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Buying Q&A: Buying Antiques

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The Nest Q&A

When it comes to buying antiques, how can you recognize the good stuff?

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The key is the material and condition of the item. If you’re buying an antique, make sure the item, say, a dining hutch, is made of real wood, not wood laminate or wood-covered particle-board. If you’re not sure, pick it up: A quality piece should feel solid and heavy. The drawers should work smoothly, and be held together by a dovetail joint construction (notches of wood sliding into each other before being glued or nailed), rather than just glued. Finally, “inspect your pieces to see if there are things that are missing or need fixing,” says interior designer Vanessa de Vargas, owner of the Venice, California home boutique Turquoise. “Then ask yourself: Do these flaws matter to you? Do you want to spend the investment having something repaired? Do you love the shape so much that you don’t care how much it will cost to reupholster?” For De Vargas, it’s worth doing the extra work to get a piece that will stand the test of time. “I like to buy something with great bones, that’s manufactured by hand,” says De Vargas. “A lot of the woods and materials that were used in the ’30s, ’40s, and ’50s aren’t used anymore -- they don’t make furniture like that anymore. You can pick up a vintage piece for $200, have it reupholstered, and you have a piece that will last you another 100 years.”

-- Amy Spencer

See More: Buying Furniture , Buying Guides