After reading some of these antiquing tips from Invaluable I decided to share some of my my best tips when it comes to vintage/thrift shopping. (They have a pretty cool website, by the way, you should take some time to check it out.)
I have to confess at the outset that my primary goal when I’m thrift shopping isn’t to find antiques or vintage things, necessarily. I either go with a specific purpose in mind or I go to see what I’ll find. Still, I have some guidelines that I follow when I’m thrift shopping that apply to antique/vintage shopping as well. I’ll also share with you some of my favourite finds and suggest a couple of cool places to check out here in BC.
- Set a budget – and know by how much you’re willing to blow that budget.
One of the frustrating things for those of us who are looking for deals is that the words “antique” and “vintage” do not necessarily mean “affordable”, in fact, it’s often quite the opposite, as though those words give a vendor permission to ask for a ridiculous amount of money for an item. Thrift shops are also picking up on this trend but there I comfort myself by reminding myself that my dollars are (usually) supporting a charity. So when you’re looking for something specific decide how much you’re willing to spend and don’t deviate from that. Some vendors will let you bargain with them, others won’t – be prepared to walk away OR be prepared to pay more but don’t cry over it later! Know what your absolute limit is.
- Be patient
Thrift/vintage/antique shopping is not like retail shopping where you go to a store to get what you want. Instead, you go to a thrift/vintage/antique store to see what you’ll find. If you’re looking for something specific, you may have to wait a while for it to find you. A few years ago, we were looking for a sofa, something to replace an uncomfortable hide-a-bed that we no longer wanted. I had something every specific in mind and we had a very limited budget to work with. I’d been looking for months and months to no avail. Then one day, I visited a favourite thrift shop to pick up some cheap Christmas ornaments and as I was walking into the store, I saw my sofa in the window. I walked straight to it, sat on it, told the lady who was looking at it to move on because this was mine. Then I told the store manager to come sit with me and chat about the price because it was more than I could afford. We landed on a price we could both live with and I was THRILLED. It was almost exactly what I’d been looking for, only the colour is not something I’d have chosen but it works in my living room and I’ve gotten used to it. It has great bones, was in fantastic shape and it only cost me $250. I know, right?
- Think outside the box
An old canoe can become a book shelf. A vintage beer bottle a soap dispenser. Old silver cutlery can be turned into eclectic jewelry. If you have a specific need, apply that need to whatever you’re seeing and see if it works. I needed an end table in my living room and had not been able to find anything that worked. Then I remembered that I had my antique Singer sewing machine tucked away in another room. When I hauled it out and put it in my living room it became a perfect end table, complete with little book-holding space beneath it.
Some of my favourite places to find gems
- Thrift shops.
If you’ve been following my blog, this is no surprise. Thrift shops are filled with treasures just waiting to be found. Nearly all my furniture, a lot of my household items and all my clothing is thrifted. Here’s a few of my faves: Wildlife Thrift on Drake in Vancouver, WIN in Victoria, Hidden Treasures, Abbotsford.
- Dedicated vintage shops.
I don’t visit these as often because they’re usually a little pricier than I like but if I am looking for unique furniture, this is usually a good place to start. Some great ones: Paraphernalia and Spruce Collective in Abbotsford. Other great shops can be found on South Main in Vancouver.
- Garage sales.
I don’t go garage sale-ing very often but when I have, I’ve found some great things although furniture pieces are not among them. My sister-in-law in Ontario has found some amazing furniture pieces and here’s something I’ve pondered: I wonder if finding vintage and antique gems is easier to find on the east coast of Canada rather than the west coast, simply because it’s older. You’re more likely to find a 200 year old wardrobe there than here simply because Vancouver as a city isn’t even 200 years old yet. What do you think?
Let me know your own tips and favourite spots to shop!