How to start buying antiques

Antique fairs are great places to start buying antiques

Mary Claire Boyd is Fair Director of the prestigious The Art & Antiques Fair Olympia She shares her insights into how to start buying antiques, what to look for and how to get the best deals.

When you start buying antiques it’s a hugely rewarding experience. Not only are you creating something that you can display with pride in your home and potentially pass down to future generations, you will be learning so much as your antique buying journey is hugely educational.

My top tip, whether you are buying for love – or for an investment piece, the most important thing is that you’re buying antiques that fit in with your home and way of life.

Visit Antique fairs and galleries

Firstly, visit art and antiques fairs, museums and national galleries and work out what you like. The variety of pieces on offer is extraordinary. For example, at The Art & Antiques Fairs at Olympia you can see works by Picasso, Miro and Warhol all under one roof, as well as a number of paintings for just over £100.

How to build relationships with antique dealers

Visitors to Art & Antique Olympia FairBuild up relationships with antique dealers. Once they know you, and you know them, they will be willing to find things for you especially, based upon your taste and budget.

Discovery is often the hardest job so enlist their support as they are most well placed to do so. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and capitalise on their vast expertise.

Start simple

Good entry-level antique pieces for beginners are often the most simple pieces, such as a console table or a side table – or perhaps a statement vase for your flowers.

Seek advice from interior designers

If you’re unsure how to use antiques in  your home, seek advice from an interior designer who can provide help on where a piece would go. They know that just one piece of antique furniture, even in a very modern setting, will make a space sing. They will also have the knowledge of where to place antique pieces in the perfect position, so don’t be afraid to ask for help; and quite often antique furniture dealers are interior designers, too, so will be happy to help.

Buy antiques that work for your home

As Susie Rumbold, Chairman of the BIID, says, “Identify gaps in your rooms that could take items of furniture and know what size you can accommodate without crowding-in the room. Generate well-lit spaces for eye-catching pieces by adding table lamps (either antique or new) to provide mid-level lighting. Be aware of scale: small paintings for example that worked in your first flat may look too small in a larger family home, so hang them in tight groups to give them more impact.”

‘Serpent Noir’, wool tapestry by Sonia Delaunay marks the artist’s oscillation between the reinterpretation of ancient objects and the creations of new forms. It forms a pseudo triptych representing the different periods of the artists’ works. Size: 151 x 308cm. Art & Antiques Fair exhibitor: Boccara

Think outside the box and try before you buy

Buying antiques and art encompass a whole range of pieces. Think laterally; sometimes a textile on a wall, for example, like those sold by Boccaracan give a room lovely warmth and texture.

Many dealers will let you try a picture or a piece of furniture in your home before committing.

Measure antique furniture

If shopping for large pieces of antique furniture, shop armed with measurements. As the Editor of the Interior Style Hunter, Grant Pierrus says, “It’s also a good idea to have photos on hand of the space that the item will go into as well as exact measurements. This will stop you for looking for unnecessarily items and items that just won’t fit.”

A rare 17th-century Florentine Pietra Dura and ebonised cabinet on stand. Circa 1670

How to ensure authenticity of antiques

Making that first purchase can be daunting so protect yourself. The art and antiques world has two key trade associations – BADA and LAPADA – so make sure who you’re buying from is a member of one of these. This will greatly reduce your chance of buying a fake.

Similarly, major London fairs have a strict vetting policy to help visitors, meaning that each and every piece has been thoroughly vetted before opening to the public – with over 100 experts checking every single piece to check it is genuine and of sound quality.

How to research antiques

Keep up to date with news. Visit antique fairs, research websites, talk to people. Let yourself be educated. As Grant says: “If you are new to the antique hunt a little research goes a long way and by simply browsing the Internet and antique websites you will begin to see what you like and what you imagine in the aforementioned space.

“Nowadays, with programs such as Pinterest and Instagram it’s also so easy to save all your ideas and references and relate back to them so then you can try something similar to what you have seen somewhere else.”

Love the antiques you buy

The chances are you are going to be investing a significant amount of money on your antique collection so be sure to absolutely love the piece you’re buying.

Make sure you have a personal resonance with it – an emotional connection that will stand the test of time far beyond fashion and your current home.

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