Antique Shows, like Scott Antique Market in Atlanta, GA, can be magical places of new finds, exciting stories, and a veritable treasure hunt of fun! Unfortunately, they can often be overwhelming and distracting for many due to the nature of their “Road Show” style set up. I have often had clients mention that they feel more like they're opening a Pandora’s Box rather than an undiscovered pirates’ treasure.
Here are 5 tips from Stephanie Abernathy on how to shop antique shows.
-Think Outside the Box!
While shopping at antique shows, it is easy to see the shining star pieces on display at the best booths. It is also easy to gravitate towards the items that are not what you’re looking for, like the lamp that is “okay” but not quite what you had in mind. Sometimes, in order to get that unique conversation piece that will set your space apart, you need to look past the obvious answer. So, let’s say you are looking for a lamp, but all of the beautiful things you are finding are out of budget or are not right for your space; CREATE ONE! Find a fantastic vase or a unique item, like the military ammunition casings pictured above, and take them to an electrician to get wired. You have a chance to pick the item, the base and the top! Not only will you end up with something completely bespoke and unique, but you will have an amazing story to go with it! Talk about a conversation piece! If you can’t find the perfect piece, don’t be afraid to create it or try again next time a market is in town.
-Buy What Inspires You!
It’s not always easy to shop a show off a list, despite advice below. Frankly, sometimes you just won’t find what you’re looking for- that’s the nature of searching for found objects. On the other hand, I rarely go to a show where I walk away without finding something I fall in LOVE with! Now, I’m definitely not advocating buying everything that you like, but you should consider investing in the pieces that speak to you. Say yes to those rare pieces, or not so rare in my case, that you see and cannot get out of your mind (even if you have no idea where to put them). Sometimes it’s worth it to invest in a special piece that feels right to you. You will find a way to incorporate it into your space on the back end, if you love it- you’ll use it!
-Shop the First and Last Days!
All antique shows run on different schedules, but a good rule of thumb is to shop the opening day and the closing day. At Scott’s Antique Market, which runs the second weekend of every month in Atlanta, designers typically show up at opening on Thursday, to snap up all of the best finds. You will also find the same designers often come back Sunday afternoon, the closing day, to catch the last-minute mark downs offered and grab a few more goodies. It’s always necessary to understand that every piece has been carefully searched for and curated by each booth’s owner. It’s also important to be considerate to the booth’s owner while negotiating prices and to not undervalue what they bring to the table, literally! There is nothing wrong, however, with catching the markdowns they offer on the last day or trying to negotiate the best price. It’s always a good idea on day one to keep a list of items that catch one’s eye but may be a bit out of one’s price range. Go back on closing day and try to snatch them up- if they're still available...
-Follow a Logical Path!
I have had several clients recently that mentioned how overwhelming antique shows can become. It can be quite difficult to navigate one’s way through the maze of booths, isles and stands in an attempt to find that special piece. The number one tactic to employ before going into the labyrinth is to get a map! Usually at registration or online there will be a map of the booths, and if you’re lucky they will even be labeled! If they are labeled, or if the show provides a list of booth numbers and vendors, this makes it much easier to navigate your way to the perfect item. Unfortunately, chances are that they may not be labeled, however do not despair! Labeled or not, the maps provide valuable information on the layout of the show booths. Creating a logical path through the booths based on layout takes the stress off and allows you to easily sift through all of the available booths without missing anything! I would recommend a quick walkthrough before doing any major shopping. Take note of anything that catches your eye, and peruse that booth later at a more leisurely pace.
-Bring a List!
While this may seem like an obvious suggestion, it always surprises me how often clients or friends don’t bring a list of what they are looking for. It’s difficult when working on a large project to remember everything one might need- especially if there is an item you have been looking for for a while, but haven't been able to find yet. Having a running list handy helps keep you focused and can make the experience seem less daunting. I would also recommend adding to the list as you shop, making note of things you like and comparing prices at the different booths; like this coral pictured above. I have been searching for this for a project for a little while now and I was frustrated at how much prices varied across the booths. Another example is my new friend Fred, pictured above, that I discovered while strolling down an isle of fabulous booths. Although Fred didn't come home with me this time, I will definitely keep him on my list for the future.