Sara’s latest Ask the expert column in The Sunday Times is all about how to source antiques …
Q. I’m buying an old house and would like to buy some antiques for it. Have you any advice on where I can get them and how I can make them match with modern decor?
A. I have definitely seen an increased interest in the world of antiques. As part of the desire to pursue a more sustainable approach to household purchases, people see antiques as a stylish and considered choice. There is something wonderful about acquiring an antique, knowing that it has lived other lives and has been around longer than you have.
A verified antique is a piece that has value as a result of its historic importance or appearance. For some, it means a piece more than 100 years old, but the term is often used loosely to describe any object that is old, so for others it could mean anything from before 1980. I like to use the term vintique, which means the item is somewhere between vintage and antique.
I love to mix old and new, and the most interesting interiors have this trait. You can upholster an old chair with a modern fabric or add vintage handles to a modern piece. Surrounding an antique piece with modern decor can add a wow factor.
There are three main ways of buying antiques: in antiques shops, at auctions or online.
Using antiques shops is the most straightforward way: you can see the item and assess its condition. Often, shop owners have a special eye and select the best pieces for your consideration. Increasingly, you are able to see things online and then check them out in real life — when it comes to antiques, it’s a good idea to see the piece in the flesh. You can check the measurements and condition and satisfy yourself that you are happy with it.
If you want to pick up some crafty bargains or collect an investment piece, a great option is through auction. There is a wide range to choose from — de Veres (deveres.ie) has two furniture auctions a year; Herman and Wilkinson (hermanwilkinson.ie) has them every Thursday; and Adams (adams.ie) has several throughout the year.
I love to upcycle upholstery pieces as well as buy interesting cabinets and porcelain. Once you win an auction you have to go through with the purchase. I recently bought a dining table and the leg fell off as we were collecting it. Luckily, I managed to get it fixed, but it was a reminder to gain as much information on the condition as possible before bidding.
Online, we buy from the American website 1st Dibs (1stdibs.com) as it’s great for unique pieces. Another option is the Saleroom (the-saleroom.com), which links to more than 2,000 auction houses and is useful for specialist items.
My top tip is to triple-check dimensions before you buy. There is nothing worse than a sofa turning up that won’t fit through the door.
Sara Cosgrove is an interior designer; @saracosgrovestudio