There are many places to buy antique furniture for your home, and where you shop depends on what you want the furniture for. If you are shopping for investment value, you will want pieces that have been authenticated. If you are buying specific items for personal use, such as sectionals for small spaces, you can buy inexpensive pieces of furniture that you can make over to your heart’s content.
Fine antique dealers often have their own stores, exhibit and sell at shows, and place pieces with furniture showrooms and auction houses. If you shop in these venues, you will pay more, but the dealer should authenticate and stand behind claims made about the furniture or its history. When buying for investment, this is not the place to start unless you are an expert or willing to become one. If you are interested in the buying and selling of vintage furniture, it’s best to start by learning about a niche, such as 18th century French dining chairs, and expanding your knowledge slowly broader.
However, most people are not buying for investment but for personal use and the fun of spotting an over-looked treasure and unique item, instead of having the same IKEA Expedit and other big furniture store items that every other person has. Flea markets, estate sales, charity fairs, second-hand shops, garage sales and even online auction sites are fertile hunting territory, and lots of fun for people who like looking at the world through a vintage lens.
No matter where you shop, your best strategy is to be as informed as possible. Most vendors are honest about their merchandise. However, even world-famous auction houses have been burned from time to time. Try to learn as much as you can about what you are shopping for. The library is a rich resource for general guides as well as books that specialize in styles and manufacturers. Especially helpful are those that list current valuations, show maker’s marks, and describe what makes one piece more valuable than another. Another excellent source of information is furniture collectors. Almost every period, style, and manufacturer has a collectors’ society full of enthusiasts who are eager to share their knowledge.
When you buy antique furniture, especially antique sideboards you are also buying a piece of history. There’s a special pleasure in imaging in your “new” empire chair perched in a French salon, or your sleigh bed crossing the mountains in a covered wagon. And once you buy your first piece, chances are you will want more.