Walking into antique stores or thrift shops can be quite overwhelming. The endless rows and piles of goods can make yeou feel quite dizzy and it’s difficult to know where to begin. It helps if you have a running list of items you’re always on the lookout for, so I’ve put together my favorite things to shop for when I’m in an antique shop. Hopefully my items will inspire you to come up with your own list of favorites!
I will totally admit that when I first started painting furniture and following Miss Mustard Seed, I had NO IDEA what ironstone was. I couldn’t pick it out of a lineup of white dishes, and I had literally never heard of it. You could call me a copy cat or a band wagon jumper, but I’m OK with that. I’ve come to have an appreciation of this lovely earthenware and it’s all thanks to lovely farmhouse/antique style bloggers.
When I shop for ironstone, I have learned not to buy plates or platters unless I’m planning to use them to stage a chicken feeder, a hutch cabinet, or a plate wall. Other than that, platters and plates aren’t good sellers for me, so I tend to shy away.
What I do gravitate towards are little creamers, milk pitchers, large mixing bowls, and teacups. I have yet to find any handleless teacups, but I’m sure I’ll come across some one of these days!
Most of the ironstone I purchase is bought with the purpose to be resold in my retail space. I don’t have an extensive collection of my own, so I try to purchase my pieces at reasonable prices. The first thing I do is find a piece that catches my eye and the second is to flip the price tag over. If I can’t make any money on it, I put it back.
Scales and Balances
Antique scales and balances are always fun to look for in antique shops. They come in all different shapes, styles and sizes. My favorite type of scales are the square kitchen type but not the vintage ones. I like those with a rusty metal patina. Kind of like this one:
I also like metal balances.
While they may not always be functional, they make lovely display pieces!
Of course this girl looks for furniture pieces to redo! It’s actually the first thing I notice in an antique booth and I have to be careful not to pass those by that don’t have any inside. I typically find that furniture in antique shops tend to be more expensive than those I find in thrift store locations, but that’s not always the case. It’s about 70% of the time, but every now and then, I’ll stumble across some good finds like these:
I look for pieces that are old and vintage, but sometimes newer modern pieces catch my eye too!
This chair was a new reproduction when I bought it. The lines on it and the carvings made it look old once it was painted, but if you saw it before I started working, it was definitely a new chair.
My advice when looking for furniture in antique shops is to buy what you like. Create a look in your space or your home that caters to your individual taste. If you don’t like mid-century modern, then don’t buy it! Make yourself stand out from the rest by curating a look that’s individual to you. You can read more about my tips on shopping for furniture pieces here.
I’m a sucker for lovely old books, especially prayer books, hymnals, and Bibles. If I open one up and it has music inside, it comes straight home with me!
Sheet music books such as hymnals and prayer books make for lovely decoupage.
Decoupaging with old sheet music can cover up badly damaged veneer, like the kind that was on the front of this chest of drawers.
Or this adorable washstand:
Working with these old pages is heavenly.
Touching paper that has been loved for decades is like stepping back in time. I think about who owned the book before me and how much they loved it. There was a time when books were precious possessions and not easy to come by. In today’s digital age, I think it’s important to preserve and protect the lost act of loving books.
Plus, they’re really pretty!
Interesting Old Windows
Old windows can be a dime a dozen. Your standard window sashes with six or four panes are usually pretty cheap and easy to find. I try to keep my eyes open for windows that have interesting shapes or unique features
This one had two panes that were vertically divided and a lovely curved top
This window is standard and plain in comparison. These are the kind that are easy to come across.
If you’re worried or concerned about lead paint, carry a lead paint test with you. Ask the permission of the seller if you can test the window (or any other piece) for lead paint before you buy it. Usually it involves wetting a little piece of paper and laying it on the window. If it turns pink or orange, lead paint is present. You can buy these lead tests at your local hardware store in the paint aisle. Now take note, I’m not an expert on lead paint, so I highly recommend you do your research. The EPA has an excellent lead paint resource page you can visit.
Fabulous Old Mirrors
There’s nothing like a pretty mirror, is there? You can find some truly lovely mirrors for $50 or less. Here are some that I’ve found in my travels:
This one probably tops my list, which is why I’m sharing it first. The details on this piece speak for themselves.
This one came from a dresser that I was working on. I decided to remove it and save the mirror for decoration and I’m so glad I did! The clover shaped top is charming.
I especially like mirrors that have a bit of de-silvering to them. Some may think it’s a sign that the mirror is ruined, but not me! It’s a sign the mirror is old, and I think everyone could use more lovely old things in their life.
That wraps up my list of things I look for in antique shops. There are other items I keep my eyes open for, but if I wrote down everything, you’d be scrolling for days! Hopefully this has given you some food for thought, and you’re now considering making your own antique shopping list!