Shop Vintage Like a Pro- A Beginner’s Guide from an Expert

by TheSpot

Recently, my sister and I went on a little afternoon shopping trip to look at some antique furniture.  They were high end and in good condition.  This planted a thought in my head about quality and the meaning of our purchases.  As it turns out,  my sister recently had her own furniture refurbished by restoration and vintage upcycle expert, Jennifer Armstrong. Jen worked in a corporate setting for a number of years and decided to turn her talents to her passion.  Jen now has her own restoration business, Adore Redecor. She shares some valuable insights and tips on shopping for antiques even if you don’t know the first thing about it.  

The very idea of shopping for antiques can be very daunting.  For those who have experienced an overwhelming feeling and not knowing what to buy, Jennifer is here to help.  First, just how did Jennifer manage to leave the corporate world and turn her passion for antiques into a full time gig?  Jennifer tells us that initially she found herself moving furniture and pieces around then began buying additional pieces.  More ideas came from Pinterest, how to’s on YouTube and Instagram videos, and slowly began restoring her own furniture.  Today, she has a loyal list of clients and is committed to the benefits of vintage shopping and renovation.

In our conversation with Jen, we gained new perspectives on the very idea of refurbishing and breathing new life into quality pieces.  Consequently, landfills are becoming increasingly congested with this massive amount of waste. Research indicates that younger homeowners and renters prioritize cost effectiveness over other factors, owing to the soaring prices of homes and the need for affordability.

We asked Jen what resources were out there to help someone get started.  Jen undoubtedly believes Facebook Market is a good place to start.  She gives much credit to the idea of getting inspiration and a good place to find quality pieces.  Additionally, there is usually someone close by where pick up and delivery can facilitate purchases.  Also Jen believes Pinterest and Instagram are huge resources for ideas, education, and discovering sale items. 

So what are some of Jen’s simple but helpful tips when vintage shopping?  

  1. Inspect!  Jen emphasizes that inspection is key.  Look for dates, check edges and joints.  Usually dovetail joints indicate a well made piece. 
  2. Open and close drawers.  Check the working condition
  3. Bring a cloth and clean under the base of furniture for dust and any creepy crawlies. 
  4. If a piece is on sale as antique but not solid, it is okay to walk away from the sale
  5. If a seller does not show a lot of photos, just ask.  Zoom in on online photos
  6. If there are scratches on pieces, not to worry, usually a simple stain pen will work.  Bear in mind though, scratches add character and timelessness!
  7. Not everything has to match. Mix and match patterns, colors, and sizes can be perceived as fashionable and artistic not mention make your home pop.
  8. Simple facts to know before you go: to be considered antique, an item must be at least 100 years old and vintage items are at least 20 plus years.

Jen suggests looking at major outlets for inspiration however advises caution on purchases. Oftentimes, there are hidden features such as thin wood or veneer.  Exploring pre-owned or refurbished home decor or furniture can actually be a pleasant and therapeutic activity. There is a certain charm in revitalizing an item, not to mention the significant savings of hundreds or even thousands of dollars. Jen exemplifies how something we perceive as old can be rejuvenated once more..  Selecting antiques for our homes and living spaces is a chance to rewrite your own personal history for generations to come.   Vintage items not only make great gifts but create lasting memories especially during the shopping season. Follow Jen Armstrong at Adore Redecor to book an appointment or for more expert tips!