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Tips for Collecting Vintage & the 'triple love' rule

I get a little weak in the knees for vintage sometimes...

Things like a piece of furniture covered in chippy paint, old gilding and loads of patina, brassy golds and anything with character.

Those pieces that talk to you. The ones that tell the story and try to 'woo' you while you are shopping. That whisper sweet nothings in your ear while you are trying to sort through pieces and find the right one. That tell you that THEY ARE the one you are looking for. 
So you take a closer look. 
You notice that lovely brassy gilding and all that delicious patina. 
The price? Leaves a bit to be desired - but isn't that always how it is with those pieces that talk to you?  So you decide to think about it.
But then just try to walk away from it.
You know what happens next. You grab it and bring it home.

I am always collecting- and wrestling with pieces that talk to me and make me weak in the knees. 
Because, to be honest- A LOT of pieces talk to me. haha. And I fall in love at least a dozen times at flea market. So how do you sort through all of those loves? All the 'weak in the knees' and 'must haves'.... and decide which ones are THE ones- and which ones are more likely to be just passing fancy type loves?

I have a method to my madness-  but I will be honest...
it doesn't always work.

Sometimes I DO bring home something that I scratch my head about later wondering what in the world I was thinking.  It was cute when I found it. It had great lines, details, etc. but ... it didn't have staying power. Usually, it is something with  a huge amount of 'potential' that  I was envisioning it somewhere, somehow, looking a little different with a bit of 'Love'.
I have learned to take an extra pause when it comes to things that speak that 'potential' language.
Though our house would be the biggest example of something that needed love and why you shouldn't overlook that- so I guess I am kind of contradicting myself in some ways. 

But that is a whole other subject... today it is a few tips for collecting vintage. Number one? 

Collect what you love. 

But that is everything right? haha. I hear you. My overflowing vintage china filled cupboards hear you.

So how about we start with simple tips. Because- I have a lot of tips for collecting that I will be sharing over the next month but really it starts with some pretty basic ones that are my top ones- starting with if you should even bring it home.

#1. Is it LOVE LOVE LOVE? 

Yes, we just talked about this- but it is a number one. 
I have a 3 love rule.  I LOVE a lot of things.  I even LOVE -LOVE a lot of things.
But they don't come home with me.
It has to be heart pounding, sweaty palm ooey gooey almost borderline start of a panic attack level fear of leaving it behind kind of love.  There isn't even a question about if it is YOURS. IT IS.
And that is what I refer to as LOVE LOVE LOVE.

So if it is 3 loves and then some- it is basically almost in the car.
 Next question is - is it a passing fancy or something that is hand me down quality- that you will enjoy for years?
Because, I have Love Love Love for a lot of things that my wallet does NOT feel the same about. haha. And if it is hand me down to my great granddaughter level love- has ticked another box.

#2. Decide how much you should spend

There is nothing wrong with collecting those passing fancy type items. They inspire us to see and use a space in a different way and it is FUN to redecorate all the time. 
But those things that are not hand me down type items- that you might sell or donate in a few seasons or years- you don't want to spend too much on.

It is common sense but I have seen too many people spend way too much on something for their room that they are selling 6 months later because they don't love it anymore or it was just a passing fancy.
For starters- don't follow a trend. Follow your heart.
And make sure that if it is more than your everyday not even thinking about it budget for vintage shopping- it has that staying power. 

#3. Broken bits

A dilemma quite often.  You fall in love with a piece that has damage. Broken or missing parts or is in need of a major overhaul to be usable. 
This is a tough one- because sometimes those are 3 love items....
I know.  I HAVE SOME WAITING TO BE FIXED EVEN NOW. haha. What I have learned is some of those 3 love items sit because to get them usable or fix them is  
A LOT of work. 

So where I once dragged home upholstered chairs in need of reupholstering, pieces that had chipping veneer and broken legs that just needed a bit of glue... (and a bracket, and 3 screws and possibly Gorilla Glue strength glue to tighten even after all that)  I now pause and think about the work and ask myself if I want to commit to it. 
Does the price justify the work- and possibly the price it will cost to fix something? If so- yes. If not- but it is still 3 loves... well that is a tough one.

I do even now bring home those wayward treasures that need fixing if it something like this marble fireplace mantel that was in 27 pieces.
A big yes.

So it really depends on the piece and project.
If you don't want to or have the know-how to repair something you love- are you okay with parting with the cash to have someone do it for you?  Questions that make you go 'hmmmm' but are good to ask BEFORE you bring another piece of misfit furniture home that might just sit.

#4. Upholstered pieces- often a 'No'

Back to those upholstered pieces... these are usually a no for me- for the above reason.
 I have put a mask and gloves on and tackled upholstered pieces before- but it is not easy to do and do right- and it involves a lot of sneezing and sniffling from dust and allergies. So generally- a 'no' from me unless they are a super easy job and something I cannot walk away from-
and that I know I would be willing to pay for someone to repair if I hit a snag.

But those upholstered pieces that speak my language that you can easily lysol and clean up and enjoy?  Oh you know they are coming home with me. 

