day, whether you’re on the lookout for a bargain or simply admiring the fascinating pieces of history that can be found there.
Antiques are not only a potential investment - they can also add interest and a sense of maturity to your home, and as more and more shoppers turn their backs on run-of-the-mill, mass-produced goods, the craftsmanship, history and individuality of antiques are making them more sought after than ever.
Take a look at our guide to choosing key pieces for your home…
Shopping for antiques
There are a wealth of fabulous opportunities to purchase antiques across the UK, from flea markets and car boots sales to dedicated antiques fairs and auctions.
If you know where you want to put your antique piece, take a picture on your phone along with the measurements of the space and any doorways it will need to fit through. Sometimes it can be difficult to remember these things on the spot, so a little forward-planning here will serve you well.
Only buy something you like
It may sound obvious, but only buy an antique piece if you are really drawn to it; that way, any profit you may make from it in years to come is purely a bonus. As you would with any decorative purchase, think about why you really like it - is it just because it’s on trend now, or have you admired that style for a while now?
Bring a friend
When you’re mid-haggle or doubling back to look at that same piece again, it can be helpful to hear honest and impartial words of advice, so bring a partner or friend who you know will help you make a balanced decision.
Don’t forget, antiques also make wonderful gifts. Not only can they be one-of-a-kind, antique pieces can be passed through the family and enjoyed for generations – who can say that about an iPad?
Check thoroughly before buying
Always ask before picking a piece up, but don’t be afraid to take your time checking it over once you do. Open drawers and cupboards or look at the interior of a piece to check the material corresponds to that on the outside. Modern fixings such as nails, hangings or screws can be a dead giveaway as to whether a piece has been altered – older fixings will usually be made of wood.
Finally, ask, ask, ask. A trustworthy seller will welcome questions and be more than happy to tell you what they know about a piece.
Best antique pieces to buy for beginners
If you’re just starting out or only looking to shop on a small-scale, these items are a safe place to start:
A single mirror with a striking shape or several smaller ones clustered together make for an eye-wall display and can be found at most antiques fairs.
Door knobs and handles
It’s often the little details which make a room, and vintage door knobs, knockers and handles are an excellent example. Glass and porcelain door and drawer knobs can be especially striking, while metal drawer pulls are also popular and sit well in studies or kitchens.
Buying large pieces of antique furniture can be risky unless you know what to look for, so we would recommend sticking with smaller items such as side tables and having large pieces custom made for your home.
From pottery to paintings, art and craft pieces are the easiest and most popular antique form to incorporate into your home and bring depth and intrigue to walls, shelves and dressers. If you’re interested in a particular time period, be sure to do your research and seek out a reputable dealer from which to buy. If you’re not sure what style would fit with your home, look for pieces in colours that match your room’s palette instead and you’ll be surprised at what catches your eye.
How to display antiques in your home
Less is more
It’s easy to go overboard on antiques, with the result that your home looks like an antiques fair itself, plus too many bold pieces can take attention from other aspects of the room. Decide whether you’re on the lookout for one statement piece, such as a quirky chandelier, or a number of smaller ones, such as a collection of plates – and don’t get distracted.
Don’t be afraid of colour
Too many brown or metallic shades can make your home look tired or old-fashioned. Ceramics often have beautiful glazes which add brightness and texture, while lighting pieces and artworks can also be a good source of colour.
Consider an alternative use
The key to adventurous interiors is thinking outside the box and antiques shouldn’t be an exception. If you really like something but it’s a little impractical, consider displaying it in an unconventional way. If you’re a dab hand at DIY, consider turning a sculpture into a piece of lighting, or mounting vintage items on the wall for an eclectic edge.
Practical vs decorative
If you’re buying something practical you intend to use, for example lighting or a sewing machine, do a little research to find out how easy it would be to repair, or, if you don’t want to do it yourself, whether there is a good repair shop in your area.
For those interested in buying and selling antiques, keeping on top of current trends is a must. Japanese, Cuban and African artworks are all on trend at the moment, and not just in the antiques world – we’ve seen these elements in many recent interiors collections too. Victorian drawings from the Arts & Crafts era are also sought after; look out for works by artists such as Edward Burne-Jones or Frederic Lord Leighton.