1. Train your eye to recognize scale, style and what pleases you. The best way is to visit private and public gardens whenever you can to learn how to use garden accessories effectively. Look through home décor magazines, visit antiques shows and shops, and read garden design books.
2. Bring measurements with you. One-of-a-kind pieces are offered at garden antiques shows, so know beforehand what size bench fits your space or how big a table you would like for your outdoor dining area.
3. Learn about the best pieces. Then, determine your price point and buy the best you can afford. Talk to antiques dealers about their merchandise. Most are passionate about antiques and enjoy talking about them.
4. Buy what you like. You need to enjoy the piece you buy -- it should make you smile when you pass it in the garden. If it's a bench, it should fit nicely in a garden space where you enjoy resting.
5. Protect your garden antiques. Dealers cull pieces from all over the globe. A garden ornament made for warmer climates may not hold up to Chicago's harsh winters. Ask if a piece is appropriate for this area or what you can do to protect it during the winter.
6. Take careful notes. Carry a pen and fair program or paper to note the location of items. Get into the habit of collecting business cards and jotting down important information on the back. Bring a tape measure and a camera (ask dealers for permission before you take pictures). If you're unsure about a piece, take a photograph home so you can visualize it in your garden.
7. Get a receipt that clearly states what you are buying and includes the dealer's name and phone number. This helps you avoid any verbal misunderstandings and allows you to gather more information about the item you bought. A sales slip should state age, material, country of origin and any repairs made to the piece.
8. Have purchases delivered. If they are larger and or heavier than you can handle, arrange for shipping and/or delivery with a company that is adept in handling hard-to-move garden pieces and fragile antiques. Shipping services are on site at the fair.
9. Enjoy your fair visit. Wear comfortable shoes. Take a break in the Water's Edge Café. Learn more about decorating and recognizing good pieces during free walks/talks by exhibitors and experts.
10. Enjoy your unique purchases!
(Thanks, Cynthia (at CBG) and Leanne!)