#5. Pieces that need painting

Another pause usually. But this is a personal thing. I used to paint every piece of furniture that was damaged and thought it was an amazing way to make it fresh. And it is. But I also struggled with a lot of them- because I also always loved original so much more. 
If it is a piece you love and it just needs paint- and you love the look of a freshly painted made over vintage piece- go for it.  But if it is hours of chipping off veneer & sanding old lead based paint off and if it involves any kind of chemicals that eat through gloves and your fingers?
Those are a no personally. 

I tend to stick to and prefer pieces with their original finishes- damaged or not.  This fireplace was damaged enough that it did need a coat of paint to seal up the old horsehair plaster that was broken- but that was all that it needed. No repairs, chipping, peeling, etc.  I used a milk based paint to keep it as vintage as possible- and the $100 it cost me for this antique beauty & $20 in paint- was well worth it.

#6. Patina and Character

I just bought a mirror that has a looking glass that is so mottled it is beyond mottled and there is not a whole lot of reflecting going on.  AND I LOVE LOVE LOVE IT. 

I am all about that patina and character. The more the merrier. Chippy, mottled, raw wood, carvings filled with old paint, dings and dents and old damage- I love it all. And those mirrors that don't have that crystal clear reflection- beyond love for them. They tell so many stories with that age.

So a tip here is to use those pieces that have more 'character and patina' to your bargaining advantage. Sometimes the things that speak the loudest to you are the ones that no one else appreciates- which means you can grab a steal.


Back to to the top. Because this truly is the most important tip and if you are only going to pay attention to one thing when shopping vintage- this is THE ONE to pay attention to.

If it gets a whole body response from you when you see it.
That heart pounding, sweating, running to pick it up feeling.
If it makes you nervous to walk away from it because you are worried someone else will grab it.
If you sigh and can't even find the words to talk about how much you love it - but you  just know it is THE ONE. 
Well, it might be.
That 3 love rule has saved .me so many times. I LOVE a lot of things. Even LOVE LOVE a lot of them. But they aren't always 3 Loves. And sometimes, for whatever reasons there might be something I am not sure of, something I am contemplating or something that takes away enough that I am pausing and thinking too long instead of saying 'Sold!'
When it is that enthusiastic, no questions, no thoughts- it is GOING IN THE CAR NOW response- I go with it. 

That thing that makes your knees weak is different for everyone- so pay attention to that response and it will absolutely help guide you to making the best purchases for you.

Stay tuned for those new to me vintage pieces that I just ordered (and that new antique mottled mirror)  and where they will land.

Happy Monday all.


  1. I really can relate to this article. I truly enjoyed reading this, it isn’t just me that does stuff like this! Hahaha. This definitely puts my shopping items into perspective! Thank you.

  2. You are talking just like you are me! If I love it, it comes home with me! I love patina not new!! This is what makes a house A WELL LOVED HOME!

  3. The true test for me is whether or not I care about the flack I will get from my husband. Sometimes I see something and hem and haw wanting his input. But other times I just pick it up, do the deal myself and tell him, “I’m taking this home.” Then I know it’s a keeper and usually never regret my decision.

  4. Courtney I enjoyed this article very much. I'm using that roll in my purchases. I almost did it with French dining chairs. I want two and saw a few and almost grabbed them. I took a breathe and said No. I'd be buying because I'm anxious and want to have them. Instead I'm waiting for ones that make me not be able to leave them behind.


  5. Loved this article and will be using your 3 Love rule from now on. I have too many pieces that I bought for price and figured I would get them upholstered. Turns out upholstery is so expensive it makes no sense to do it so your advice on that was also spot on. Thanks


  6. Beautiful photos! And great tips.

  7. Great tips! I'm afraid most of the time my nonexistent budget gets more say than I do when it comes to buying pieces. It could be 10 loves but if my wallet says no (which it does more often than not) it doesn't get to make it to my car. Still, love the tips and tricks :-)

  8. Cecilia from GeorgiaAugust 18, 2019 at 11:35 AM

    Great advice! I have collected so much furniture with the idea of fixing it up and selling it in a booth in an Antique mall. However, the mall has no availability and there are not any other good places within 60 miles! So—I will put the 3-Loves into practice. Thanks so much!

  9. I wanted to ask about the gold floor mirror with the oak leaves in the picture above. I've been looking for something similar for awhile and not found it. Does it have a particular name? Can you give anymore info on it? Thanks!

    1. Hi!
      It is antique- and I would try searching Antique French Pier Mirror, floor mirror or simply French Antique mirror and see if it comes up. They also have some good examples of them available at - you might try searching any of their descriptions as well.
      Hope that helps!

  10. Courtney, I am in love with your home as everyone here is. I spent the entire day yesterday trying to find a mirror like yours and cannot find it. Can you tell me where you got the gilded gold arched mirror that is over your fireplace? The one that has the purple flowers draping the mantle? It is the one here on this post that is under the number 5 .I dont think you will have time to answer me but I would really appreciate if you could. I would love to find that mirror.Thank you so much, Rose

  11. I forgot to check notify me. Yikes