Wednesday, April 8

Vintage enamelware and antique shopping tips

Many people have asked where I get my antiques. I thought, instead of e-mailing everyone individually, I'd do a little post on the topic. Disclaimer: I am NOT an authority on antique shopping in the Chicago area or anywhere, for that matter. You can find many articles like this written by more experienced collectors online or in print. BUT, I am glad to share my personal experience with the hows and wheres of antique shopping.

First, some shopping philosophy.
Above is part of my collection of enamelware. I also have a couple casserole dishes being used for book storage and likely a few pieces gone MIA. This is a good example of how I've applied my most common shopping criteria: items must be cheap, colorful, old, and should travel easily (meaning, I don't need an alternate mode of transportation for hauling it home).
Now, once in a while I stray from this. I may purchase a large piece like this cabinet. Or this desk. Or this chair. Or my kitchen table (to appear later). But, seriously, not very often. Once in a while I may fork over a little more cash, but typically only if it's been given to me for fun spending purposes (like as a birthday gift).
I don't get stuck on one item. Many things I buy in multiples because collections are fun and attractive to display or use in sets. But I'd rather have many small collections, like these needle books or these rolling pins, than one large one. Besides, I don't have the perseverance for finding every manufactured piece of enamelware, for example, or the financial resources with which to pay for it all. I think I'd get sick of it if that's all I had, anyway. I need variety.
That being said, these varied items or collections still need to fall into the same general categories, allowing them to live in harmony in my home. For example, I would not pair a mint condition 1970s metal avocado green bread bin with black plastic handles with a rusting 1940s metal bread bin painted white with red lilies. I think time period, color, and materials (or perhaps condition of materials) are key for marrying vintage odds and ends in your home.
I tend to like items that fall into these categories: kitchen ware-primarily 1940s/50s, toys, small painted wood or metal furniture pieces, fabric, table linens, or quilts (I don't have much to show for in the fabric categories, particularly quilts, as they are harder to come by in good condition and in my price range). Knowing this makes my shopping a tiny bit more efficient.

My antique shopping philosophy checklist:

  • Know your spending limits.
  • Know your storage/display space at home.
  • Know your storage space for traveling.
  • And, often helpful, know your storage space and relationship boundaries with your parents. Is your mom willing to store your gigantic antique (that you can't cart home on the plane) until you can transport it by car?
  • Know your style-what colors, materials, and time period attract you? Do those things work well with each other and with the other items in your home? Do they fit your other criteria?
My antique shopping tips:
  • Know what you'd like to have more and less of and then focus on building and getting rid of a collection.
  • Browse other stores and online shops to become familiar with typical prices for items you like.
  • Find some reliable dealers. This means you'll need to be familiar with selling prices and at least be comfortable with the dealer, if not friends. Listen to other patrons' experiences. Read feedback, if you're shopping online.
  • If you come across an item you think you love, but aren't 100 percent convinced you don't have something more important on which to spend your money or you can't think where in your home you would put it, then go home and sleep on it. Four things can happen: 1) You may realize you don't have the space, after all, or you may get a speeding ticket on the way home (which would answer the money part of the question), 2) You may forget about it (I like this one best), or 3) You may decide you can't live without the item, go back to buy it and find it's been purchased by someone who didn't have to go home and think about it, or 4) You may decide to go for it, and you do, and you and your antique live happily ever after.
  • Peruse some decorating magazines to get a sense of what styles, materials, and colors go well together and to help confirm which looks make you most happy.
Now for the wheres of shopping. Yikes. This is not a short post.
Know first-
I may have found ONE item, total, at one of these locations or many items.
Sometimes I hit a sale at a typically high end store or find a hidden treasure at a low end one.
Sometimes I stop at a store as I'm passing through a different town during a long trip.
I have not done much shopping, anywhere, since I've had kids.
Chicago is big and I have not covered it all.
It's just good to know those things.

The "Where I've found stuff" checklist:

Sandwich Antique Market-greater Chicagoland
Kane County Flea Market-greater Chicagoland
Volo Antique Mall-greater Chicagoland
Heritage Trail Mall-Wilmette, Chicagoland
Secret Treasures-Evanston (just north of Chicago)
Edgewater Antique Mall-Chicago, my neighborhood
Broadway Antique Market-Chicago, my neighborhood
Lincoln Antique Mall-Chicago
Chicago Antique Center-Chicago
Salvation Army Thrift Stores-Chicago
Village Discount Outlet-Chicago
Unique Thrift-Chicago
Garage/Yard sales
Some random stores in Chicago that don't exist anymore, thrift and antique.
Other stores I can't remember without the help of a shopping buddy.
Random stores on the road in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Missouri (particularly Springfield), Texas (particularly the Forth Worth area), and possibly other states.
Last, but not least, my grandfather's house. My grandfather is a part-time junk collector. He does some buying and selling and keeping and giving to grand kids. This is usually a hunt for treasure among non-treasure, but it's cheap (free) and has often worked well for me. This is how I acquired my trucks, some of the enamelware pictured above, and some other little goodies.

That is absolutely all I have the brain power for. I hope that answers your questions!
Happy shopping!


Jessica said...

Perfect!I'll be out antique shopping around Chicagoland soon when we get a nice warm weather. Thanks!

Amber said...

I'll have to try Vintage Treasures in Evanston, my favorite little Thai place is right around the corner (Noodle Garden- YUM) I'll stop in next time I need a spring roll fix. Thanks for the tip!

Amy said...

I love your vintage treasures. Especially the coffee birds.

Monica said...

Know your storage/display space at home.......OH thats why I cannot move around in my house anymore!!!

marc said...

Wanting to buy shoes and shirts for yourself, you may want to go the mall and stroll your way to different boutiques in lined inside. Always watch out for those shops that are into sale of their products and items. You can even save up to 50% off on their items displayed.

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