How to Get Started Collecting & Decorating with Antiques

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Last Updated on December 7, 2023

Antiques are a part of history. For some of us collectors, they are our history. 

Antiques are a part of history. For some of us collectors, they are our history. 

I have several pieces that have been passed down from people in my family. One in particular that I appreciate more than the fact that it is an antique is the canning jar remover my Grandmother had. (This is what a modern one looks like.)

My Mom was older when she had me, so I didn’t get to know my grandparents, but my Mom and Dad always canned garden-fresh fruits and vegetables. I learned how to garden and then preserve by watching them. Even though I was young, I had to help. We picked strawberries in the summer, raspberries almost year-round, and harvested peas, beans, corn, radishes, and everything else my Dad wanted to plant. 

We grew chickens for eggs and meat. Grandma would bake bread and make noodles for chicken noodle soup. The smells and tastes take me right back to the house we lived in back then. I always tell my kids that this is what summer tasted like in 1973 when I make raspberry or strawberry jam! 

That jar remover kept my Mom and her siblings alive in the 1940s. If it wasn’t for that ugly metal contraption with masking tape and glue all over it, my Mom would not have had enough to eat during the winter months–or ever. She didn’t have a Safeway down the street where she could buy a can of corn. She lived out in the hills of Washington State. 

During WWII, there wasn’t much for commodities. After she passed, my aunt gave me the jar remover. I thought, at the time, it was an odd thing to give someone. Over time, collecting the wooden kitchen tools I remember my Mom and Dad using to do their canning and preserving, I thought about how important that antique is. Especially for me. I might not be here if my Grandmother had not used that thing. 

Now I have quite the collection of antique kitchen gadgets, and I think of each one’s history and how it impacted the family it was used for. I have an old cheese grater that I put dried wildflowers in, and I tied red gingham ribbons on an old wooden-handled melon baller. Matching everything with my kitchen was fun. It is very satisfying to see that some of the antiques are from my own family. Even the new window blinds match. They go with the antique kitchen gadgets I have collected as well as the rest of my home.

How to get started collecting antiques

You can find similar items that mean something to you or just things you like. Going to antique stores, yard sales, and thrift stores is the perfect beginning to any collection. Finding things that reflect your style and placing them around your home says a great deal to your guests about who you are. Collecting good pieces and displaying them is an excellent conversation starter. It can get someone else interested in collecting antiques, too. 

There are so many ideas and creative ways to decorate with antiques. Decide on a subject and go with it. Add color and specifics of who you are to the collection to take ownership of it. 

Dress up your finds

A fresh coat of paint or a ribbon tied around a piece will reflect your tastes. Choose one color to carry throughout the dining room and living room too–a bright color to bring things together more, yet not so noticeable. Just a subtle little drop of color. Red and yellow are my choices to go with everything. Sometimes just as a background color, a pillow on the sofa will tie it all together.

Where to look for antiques

Swap meets and flea markets are always perfect places to search for a piece of a collection. Online shopping can bring in a few items as well’. Putting it all together and adding the final touch of matching modern window blinds completes the whole picture.

I started my old-style kitchen gadget collection with that one piece my aunt gave me. It has turned into more than 15 items now, spread out over my kitchen. It doesn’t take much to start a collection. I see things that no one does because my eyes are looking for them. I’ve bought them mostly online or in thrift stores. I think I see stuff others don’t, and I am glad when I can pick up a particular item and get it. 

Then, when I get it home, I customize it and decorate it to fit my decor. It’s incredible and almost seems like I am displaying my ancestor’s pictures or portraits, but it’s items I know they used in their day.

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