We’ve been importing antiques from Scandinavia for over 30 years now. That’s thousands of pieces that we’ve hand-picked, shipped back to Boston and sold to people around the country. So, we know a thing or two about how to pick out quality antiques. Here are five tips from our three decades of experience to help you pick out the best antiques on Krrb.
Joinery is the Best Indicator of Quality
So many people think quality is determined by the wood, the age, or where a piece is from. But while those factors matter, the most important thing to look at is the joinery. Joinery just means how the piece is put together. Quality craftsmanship will show in the details of how the piece is built. You want to see what we call ‘dovetails’, which are interlocking pieces of wood (not screws, pins or any metal) that hold the piece together at the joints (drawers, etc). The more dovetails the better—it means the piece will stand up under more pressure and use. We would never buy a piece without inspecting the joinery and you shouldn’t either. For example, this piece is gorgeous—but we’d ask for a picture of the joinery before we made an offer. We’d hope to see a clean, even line of multiple dovetails, like in this piece from the 1840s we picked up in Denmark.
Your First Impression is What Matters Most
Look for shape and balance when you first assess a piece. Good shape and balance really just means that the structure itself (not the wood or the paint job) is appealing. It’s more a gut reaction than a logical assessment. You want something that’s pleasing to the eye—nice lines, good proportions. And that doesn’t have to mean fancy! In fact, some of our favorite antiques are beautifully simple. Take these chairs for example. They’re so simple but so well balanced and have a beautiful, authentic shape to them.
True Antiques Will Look More Unique
Most furniture today is mass-produced and doesn’t have a true style or ‘look’ to it. It doesn’t catch you off-guard like a good piece of art. You want to have that reaction when you see an antique. The specific style doesn’t matter as much as the uniqueness of the piece itself. We absolutely love this oak piece. We’d date it from about 1880. It has a certain uniqueness to it that really draws you in. You can tell it was made by carpenters, not by a factory production line.
Don’t Be Fooled by a Shabby-looking Paint Job
Antiques are old. And sometimes they’re not that well maintained. But that doesn’t mean a piece that looks bad can’t be brought back to life with a little love and care. You just need to know what to look for. Paint is paint. It can be put on and taken off. So don’t worry about that. Look at the wood itself—that’s what matters. We look for antiques that have a good grain and look/feel to the wood. This dining table is a perfect example. It looks like it’s seen better days, right? But the wood itself is solid. It’s quality. It just needs some refinishing and it would look beautiful in the right dining room.
If You Love It, Buy It
If we could leave you with one piece of advice, it’s this one. Antiques are more art than science. Yes, there are things to look for to know it won’t fall apart on you. But unless you’re a high-end collector the most important thing is that you like what you buy. Good antiques are meant to be lived with. One of our favorites on Krrb right now is this wood veneer dresser. There’s nothing super special about it from a dealer’s POV. It’s probably 1870s, maybe earlier. It’s already been restored at least once. We can’t see the joints but assume they’re hand-done. But we just love it! It fits our taste. It speaks to us. So don’t get caught up in all the check-lists of ‘what to look for’. As long as you know what you’re getting (authentic or replica, period or style), you can afford it, and you love it—BUY IT.