Secrets That Antique Furniture Buyers Know

You want a great piece to finish off a room.  Where do you look?  In this article, I hope to cover some of the secrets that antique store buyers live by to find these scores first.

Search Etsy to find out what is being turned over. Etsy can give us a great indication of where trends are going.  What furniture styles are popular.  What furniture, decor, and style is in most people’s carts?  This could be an easy way to decide what direction to head in when looking for items to re-sell.

1930’s Antique Hollywood Regency Style Grey Dresser and Mirror set –

1930’s Antique Hollywood Regency Style Upcycled Grey Headboard and Footboard complete with siderails –

Go To Flea Markets Early- Antique hunters arrive as the vendors are setting up their booths.  They get first dibs on merchandise, so they can move on to other avenues as quickly as possible.  If you want a deal on something, simply ask.  The worst they can do is say no, and you can move on to the next find.  Go early to the best sale, and schedule your day accordingly to the sales that follow.

Forget About Antiques With Costly Repairs-  We have all been a sucker in this department.  We see a great piece, with fabulous bones, ……buy it and it sits in the garage for months.  Worn wicker costs an arm and a leg to reweave, so it’s best to move on.  Take a good look at that out-dated upholstery piece before you buy it as your next project.  Consider the cost of new upholstery, when deciding on a piece.  If you are willing to sink in $300-$800 dollars…heck go for it! Have you done upholstery before, ….assess the level of skill it takes this particular piece back to life.  Mildewed upholstery which has been left outside is almost impossible to freshen, so it’s best to move on.

Be Friendly With Vendors…Vendors can be collectors themselves, and just being kind can earn you a few tips in casual conversation.  Vendors often have their own shops, have a few pieces at home, know a few places where they might be able to locate that one-of-a-kind item.  If you are after a particular look, bring pictures with you, along with cards that you can give out with your phone number and the items are after purchasing.  Be fair, and reasonable with your price points.  The last thing you want an individual to do is go out of their way daily to look for you if you don’t allow them to make a cushion profit for themselves when they do locate that special item.

Know What You Are After, And Go With A Plan- If you plan on just looking around, chances are…you might drop a load of cash on unexpected buys.  If you go with an idea of what you are after…the style, the look, chances are you will stay on budget.  Look on ebay, and Amazon to price shop before spending a boat load of cash. Know how much that item is worth, so you have information to bargain with.   Vendors do expect for you to ask for a discount, and often will come down 10 percent if you ask.

Shop Flea Markets Late– Vendors don’t want to have to repack their vans, and trucks at the end of the night, and so often times they are willing to go much lower than they would normally go, because lets face it, after a long day…who wants to load everything back up again.  At the end of the day, those scores become even better as vendors get tired, and want to get off their feet for the day.

Arrive Early To Auctions.   Arriving early allows you to look through what is for sale before the rush of the auction starts.   Look over the merchandise during the pre-sale period, and ask the auctioneer what he or she thinks the piece is likely to bring — they usually give a good estimate of the item’s true worth.

Avoid Bidding Wars At Auctions.Decide in advance what your top bid is for an item will be and stick to that price. If it is your first time at an auction, many regulars like to scare you away, by overbidding to frustrate you.  They don’t want new blood in a regular auction, because to them it means more competition.  Determine over time, which bidders are just jerks, and which ones you can work with.  “I will give you this one, and you can owe me”  I noticed, working with people allowed me to score more deals that meant a lot to me.  I was also able to give and take on items as well, that were not that important.

Attend Moving And Storage Auctions- Often times these outlets will have fabulous deals on furniture.  Other times, they tend to be just junk, but you just never know what is behind each locker.   Storage businesses periodically auction off unclaimed goods out of their warehouses, so check newspaper classified ads or go the extra mile, and contact local movers for upcoming dates and get put on their list.

