Identifying that perfect vintage piece to complete your space is often as easy as browsing Apartment Therapy or your favorite design magazines, but finding an actual specimen at an affordable price is a little trickier — though it's certainly possible with a little time and effort.
This site is full of testimonials to the fact that getting a great deal on a hard-to-find antiques (and the high that comes along with it) isn't such a difficult feat. Step 1 is doing your research: google the designer or manufacturer, browse antique stores, eBay, auction sites and 1st Dibs to get a sense of high and low prices for the piece you're looking for as well as what it looks like in pristine condition. Some antiques — especially many mid-century options — are plentiful and frequently over priced so try to get a sense of the market before you spend too much.
The sources mentioned above are great for locating specific antiques, but prices can be quite high. Craigslist is a goldmine, but requires some serious patience and searching skills. Check out our post with time-saving tips for searching craigslist and consider checking out cities other than your own—see our post on how to ship furniture via Greyhound (it's cheaper and easier than you might think).
Some of the greatest deals online can be found through savvy searching. Look for misspellings or sellers who may not realize the value of what they are selling. I found a pair of mint condition Fog & Morup pendant lamps on eBay for about the price of a single one and had pretty much no competition in the bidding because the brand name was listed only in Danish (a search for "Danish pendant lamp" lead me to it). Local thrift stores and even yard sales can turn up amazing pieces now and then and if you've done your homework you will be able to spot a great price when you see it.
Finally, if you really want to save cash, your best bet might be to find that perfect item in not-quite-so-perfect condition. The Arne Norell Sirocco chair pictured above was fairly inexpensive on craigslist, but it's missing the original leather cushion, has a small tear, and was badly re-stitched at one time. All-in-all the work it will take to get it into tip to shape seemed small compared to the price. But keep in mind that some repairs and re-upholstery can be quite expensive.
Do you have any tips for finding a great deal on a coveted antique? Share your success stories below.
Image: Sarah Rainwater