I generally believe that old things are much better than new ones. Old music, old recipes, old houses — they are simply more remarkable than their modern counterparts. And few activities get my heart pumping like shopping for vintage furniture.
To me, antiques are, by virtue of their age, special. They have stories to tell. Their dents and scratches are like Girl Guide badges: proof that they’ve been there and done that. They make spaces totally inimitable, are often better constructed, and are good for the planet.
But here’s the best part about antiques: they can save you money. They can even be cheaper than IKEA, if you know where to look.
After years of hanging out with my mom (who taught me the value of a lick of paint and new hardware), I feel like I know how to shop for nifty and thrifty old stuff. Here’s my best advice:
1) Always go with specific items in mind. If you shop aimlessly, you will end up with VHS tapes, santa claus cake molds, and shot glass collections.
2) Start with the classics. Value Village, the Salvation Army and Goodwill are well organized and cheap. Try asking when they pull out new arrivals, so that you’re looking at a fresh batch when you go.
3) Move on to garage sales. When garage saleing, start at 7 a.m. and bring caffeine. Come prepared with lots of change, the latest local classifieds and a GPS. Always stop at unadvertised sales for better odds of finding good pieces.
4) Then check out consignment, estate sales and auctions. I have to be honest, I’ve never been to an auction. But if they’re like estate sales (which are usually advertised in the paper) they are fantastic. Of Things Past and Around the Block, both in north Toronto, are great consignment stores.
5) Try the Re-Store. Support Habitat for Humanity AND find cheap sinks, light fixtures, and wallpaper.
6) Next stop, antique stores. When you go to antique stores, you’re buying from people who have scoured sources 2 through 5 as well as hockshops and curbside garbage piles. You pay a bit more for those efforts, but there are some gems out there:
- Country Connection is a big barn in Elmvale full of reasonably-priced treasure.
- The ladies who run the little storage locker stores next to the Midland castle always have pretty things
- You can find antiques in bulk at the Cookstown Antique Market and Barrie Antiques Centre
- I love the St. Lawrence Market’s Sunday antiques smorgasbord
7) Finally, flea markets. I have better luck buying food than antiques at flea markets, but the 400 market isn’t bad and the Elmvale market surprises me sometimes.
Because I’ve basically been antiquing since birth, I already have a lot of old stuff. In fact, I probably have enough teak credenzas, rustic wardrobes and musty wicker baskets to fully furnish our new house. That said, I’m still pretty darn excited at the prospect of a few new little nooks to fill.
I’ve already dragged friends to antique stores in Toronto and Prince Edward County (side note: MacCool’s Reuse is a PEC mid-century mecca!) and look forward to more adventuring over the next few months. Bring on the cracked tables and blue mountain pottery.
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