Garage Sales Are Worth Your Time- Garage sales are the best place to go if you are one of those people who doesn’t mind going out on the weekend, to attend a few yard sales.  While, you  might not get exactly what you are looking for, the hunt could produce some unexpected finds.  Pay attention to wealthy neighborhoods, and estate sales from seniors who are down sizing or selling their homes.  Often times they are getting rid of quality merchandise, and not a lot of baby junk, and little kids clothing, but rather china, hutches, and solid wood furniture.

Ready To Assemble Furniture Can Work For The Right Project- Ikea, JC Penny, Sears, Target and Kmart can carry some affordable, inexpensive pieces. Develop an eye for quality and style.  Low grade MDF, particle board furniture lasts one move, and it’s out the door.  So if you do buy that kind of furniture, know that it falls apart over time. Bookshelves can be re-purposed into built in shelving with molding and extra wood.  Cabinets on the walls can be improved with moldings and new hardware.  These big box stores also have a nice variety of furniture made from solid wood or metal accessories, so don’t discount them too quickly.

Know Your Wood Types. Wood furniture falls into three categories:

  • Solid wood furniture is harder to find, and more expensive than other types of furniture.  These pieces can be painted, or stained, and at a later date, stripped, and re-painted.
  • Veneers can be expensive, and not so expensive.  Many people think veneered furniture is low quality, but that isn’t the case with every piece.  Antique pieces which have veneer, often are made with solid wood, but just feature a more expensive looking wood for the top layer.  There are also cheaper veneers that contain a particle board underneath the veneer.  Investigate the quality.
  • Particle board and composite wood pieces are made from a combination of wood pulp, plastics, and resin.  These are basically the scraps of the furniture world, that don’t last too long.

Look At The Outside Perimeter Of Big Box Stores– Often Target has their discount clearance sections tucked along the back of the stores.  Here you can find good looking lamps, bedding, sheets, and towels for next to nothing. Kmart, often has one isle for their clearance area.  These  areas of the store can save you a bundle.

Look At Quality Wood Furniture –Buy a piece or two at a time and make your choices carefully. Do not rush. Do not buy garbage if you can avoid it. As recent college grads, you will undoubtedly need to buy some things at places like Ikea, but if you can wait and buy nicer things, they will last longer (a lifetime) and look better. You will not regret it. You can find this stuff on Craigslist. Avoid veneers. Try to buy American made if you can. Do not spend as much on upholstered furniture, as it will invariably have a shorter life spanquebee

Estate Sales Can Have Fabulous FindsBuying new is expensive, and you’ll likely get poor quality compared to what you’ll be able to buy used. A $200 plastic and plywood table from Ikea will fall apart much faster than a $200 solid pine table that you buy used. Everything I bought from West Elm fell apart, but the desk I bought at an estate sale for $150 I’ll probably be able to pass along to my grand children. It’s stunning, and super sturdyPollygolightly

Consignment Stores Keep Quality-  Consignments stores can yield some excellent buys. They are often very picky in what they let in their door, so you know that everything you are looking through is of better quality.Consignment stores are well worth investigating.


Rustic Wood Wine Crate

Rustic Wood Wine Crate $59 On Amazon

Tracy Collins' booth at the Marburger Antiques Show in Round Top Texas

Tracy Collins’ booth at the Marburger Antiques Show in Round Top Texas

Found on

Servies en Brocante, Schildwolde, Netherlands

Servies en Brocante, Schildwolde, Netherlands

Slipcover Your Furniture

I have found that a lot of older home and garden books contain photos that are outdated, but there are a few authors who favor antiques, making their books timeless to look through.

Katrin Cargill is one of those authors, where you can pick up an older book of hers and every photo looks current. I have enjoyed all of her books. So when I came across her book called “Fabrications; Over 1000 Ways To Decorate Your Home With Fabric“, I instantly knew I would love it.

The popularity of slipcovers has been ever increasing, as decorators and homeowners realize the possibilities that slipcovers offer. They are not only decorative, but practical.

