Adventures in Antique Shopping

Have you ever been antique shopping?  I visited my first antique store last year, and it was truly and eye-opening experience.  For me there are two words that fully describe antique shopping:  creepy and charming.  And yes, the two words come in that order.  I was in my favorite bookstore the other day, Vroman’s in Pasadena, and picked up a copy of The Vintage Table by Jacqueline de Montravel.  If design or anything having to do with American, French, or English vintage inspiration interests you, this is a beautiful read, and it will get you onto the whimsical road of antique shopping in no time.

Lots of “stuff” to look through!

In today’s modern world, it’s easy to overlook the objects from times past…we live in a time where “old” is many times considered obsolete and irrelevant.   The term “vintage” is reserved for items that are typically at least 25 years old, with a signature character to them.  This character could be defined by a bright hue, a feminine delicacy, a rustic simplicity, or any other feature that makes them different and special.  Above all, vintage items have an indescribable magic about them…a signature presence and a charisma and charm that isn’t easy to find.

Plenty of vintage teacups and classic china dish in the Blue Willow pattern

All that said, I’ll be honest–antique shopping really isn’t for everyone.  You have to go into it with an open mind and a sharp eye.  For all the modern ladies and gents out there I will put it this way:  if you like shopping at the home section of Anthropologie, there is a good chance you can appreciate and learn to love antique shopping.  Respectfully, I refer to the home section of Anthropologie as “faux-vintage.”  I’m convinced this section of Anthropologie was created to accommodate those too scared to walk into a real antique shop.

Colorful vintage books could make great props for small cake pedestals

For afternoon tea lovers in particular, antique shops offer many treasures. Teacups, teapots, and small china plates are found in an abundance of colors and patterns.  The key is to know the difference between shabby and chic.  A few timeless pieces can make a table spread look fabulous, and it’s even better when they don’t match.  If you have an item with strong presence and character, you can center it as a signature piece to revolve a tea celebration around.

Retro baking items

Vintage shopping can also be really useful for putting together table spreads for themed celebrations or sweets tables.  Vintage pieces, when mixed in with the clean lines of contemporary pieces (think Crate and Barrel) can make for an inspired modern look.   And besides, sometimes it’s nice not having to source all your party goods from Party World!

Flavors of the past: old school Japanese and Hawaiian cookbooks

And here are my selections!  I think I did pretty well…looks like I got some items from Anthropologie, right?  The pewter teapot was my most charming discovery of the day.  Could be the shape, the color, or the rarity, but in my opinion, each of these items have undeniable charisma

Pastel Fire King pieces and some copper measuring cups make me want to get baking!

The great thing about antique shopping is knowing that you’ve found something that no one else has…no mass production here!  Treasures are hidden at every corner, waiting for their beauty to be revealed.  Don’t be scared, once you get past the musty smell of some antique shops, you really can find some inspired stuff, pieces with soul and depth to them. No one is suggesting for the spread at your next party to look like granny’s china cabinet exploded all over your table setting–we are talking charming simplicity here.  With just a few thoughtfully selected vintage pieces, your table spread could end up looking fresh, sophisticated and unforgettably magical.

Tea anyone?  This whimsical curves of this teapot make me think of Alice in Wonderland.

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