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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.

I love the Store Yard in Portlaoise (, Heirlooms in Dun Laoghaire (, Lassco in London (, and Willow Antiques in Cork (

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 ( has two furniture auctions a year; Herman and Wilkinson ( has them every Thursday; and Adams ( 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 ( as it’s great for unique pieces. Another option is the Saleroom (, 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

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