Where to Find the Best Antiques
Local collectors share their favorite shops, auction houses and more. Plus a few pro tips.
The midcentury glass-and-brass bar cart in my dining room receives lots of compliments—which makes it all the more satisfying when I tell people it was a Craigslist score that my designer friend Danielle Sigwalt discovered on my behalf. Admittedly, I had reservations about it at first (I was afraid the patina would look odd amidst my otherwise contemporary furnishings), but now it’s easily one of my favorite pieces in our house. “Better to have something unusual with a story than to spend money on a new piece that needs to be manufactured for you,” Sigwalt frequently tells me.
She’s not the only local tastemaker to follow this line of thinking. “I’d rather have a set of vintage china that I use every day than a brand-new set from a chain store,” says Gretel Lynch, founder of the Arlington-based home organization and styling business Tully Bommer Direct. “It’s charming, it’s got history, it’s pretty—plus it’s environmentally friendly. For this generation that wants to be so green, why is everyone buying new stuff when there’s perfectly great stuff already out there?”
To be sure, a lot of great stuff is out there. The hitch is knowing where to find it, and how to distinguish the gems from the junk. So I asked a few local experts to share their go-to places for antiquing, plus a few tricks of the trade.
Love the thrill of a bidding war? Auction houses like Weschler’s (www.weschlers.com) in D.C. and Quinn’s (www.quinnsauction.com) in Falls Church host weekly auctions that offer just about everything you can imagine, from rugs, furniture, china and artwork to kitschy trinkets and fine collectibles, advises Lynch, who spent 17 years managing the Random Harvest furniture store in Alexandria (she also held a stint at Weschler’s) before launching Tully Bommer Direct in 2014. She adds that Weschler’s reserves higher-quality items for its special Capitol Collections estate auctions, which are held roughly five times a year.