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How to Buy Antiques

Lara Lennon reveals some tricks of the trade on how to find a perfect piece of classic furniture and she explains how to unearth your own timeless treasure.

A good antique is hard to find so you really need to know what to look for. Lara Lennon reveals some tricks of the trade on how to find a perfect piece of classic furniture and she explains how to unearth your own timeless treasure:

  • First of all, the most important factor for what makes a piece of furniture qualify as an antique is time. A true antique is at least 100 years old. Going forward in time to around the turn of the century, there are what Goldman calls "the near antiques" (75 to 99 years old) as they'll be true antiques shortly. Then there are items that are known as vintage (25 to 74 years old), which are from the 40s, 50s and into the 60s.

  • There are elements to look for when shopping for an antique and the most important is whether you like it. Then, take a look at the overall condition of the piece (does it move, is it solid, etc.).

  • Where do we go to find good antiques at a good price? Look in the attics and basements of friends and family, try yard sales and visit house auctions.

  • Before buying, ask questions about the construction of a piece. Has it been repaired? Are there any secondary pieces that have been added to give it more stability? What is its history?

  • According to Lennon, as a blanket statement, changing or refinishing a piece of furniture can detract from the value if you're looking at museum-quality pieces. When you're looking to bring warmth to your home and personalize a space, the value really lies in what it brings to you.

  • Finally, if you find an antique piece that you really love but can't use it for its intended purpose, think of other ways to use it. For example, a china cabinet that won't work in a dining room is great for storing linens in a bathroom.

Here are some cleaning tips for old pieces:

  • Refresh old bottles that are cloudy from minerals or chemicals by pouring water in and add some denture-cleaning tablets to do the dirty work. For really tough stains, use water and swirl a pinch of sand around gently. Be sure to rinse everything thoroughly with either method.

  • Rub dull brass with a soft cloth and polish made with a little salt, flour and cider vinegar. Once dry, rinse thoroughly with hot water and polish it with a clean cloth.

  • For sparkling glasses, wash each piece carefully in warm, soapy water. Then add a touch of vinegar to the rinse water.

To keep a wooden piece looking good, try these solutions:

  • Loosen a tight screw by dabbing some peroxide on it.
  • To tighten a loose screw, wrap a tiny bit of steel wool around the end of it, and then drive it back in.
  • Rub soap over the rails of a drawer that sticks so it slides in place easily.

rose photo/ note holder, beaded lamp, knobs and drawer pulls, pillows (botanical, pink round satin and green velvet) (Anthropologie)
tin plates, barley twist candleholders (Restoration Hardware)

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