At one time, slipcovers served the means of protecting upholstered furniture from the dust of summer months, although they have evolved over the years, from just large sheets which covered furniture, to be tailored to fit the shape of sofas and chairs, even having decorative pleating, ruffles and embroidery, which have been used for furnishing rooms for all-year-round use.

Get The Look Of A Set For Less –Buying an entire set of furniture which matches is next to impossible, especially if you love antiques. Slipcovers and fabric can unite several pieces of miss-matched pieces of furniture with ease.  Consider painting the frames of the furniture, and have them slip-covered in the same material.

Look on ebay for sellers who offer large bolts of fabric, which can be shipped to your home without having to drive from store to store.

2. Maintain Expensive Furniture With Slipcovers

Antique sofas and armchairs can be quite expensive. If you have a set you want to maintain, consider investing extra money in slipcovers. Cats tend to scratch furniture, which can destroy the upholstery of a special piece. In addition dogs which are allowed to roam outside will bring the dirt indoors and on to the furniture, which can soil a nice sofa overtime. Slipcovers give you the opportunity to wash the fabric, and maintain it’s good looks.

3. Slipcovers Can Conceal Badly Worn Fabrics Or Ugly Lines.

We have all been to an estate sale where a sofa is priced right, yet we toss and turn over the purchase because the cost of upholstery is 5 times as much as the price of the sofa itself.

Then there is that sofa that has beautiful feet, yet the overall fabric looks worn and outdated.

For a piece that could function well in the home, but isn’t worth spending the money in upholstery, creating a slipcover may work best.

4. Slipcovers Offer You Change For Less

Wouldn’t it be great to change up an entire room in the winter and give a different look for the summer?

Slipcovers make that possible. Linen looks crisp in the summer, while in the winter, wool might lend more of a comfort through those cold evenings.

Winter slip covers can be made of thicker materials, and offer that extra warmth through those cold nights. Lighter materials can be made for the summer, which offer a pleasant coolness and crispness which is welcome during hot days. Work with florals for the summer, and change out to something simple for the winter.

Additonal Links To Inspire You:

– Book Review: Decorating With Antiques by Caroline Clifton-Mogg

– Book Review: The French Room By Betty Lou Phillips-

– Decorating Books-

– Drop Cloth Slip Cover

-How To Make A Club Chair Slipcover-

-DIY Ottoman Slip

-How To Sew Double Cord Welting –

-Upholstery Adhesive – Beacon Magna-Tac 809 –

-How to Make a Sofa Slipcover-

-How To Bleach Drop Cloth-

-Slip Cover Tutorial – 6 Part Video Series-

-How To Make A Chair Slipcover-

-Wing Back Slipcover-

Darcy Chair With Oyster Linen Slip

Darcy Chair With Oyster Linen Slip- Rachel Ashwell

Slipcovers For Headboards

Slipcovers For Headboards

A hand quilted headboard in a pale lavender. The headboard and pillowcase pillows are made of plaid linen fabric. Found on

French-Style-Farm-Table-French Slipcovers On Dining Chairs- Rachel Ashwell

Linen Slipcovers From Country Living MagazineLinen Slipcovers From Country Living Magazine

Antique Daybed, – Kay O’Toole Antiques

Antique Daybed, – Kay O’Toole Antiques

Hand-painted-version-of-a-traditionally-embroidered-monogram-chair-slipcover-designed-by-Betty-Burgess-500x500Embroidered monogramed chair slipcover designed by Betty Burgess

Leopoldina Haynes's house photographed by Matt Clayton

Leopoldina Haynes’s house photographed by Matt Clayton Found on

Heirloom-Philosophy-BlogMichelle Fritz is the talented seamstress from the blog Make. Her work was featured in Country Home February 2006,- Scanned in & Photo Credit- Heirloom Philosophy Blog

Seamstress Blogger Michelle Fritz- Heirloom Philosophy BlogSeamstress Blogger Michelle Fritz- Heirloom Philosophy Blog

