Where to Find the Best Antiques
Local collectors share their favorite shops, auction houses and more. Plus a few pro tips.
Another good bet: Alexandria’s The Potomack Company (www.potomackcompany.com), which sells high-quality furniture, rugs, artwork, jewelry and fine porcelain and sterling silver at irregular intervals. “They also have a ‘make us an offer’ feature for unsold auction items,” Lynch says.
Each of these houses offers both in-person and remote bidding options, with the opportunity to inspect items that are up for auction at least one day ahead of time.
Auctions offer the chance to get “unique, wonderful stuff for pennies,” Lynch says, but take care not to get burned by your own inexperience. If you’re a newbie, consider attending an auction as an observer before you try your hand at active bidding. Once you’re ready for that next step, familiarize yourself with the items you intend to bid on before you raise your paddle.
“Go to a viewing or look at their online catalog the day before, and register with a credit card in advance,” Lynch advises. “Once you’re there, there’s no pussyfooting around. Things move quickly and you have to be decisive—you can’t change your mind. Everything is sold as-is, and it’s up to the buyer to get it off the property in a reasonable amount of time.” Also, be aware that there’s always a buyer’s premium and a sales tax, which together can tack an additional 25 to 30 percent onto the sale price.
For everyday treasure hunting, it’s always fun to visit antiques malls such as the Mount Vernon Antique Center in Alexandria (www.mtvernonantiquemall.com) and the Falls Church Antiques Annex (250 West Broad St.). These meandering markets rent space to multiple vendors and offer “a little bit of everything,” says Kelly Pitcairn Holland, owner of the Arlington-based interior design firm KPH Studio.
Holland mines antiques shops to furnish older Arlington homes with small rooms that can’t accommodate today’s oversize furniture. But scoring the right fit often means thinking up new uses for an old piece beyond its original purpose. “I just bought a Flemish tavern bench that will be used as a coffee table,” she says. “It’s great for an Arlington home because it’s slim and long and has two little drawers for the [TV] remote.” For another client, she repurposed an old bank teller grate as a wall hanging.
In McLean, the owners of the expansive Thieves Market (www.antiquesindc.com) scour local estate sales to stock their shelves with everything from rare books and art to period furnishings. Holland also frequents GoodWood (www.goodwooddc.com) and Miss Pixie’s (www.misspixies.com) in D.C.; and Evolution Home (evolutionhome.com) and Eisenhower Consignment (eisenhowerconsignment.com) in Alexandria.