Tips For Finding Diamonds In The Rough At Antique Stores

Modern Farmhouse Dining Room

Shopping at antique stores (“Antiquing” as some call it) can be so rewarding, but also kind of stressful.

You walk into a building with a funny smell and stuff all over the place with no categorization at all.

For someone as organization-O.C.D. as I am, you can get a little overwhelmed.

Yes, some of the stuff in there is junk, but other things are fantastic finds that can really make a difference in your home.

There’s just something about an old item with history that makes me swoon.

Over the years I’ve gotten much better at “antiquing” and I’d like to share five of my best tips to ensure your shopping trip results in great new additions your home décor collection.

Gorgeous Old Banjo


1. Do your homework. If you have in mind what you are looking for, do a little research beforehand to check out brand info, history, and average pricing. Some antique stores price items on the high end and unknowing customers could pay more than double of what they should. You could also score an awesome find that is very under-priced by an inexperienced antique dealer. I found a great gold flatware set last month for less than half of what it was worth.

2. Don’t be afraid to haggle. Like anyone, dealers want to make money. Think back to the last time you had a yard sale. You priced the items a little higher than what you wanted to sell them for because you knew you would be offered less. Dealers expect discount requests and they prepare for it. When you find something you love but don’t love the price tag, ask the shop owner (some stores have different “shops” –or rooms owned by multiple sellers) if they will take x amount instead. They usually counter but will often come down. If you really want a good deal, go at the end of the month in the afternoon. It is close to bill-paying time and they would rather make some money than none at all.

3. Don’t impulse buy. When you find something great, think about where you will put it before you take it home. Just because a piece of furniture is 70% off and will fit perfectly in the trunk of your car doesn’t mean you need it. Visualize the size, shape, and color in the exact spot of your home you plan to put it. Will it fit proportionately? Will the color blend with the wall and floor shades? Is the style complimentary to the other furniture in the room? Antique stores rarely take returns so be sure it will work well in your home before you commit to it. If not it will end up in your garage with all your other “I thought it was a good idea at the time” stuff. (I’m speaking for myself here. I can’t even park in the garage anymore…)

4. Look for items with multiple uses. Canisters, jugs, vases, and buckets can be used for so many things and give your home rustic accents when on display. An old milk jug can sit beautifully on the floor next to the door and hold umbrellas in the spring, flowers in the summer, leaves and branches in the fall, and pinecones in the winter. And if you want to change it up every once in a while, put a small round tabletop on it and make a nice place for dropping your keys. Versatile items really come in handy when you need party décor, too. They provide great centerpieces.

5. Seek out character. Things that look weathered tell a story. A trunk from the 50’s has probably been through generations of family members, traveled through many states, and held so many different things inside it. When you buy one new from a retail store, the only thing it’s been through is manufacturing and packing. Not so unique, huh? I think the most fun thing about buying antiques is trying to guess it’s history. I imagine the home it lived in. The things it’s seen. The place it sat. Everything. My favorite find to-date is a book from the early 1900’s with a handwritten note from one woman to another in the front page. It’s such a special addition that truly makes the book one–of-a-kind.

And one more for the road,  Look at the “bones”.  Love the shape of a mid-century modern bowl that’s on clearance but hate the brown and tan floral design painted on it?  You can change that! Glassware can be spray painted any color you want and it’s so easy. I love milk glass but not the price for the authentic stuff. When I find something that resembles the shape and design of a milk glass piece, I bring it home and coat it with white paint. In (literally) minutes I have a mock-milk glass piece for a fraction of the cost. Always keep your creative switch on. You can repurpose anything.

Need some inspiration? Here are some of my favorite antiques living in The New House.


I’m crazy about this book from the 1920’s with a handwritten note in the front.

These weathered books set the stage for my sweet little wire birds.


I am so happy I found this old chippy beat-up window. It’s the greatest frame for my oversized grapevine wreath.


My sweet hubby found me this fan after I looked and looked for weeks with no luck. He’s much better at finding the good stuff than I am.

Antique Spotlight Lamp

Speaking of the hub, this cool spotlight was his first antique store purchase. It still works and is our favorite light fixture in the house.


Remember this blanket ladder from the DIY Upcycle post? It now holds family heirloom quilts made by our grandmothers and great grandmothers. Having them on display in the main living room is so special.

What are your best tips for scoring great finds at antique stores?

I’d love for you to share your suggestions!

Tips for finding diamonds in the rough at antique stores



  1. This is such a great post! We’re trying to decorate our home and do not like big box store decor! I have wanted to try antique shops but rarely have any luck! This will definitely help! 🙂

  2. Great tips! My husband and I bought a vintage camper and have since been on a mission to find antique things to go in it (kitchen stuff mostly). Quick question – Do you haggle even in antique malls? That’s all we have around here and I never felt I could ask for a lower price because the vendors aren’t actually there.

    • The thing about antique malls and vendors not being present is kind of tricky, but it’s definitely worth a shot. Most of the time, the shop owners will tell whoever is working the register that they will take x amount less than the listed price if the person is really nice. They leave it up to the salesperson. Rarely do they stand firm on their prices because the secondhand market isn’t always the most profitable now that retail stores are selling recreations of antiques. In their mind, a sale is better than no sale at all. I say go for it. It doesn’t hurt to ask.

  3. Love your great finds and the advice it great too! I look for good “bones” of things too!

  4. I love that fan! I enjoy antiquing, but I have to be careful because of the kids — my little guy thinks everyhting is a toy. I know what you mean about the smell– my kids hate that, but I think it’s great. 🙂

    • Thank you! My son does really well with antiques and understands their fragility but it took a few accidents before he fully grasped the concept. And I love the smell too!

  5. I love your quilt ladder, but you should really put a separate piece of fabric between each quilt and the rungs to protect your heirloom quilts from the acid in the wood.

Leave A Comment