Design Hints

Shop Like a Pro

Follow this expert advice to ensure your next trip to the antiques market or auction is successful.

Experiences as an antiques collector and dealer give Washington homeowner Amy McCoy a unique perspective on buying and selling wisely. Let Amy's tips help you play the antiques game like a pro.

1. If you love it, buy it. "Antiques, almost by definition, are one-of-a-kind. The worst feeling is to see something, go home and think about it, then come back and it's gone," she says. "I don't know how many times I've had customers come in, see a piece and fall in love with it, and then say, 'Well, I have to go home to talk to my husband about it.' They come back in a week, but the piece is long gone by then." She points out that the antiques market remains strong. "Even if you buy something and it doesn't work out or you decide you really don't love it as much as you thought you did, you'll still almost always get your money out of it."

2. Shop by color. With the right color scheme, pieces from different eras can be made to work together, Amy says. She thinks in terms of background color rather than strict design themes. "It's not hard to learn how to shop by color rather than design," she says, "even though shopping by design is everyone's first instinct. When you shop by color, you learn that everything doesn't have to strictly match, yet you can put together a really nice-looking room."

3. Think "practical". Amy won't bring home an antique unless it has an immediate purpose. She uses an antique sideboard as a dresser, and her daughter Molly uses a small, handmade tool-storage cabinet for her Barbie dolls and accessories.

4. Tell your friends: "If you see something in a friend's house that you really like, let her know about it, because you never know when she might want to sell it. And if she does, you want her to call you first," Amy says. She has bought several prized pieces this way.

5. Know before you go. Antiquing is much more fun when you know what you're getting yourself into. Take time to read up on the period or the type of pieces you are interested in before heading out. Exercising a little bit of precaution can help you prevent making a purchase you might later regret.

Written by Steve Bjerkle
Photographed by
Styled by Donna Pizzi