Last weekend, we were excited to hear news of Kate out and about, even more excited with the announcement of her whereabouts which we excitedly shared on the WWKD Facebook page:
While Kate has been spotted before browsing for antiques, we can this time discern from the location that she was shopping for rugs at Knight’s Antiques, most definitely related to the renovation that Kate and William are undertaking at their new residence at Kensington Palace. I personally was quite excited to see this news as it meant that we could discuss one of my favourite pastimes – vintage and antique shopping.
Shopping at the shopping mall or at specialty stores is quite easier than shopping for antiques. You can pop in to a store and pick up a new vase for some flowers relatively easily, whereas the vintage masterpiece you stumbled across might have taken years to find and come with a chip in the edge that will need to be repaired. The difference, in my most humble of opinions, is in what you come out of the experience with – something that your neighbor could just as easily have stopped in to purchase or a unique, one of a kind conversation piece? This is definitely the allure of antique shopping and when you’re decorating a home with such historical significance as Kensington Palace, something Kate is also no doubt considering.You could think that vintage or antique shopping would be easy, but if you’re looking for something specific it can be an arduous task. Heck, it’s a challenge just to know the difference between vintage and antiques! (Widely accepted definition is that vintage is anything older than 30 years, antique is anything older than 100 years)Here are some of my tips which are certainly also used by Kate which will make your experience as fruitful as possible:
Go into the search with an open mind
So many friends refuse to shop at antique or vintage stores for a variety of reasons, chief among them are concerns about smell (many stores have a distinctive musty smell), overwhelming amount of inventory (since every item is unique, there are lots of things to look through) and unclear pricing structures (many stores don’t even have price tags on the items and they are negotiable with the owner). To get over these, you’ll need to do a few things:
- Smell: Appreciate that the musty smell means that the items inside the store are old! You are going to look for vintage collectibles, aren’t you? This smell is generally mildew, and will likely present wherever you may go to find yours. If you are worried that it will seep into your home, don’t be. If you’re buying higher end (read: expensive) antiques than the dealer may have ways of eliminating the odor prior to sale, but if not there are plenty of ways to get rid of the smell in most items either with DIY techniques you can find on the internet or through specialty cleaners.
- Visual: Yes, it’s true; the majority of the vintage or antique stores I’ve been in are packed with inventory. Jury’s still out for me on determining if this is because everything is unique and therefore looks more overwhelming or if it’s because there is actually just more stuff. There are two ways you can overcome this: either know specifically what you are looking for and find someone who works in the shop to help point you in the right direction or give yourself ample time to browse without pressure.
- Price: If you have a friend who has a knack for negotiation, this may be your lucky day. While some shops have price tags that clearly indicate the price of the treasures you sift through, others baffle you without a single mark. These shops are interesting as you can bring the item to the front counter and negotiate with the clerk on a fair price. This can be a very good thing or a very bad thing, depending on your knowledge, your eagerness to purchase the item and the clerk. If you know the approximate value of the item you’re bartering over, here is the math that I always use in negotiations. Pick the price you are willing to pay, divide by half and start the negotiation there. So if you’re looking at a first edition of a book by an author you collect, for example, and you’d be willing to pay $100 for the volume in question, start your negotiations at $50. I’ve found this to be the best way to barter a fair deal for both parties and have used it all over the world- from the beaches of Mexico to the night markets in Hong Kong.
Fall in Love
If you’ve ever been out shopping and come across an item only to be swept away in the “I must have it, immediately” feeling, then you’ll appreciate this point. Vintage and antique shopping is a highly personal search for an object; otherwise chances are you’d have headed off to the nearest Ikea or shopping mall. Take Kate as an example, hunting for a rug to be used to furnish a Palace – the rug she chooses will have the pitter patter of Prince George’s toes running to chase Lupo and witness the evolution of a Prince into a King. A rug from Ikea just would not insert the same history, class and life into the room as a rich antique piece. I can picture her sifting through piles of rugs and painstakingly waiting to view the one that will best match with the essence she is trying to breathe into her new home.Even if you don’t live in a castle which could entertain a large antique rug, you can take a look for things that make you stop and smile. My mother-in-law purchased antique china from an antiques dealer in a pattern, color and palette which she loved while on a daytrip away from home. Despite being miles from the car, she had to have it and carted it back to the car to drive home. I have another friend who collects pink-tinted crystal, and if you are lucky enough to attend her home for dinner you would be served at least one of your drinks in a beautiful pink crystal goblet, and none of the goblets are the same. She loves them and keeps them on display in her dining room when they’re not in use.
One of the great things about antiques is thinking about the origins of the piece which you’re considering. Kensington Palace was built as a Jacobean mansion in 1605 and has housed various members of the Royal family since that time. Updating the traditional home with fresh modern décor would be very out of sync with the history and soul of the home, so it’s not surprising that Kate has chosen to look at furnishing the renovated quarters with antique pieces that have a history to them.If you have more modern tastes or a smaller renovation budget than our Duchess you can still merge some antiques into your décor without breaking the bank or comprimising your modern aesthetic. I’ve seen some fabulous examples of people who have showcased gorgeous flowers in antique trophies, vintage chandeliers hung over bathtubs and even incorporated old tins into their homes. As a fan of this technique and style, I can thoroughly attest that when combining this with our previous tip on falling in love with the piece, you’ll be destined for a home run.Unfortunately, very few of us will get to actually see the surely stunning rug – or other trinkets – that Kate chose for her home. Perhaps that’s another reason why she favors antiques, there can’t possibly be the “Kate Effect” normally attributed to her fashion selections on a one-of-a-kind rug. What we can do is emulate our Duchess and use these tips to track down our own vintage treasures, something we’ve now seen that Kate would do.
Don’t live near an antique store? One King’s Lane is a great online source, lots of great items to browse – and get a good sense of prices!