French Chair SlipcoversFrench Chairs From Full Bloom Cottage Blog

Full Bloom Cottage on Etsy

SlipcoversThe chair slips are actually two pieces, one piece covers the back and
one covers the seat. There is a down cushion inserted into the bottom
slip to make the chairs look and feel softer. Ties run down the back
of the slips. The skirts are double pleated for extra frill. The
checked linen is Chelsea Editions –

Joni Webb’s Library French Chair With Slipcover

Jonis-French-Slipcovers-Joni Webb’s French Chair Slipcovers-


French Chairs From Full Bloom Cottage Blog


French Chairs From Full Bloom Cottage Blog

French Chair Stripe

French Chairs From Full Bloom Cottage Blog

Slipcovers made from French Linen by Anita -Cedar Hill Ranch Blog

Slipcovers made from French Linen by Anita –Cedar Hill Ranch Blog

Lavender & white slipcovered chair- freckledlaundry

Lavender & white slipcovered chair-

Slipcovers made from French Linen by Anita -Cedar Hill Ranch Blog

Slipcovers made from French Linen by Anita –Cedar Hill Ranch Blog

French Dining Room Chairs With Slipcovered Seats and Backs - lonnyFrench Dining Room Chairs With Slipcovered Seats and Backs –

Framing Finds At Estate Sales


One item I always have an eye for is nice frames. Large frames can cost upwards of 400+. Antique detailed, large frames is something worth buying.


Frame Resources:

  • Nice Frames on Esty sells lots of unfinished wood frames. Custom orders are available. Leave them in their natural beautiful state, stain, or pickle them white. Unfinished wood allows you to customize the look of the wood to suit your home.
  • Make your own wood frame by using a miter saw. Cutting perfect joints has never been more simple with the right tools!
  • Little Lotus Boutique on esty sells beautiful ornate picture frames in large lots. These frames will give your art work a bit of higher quality appearance, and are worth the investment, giving you the opportunity to change out your art work over time.

Meranda's Picks- The Best Wall Prints From Paragon- Paragon Seaweed (Set of 4) by Vision Studio Waterfront

Paragon Seaweed (Set of 4) by Vision Studio Waterfront $645.00 + $200 shipping


Attractive Furniture Feet

Furniture Could Be Updated With Feet.

Home Depot sells this attractive square tapered bun foot.

These legs, above would be fabulous on the right dresser or chest

5″ Natural Tapered Corner Leg, Set of 2.

Hardware Can Be Changed Out

The hardware also needed to be changed out.


Louis XVI Style Matte Black Cabinet Ring Pulls 12 Pulls For $24 Dollars

A Must-Have Antique Furniture Identification Guide

Know what to look for with a guide that can help you.

If you love shopping for antiques and possibly sell period furniture, having a guide book which can help you identify the periods along with the styles can be incredibly helpful when making decisions on what to buy and for how much.

Antique Furniture By Tim Forrest is one of those books which is great to have within reach if you do buy and sell antique furniture.

It can be easy to feel overwhelmed when you don’t know the right terminology when you find that dream piece of furniture, and it looks valuable, yet you have no information on it. You could endlessly look through pictures on the internet, but without some sort of starting point, you soon can find yourself lost.

What is a splat?

A stretcher?

How can you distinguish solid walnut from good veneer?

Antique Furniture By Tim Forrest contains 8 chapters, with over 200 pictures which break down into chairs, tables, beds, painted furniture, mirrors, and kitchen collectibles.

The most valuable part of this book are the hand drawn guides which show particular features such as furniture feet, castors, chair backs, and finishes which really can come in handy when buying a piece and determining it’s age.

Antique Furniture (2006) is one of those guides that isn’t brand new, but the information is timeless, and will come in handy in determining the style and age of a piece of furniture. A great book is a great book, no matter how old it is. You can have this book in your collection for as little as $3.99 on Amazon