How to : Shop an Antiques Market.

I am {surprising to some} not really that great at DIY + crafty things but I do want to be sure that I share some "how to" when it comes to heirloom things over here on the blog. Most of the DIY-type concepts I'll share here are certainly things I've learned from other great people in my life, or learned along the way (probably the hard way).

vintage mounts
vintage quilt

Inspired by a recent trip to one of my favorite antique markets in town, Scott's Antiques, I decided to share some of my favorite tips for shopping an antique or vintage store. I draw so much of my inspiration from rummaging through old things and learning about their form and function. I never tire of it.

My love of "treasure hunting" most certainly came from my childhood trips driving from Florida to North Carolina to our cabin, listening to old-school country music in the backseat with my sister and stopping at roadside antique stores along the way. Looking back as an adult with three little kiddos, a dog, and a husband who likes to make efficient time on a trip, I am increasingly more impressed and thankful for these experiences we had growing up.

And just to clarify before we get into these tips, when I say "antique" store or market I most certainly am not referring to those nice ones that are styled with decorative pieces neatly hung on the walls. I'm talking about the ones where you can't bring your "big purse" inside for fear of knocking over a stack of mismatched china that is piled on top of a hutch. These are the kind of places where you have to hunt, dig and peek around for a find - I love these the most.

Here is what I've learned ....

1. SCHEDULE IT IN.

If it's not on my calendar it's not getting done so I like to make sure to schedule in time to go antiquing. This might seem a little extreme but I don't see it as a "shopping trip" (though my husband may disagree) but instead as a time for sourcing, gathering creative inspiration and design concepts. I think anyone, and especially those in a design, entreprenuerial or creative role, should schedule in time for things that help to inspire and refresh them.

My goal is to poke into a new shop, or maybe even go back to check out a shop I haven't been to in a while. I also make time when I'm traveling, whether for work or pleasure, to seek out a shop or two as it's always better to bring back an authentic souvenir than something from a tourist shop.

vintage southern flour bags

2. GATHER YOUR GO-TO'S.

I like to start by keeping a running list (but I'm a list maker) of shops I want to stop into in my own area. Whenever I stumble upon a new shop or learn about a new market date, I try to pencil it in and make time to stop in when I'm nearby. 

I was leaving a meeting the other day and a bit too early for carpool so I decided to take 20 minutes to stop in to an antique hardware store that I pass a few times a week but had never been inside. It was like the jewelry store of hardware stores, with thousands of vintage hooks, hinges and knobs, each sorted by likeness and displayed in glass display cases and cabinets. I didn't walk away with anything (yet) but I was kicking myself that I hadn't stopped in sooner. 

vintage bath hardware knobs
vintage bread loaf pans
vintage display case
vintage wooden handle utensils

3. WANDER OFF THE BEATEN PATH.

Much like good real estate, some of the most beautiful homes are on the main road. Once they go up for sale, they get a good deal of traffic and interest because people pass by and see the sign. But, if you were to head down the next side street you just may find a home that is just as beautiful, in the neighborhood you want to be in but without the traffic and for a better price.

Long way to say, get off the beaten path and explore a little bit to find some of the best shops. I love this advice for "highway" stores, you know the ones in little towns as you're traveling where you may see a store sign from the interstate or even a billboard. In my experience, 9 times out of 10 if you find that store and drive a half mile up the road, you'll find one or two more that are much better and a whole lot less picked over.

The same holds true for estate sales, the ones that aren't advertised that you happen upon always seem to have the best treasures, it just takes a little exploring and keeping your eyes open.

4. ALWAYS BE PREPARED.

I was most certainly a Girl Scout and this motto is one that I've found to be tried and true for any situation. Taking a little time to be prepared to shop vintage can help you score in a major way when the opportunity arises.

vintage cast iron pans

This is probably one of the most obvious tips but one I think most people forget. My single-best tip is to keep a running list on my phone of items that I'm looking for.

Right now my list includes a looking at textiles for a new design I'm working on, oversized vintage maps or flags to go over my dresser in the master bedroom, large white metal or ceramic pieces for the top cabinets in my kitchen, small to medium sized vintage landscape or portrait paintings, and sourcing vintage pieces for our vintage kitchen shop on the site, as well as for a client that is launching a new brand. It might seem a like a lot (and is probably more than most people) but keeping this list helps keep me laser focused and on a mission to spot some great pieces without getting too distracted, especially when I'm short on time. And, truth be told, this is really just my active list, I have another whole list of things that I love to look for or collect for one reason or another but #priorities.

Next to each item on my list I have a few notes about wall dimensions or space, and sometimes a few photos that I've taken so I can really visualize the space I am filling. I also keep a soft measuring tape in my purse so I can whip out a measurement at any given moment, which comes in handy so much more often than you'd think.

And finally, I like to do a little "pre-research" online on pieces I'm sourcing to see what else is out there and what price point range seems reasonable. This has saved me from overpaying and in being knowledgeable for negotiating, as well as in finding something truly unique. I might fall in love with something that seems unusual but in fact when I look online there are tons of the exact same piece.

5. TRUST YOUR GUT.

At the end of the day, the old adage "one man's junk is another man's treasure" holds true. While I try to have my lists and do my homework, I am always open to finding something unexpected and fabulous that just catches my eye.

There are certainly times when you'll score a highly valuable piece for a super deal (read : thrift store and garage sale lucky breaks) and times when you'll fall head over heals for something that is absurdly overpriced but you just don't care because it's perfect in every way like your first love. And at the end of the day, that's OK. That's just a part of the hunt; part of the experience. And most of all, it is these finds that will keep you coming back time and time again.

vintage collection of clocks