How to Decorate With Antiques, Knowing Which Collector Type You Are

A clear understanding of how you envision antiques in your home is a solid starting point in understanding how to decorate with these strong designing tools. It’s no exaggeration to say that successfully using antiques is predicated on knowing what you want to accomplish in your home. The strategy required to fill an entire house with period perfect pieces will vary greatly from the homeowner seeking one sculptural piece to offset a collection of modern art and furnishings.

But equal to this understanding is the need to clearly see yourself in one of the following 5 collecting categories. While not a ridged system, these groupings are, in my experience, slots into which most antique collectors fit. See which one resonates with you:

The Flea Market Aficionado. Loves old things but is unwilling to part with more than a few bucks for the procurement of a piece. This creature is often found a flea-markets, tag and estate sales looking for fun things at discount prices. This typically precludes fine period antiques (with rare and rapturous exceptions) putting the focus on vintage or collectible items that will make stylish additions to their home. Questions of provenance and authentication are non-existent for this buyer for whom the only real questions are “do they love it” and “is the price right”?

The Weekend Warrior. Whether at home or while on vacation this antiquing creature is compelled to wander quaint streets (often following a charming brunch at a local eatery) in search of cute shops through which to wander. Lacking any plan for buying or collecting this individual is best known for their impulse buys. Pieces thus appear at home randomly and are treated as unexpected guests rather than as anticipated arrivals.

The Occasional Collector. I describe this individual as a timid collector; one who is limited, either by knowledge, confidence (usually a lack thereof) or investing capital. They are not afraid to ring the bell at the door of their cities finer antique dealers or to appear at an auction house preview but they rarely buy, typically for the reasons noted above. Undaunted they are content to wander isles, timidly ask a few questions and head home to dream about acquiring any number of interesting pieces.

The Serious Collector. Whether supported by an architect or interior designer or on their own, these buyers have invested the time to educate themselves about antiques in general and, when appropriate, about specific areas of their interest. This buyer has the means to purchase good pieces and enjoys the hunt particularly when surrounded by their very own hunting party. Active attendees at regional and national auction house sales as well as regular guests at their home town’s finer dealer’s showrooms. Never adverse to a good deal, they wield their knowledge appropriately to secure the best value for their investing dollars and typically have a clear idea of where and how the piece will be used and appreciated in their home.

The Connoisseur. As focused a collector as there can be, this buyer of fine antiques is at the top of the purchasing food-chain. Always with a purpose, this buyer not only knows their stuff but are aware of (and give thoughtful consideration to) current and anticipated trends in the industry. They are interested in building collections and are guided in their purchasing decisions by this over-arching objective.

Whatever category(s) feels comfortable to you there is much joy and satisfaction to be found by including antiques in your home’s interior design program. In our next and final article in this series we will look at a number of successful methods for integrating the pieces you collect into a modern home.