Friday, October 17, 2008

Old fashion and new function live side by side at the secondhand store -

By Jean Greeson and Richard Fast
He Said, She Said

Dear Jean and Richard: These days, every time I visit an antique store, I see things I actually remember buying new. Am I really getting that old or is time speeding up? — Darlene, Atlanta
Richard: Hi, Darlene. It's a safe bet your age has little to do with it. My dog Izzy can remember some of the things I see in antique malls. The fact is, antique stores themselves have become somewhat antiquated, thanks to the Internet and inexpensive imports. In many cases, the more valuable items are auctioned on eBay to ensure the highest profit. Left over are usually more commonplace things or items too large to easily ship.

Jean: You have a point, but nothing a tall hat won't cover. There's more to shopping for antiques than finding “valuable” items. For me, nostalgia and whimsy appeal to my sense of adventure. I look for certain children's books and unusual carvings. My husband recently searched for a wooden ladder — not worth much on the market but hard to find new. When you discover a gem among all the rocks, it's exciting. In a real sense, antiquing is modern-day treasure hunting.
Richard: OK, what you're describing is more like Dumpster diving than serious shopping. Or rummaging through someone's attic to see what they can't quite bear to throw away. I maintain that a great many antique stores are really just secondhand stores, and even more supplement their inventory with new, often imported reproductions.
Jean: You'll have to admit we find some nice pieces of furniture in antique stores.
Richard: Yes, and those are the items too bulky to ship.
Jean: Yet we buy them for our clients and ship them ourselves. I admit there are some junk stores that use the term “antique” a little too casually. But it really depends on what you're looking for. I recently bought some Smurf glasses to give my adult children for Christmas because they loved the Smurfs when they were kids.
Richard: Wow, Christmas is really going to be special at your house. Imagine, antique Smurfs! I think the trick is to be discriminating about your antiques source. If you're looking for Smurf glasses, roadside malls — or even flea markets — might be just the ticket. If you're looking for furniture, I would check the higher-rent district, usually in a downtown area. With the Internet, even a novice dealer knows what a piece is worth. Don't expect any steals.
Jean: Darlene, when you're considering vintage furniture, I would encourage you to think about alternate uses, especially if their original functions may no longer be needed. Corner telephone tables are long obsolete but could be used as laptop stations. Sewing cabinets, iceboxes, early record players, pie safes and steamer trunks can find new life as storage for all sorts of household items.
Richard: Yes, but be sure to consider these items “novel” and work them into your décor primarily for interest. Upscale antique dealers rarely hold iceboxes in the same regard as a French Regency étagère.
Jean: Maybe, but either one could store my set of Smurf glasses. I'm giving you a Grumpy Smurf glass this year.

These are the opinions of nationally recognized interior designers Jean Greeson and Richard Fast, with offices in Asheville, Fort Lauderdale and Kansas City. Contact them with your question by visiting

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