Did you ever watch the TV show Lovejoy back in the day? He was considered a divvy. A divvy is someone who has an almost supernatural ability to detect an antique of value when others can’t. I am NOT a divvy, but I admire those with that ability. A divvy knows how to buy bargain antiques.
I do have to say I get a bit overly excited when I find a great piece for a ridiculously low sum. It happens on occasion.
The mirror below has been in my bedroom for awhile. I fixed it up after buying it at a discount store. I painted and distressed it. I thought it looked pretty good. It is not an antique.
But then I found the mirror show below. This mirror was super cheap at the antique store. I found it for about $125. That might not sound cheap to you, but I was pretty sure it was an authentic Louis Philippe mirror from France between 1830 and 1848. The mirror had very rough edges on the back. The silvering had lots of black spots on it. The wood on the back was very, very uneven and appeared to be very old. It looked nothing like any mirror I had seen before. It seemed to be completely hand made.
The disturbing thing was that it was partially painted black. I knew the mirror was not originally painted black. I wondered why someone would do that. The mirror was stunning, and someone put hideous black paint on it. Well no matter, I touched up the paint where the black was, and it looked like new… well I mean it looked like what I thought it should look like.
I was very happy with the new (but very old) mirror. Then we left for our trip to Paris, that had been planned for a year, and I forgot about the mirror.
While in Paris, we stayed at a lovely apartment owned by Madame Catherine. I loved my conversations with Madame. We discussed antiques and many other topics. One day I remembered my mirror, and told her about the awful black paint on my gorgeous mirror. Then she told me a story. Apparently When Napoleon III lost the Franco-Prussian War in 1870, the people were so distraught, they painted many things black as a part of their mourning. She just confirmed what I thought; my mirror was as old as I suspected, or at least pre-1870. And yes I just painted over a piece of history.
I have to say I was pretty excited by that little piece of news. It made me appreciate my mirror even more. I knew the low price was due to the black paint. I wish I had known the black paint was so old before I painted over it. Still, I would have painted over the black any way, because I really didn’t like it.
I just saw another Louis Felipe mirror in an antique shop this past week. The asking price was about $800. Yup, I got a steal. Look at the black specs on the mirror.
It is pretty exciting for me to own a piece of history right in my own home. I mean what did this mirror see? Who owned it? Was it in Paris or elsewhere? The owners must have been so upset to paint it black.
So how do you find a great piece for a cheap price? You have to spend time around antiques. Get to know them, what they look like, what they smell like. When you know what the back of an antique should look like, you will recognize it when you see it. You will be able to tell if something is antique or just distressed. The more you inspect real antiques, the better you will be able to tell if the item is new or antique. The best way to tell is by checking the draws and the back of the furniture. It needs to look out. The dovetails in the draws should not look uniform. The back should be dirty and rough looking.
The more time you are around expensive antiques the more you will recognize a good piece. You’ll know the going price and you will be able to decide if the price is good or not.
The other thing you can do is scout your area. Where are the thrift stores and resale shops? What about the local auctions? These are the places you are more likely to find a bargain, not in a fancy antique shop. Even my vanity was a thrift store redo. You can find that story here. Look around for consignment shops. You can also go to estate sales and check out Craigslist.
Where do you find your goodies?
Susan Stacy says
You are very lucky and have a great eye! The mirror is a lovely piece. Although it’s an antique, it had already been changed before you bought it. The original owners painted it black for a reason (losing a war) and you painted it for a reason (you didn’t like the paint). I think it’s important to appreciate the intrinsic value of an item, but it’s more important that you love what you live with each day. You have a beautiful home and I always look forward to reading your blog!
I agree Susan. At the end of the day, it’s your stuff, and if you want to paint it, you can!
I have found a couple of antiques at flea markets. Either the seller didn’t know what they had or didn’t care. We recently found, what my husband thinks is old, a beautiful low hutch. The guy was only asking $5! But we got it on a trade. The flea market is in front of the county dump and my husband and I were taking some things to the dump, including some metal. The guy wanted our metal so we gave it to him and he gave us the hutch!
That was a good day. Love hearing of others’lucky finds (or swops)
Love both mirrors and how you decorated the room. My husband and I both love going to antique
malls and estate sales. We have found a lot of really great estate sales on estatesales.net
Joy @ Books and Life
Norma Delano says
I have spent many years looking at antiques and enjoying them, even when I couldn’t afford to own some that I really would have loved to own. I have raised my two daughters to also value old stuff. We inherited a few really good old pieces from my late in-laws. One is a beautiful old pine queen anne style lowboy with a wonderful patina. I had admired it for years in their house, and I love it in my dining room ! There’s just something about antiques, their history and patina!!
I love,love old things and the history that goes with each piece.
Lory at Designthusiasm says
I agree with your decision to paint over the black, history be damned… lol. It’s really lovely the way you have it finished. I have my favorite antique markets in London, and others scattered around Europe, but I only buy what I can carry. I rarely ship large pieces home. I’ve always wanted to do some of the big American shows – Brimfield, Round Top, but have yet to get to them. Mostly I just go to local places either here in the tri-state area or anywhere we travel. I find the bigger markets have better prices than boutique-y antique shops, but I’m sure I could do even better if I was willing to drive a little further, or wake up a little earlier for the bigger shows. When I first stopped working, I used to pick a direction every few days and just drive to another town and scour the antique shops there. It’s definitely one of my favorite things to do! Btw, love your pretty little vanity as well!
Lynn Mosher says
LOL I l-o-v-e-d Lovejoy! I wish they’d show the reruns. Great show! I haven’t bought an antique in quite a while. I got most of mine from my mother. But I love to look! 😉
What a very cool story. One of these days, I’ll tell you about my best ever bargains.
Before shelling out money, I have a habit of taking photos of pieces I like and/or think may be quite old. I go home, put the pics on my computer for better viewing, then try to find marks or identifying factors that I can use in some online research. But the truth is, if something speaks to me, whether it be old or authentic or neither, I tend to go for it.
I visit a small shop that buys out estates and often find unique and old pieces.
Doré @ BurlapLuxe says
So right on getting to know the real mccoy. I found what’s in my kitchen right now as my buffet and cabinet on top of the buffet, well the buffet was not terribly old but was produced in 1967 by Century furniture High Point North Carolina, I found it at my favorite junk thrift shop, it truly is filled with what most think of as junk. I painted it a Lime waxed finish sent the foto of the logo to century via email, and have found all the history needed to know that my $22.00 investment paid off as to replacement cost right now as to $3,800, the cabinet was a cheap maple cabinet, I gutted and added alder shelving to it, making sure the pieces of woods were warped and split so when I white washed them and fitted them and screwed them in they would look very old French farm house.
The buffet I totally knew that there is not pieces as of today created out of such wood used then, it was African Mahogany it hit it big time with a great sweet looking piece. The total look as it sits cost a total of $85.00.
A passed down piece as a coffee table is a baker milling road piece, worth $5,000. Before I painted it chippy white, I really did not care so much on the worth as much as the beauty in the quality of the wood and the look it took on after I beat it u
Your mirror is a winner, it’s a pieces to fall in love with, it’s pieces like these that ones go crazy over…. I so wish your mirror were my find.
Keep creating and inspiring your fabulous finds.
Debbie Howard says
I am completely blessed in the antique department…I have several honey holes where I can find them really for a song and even cheaper than that…It makes it hard when I visit antique stores where they aren’t so cheap.
Genie Annino Steger says
Love the pickup junk story and the french mirror story
The fun is in the hunt ! In summertime we reside on Cape Cod…the most fascinating thrift shops are to be found in every little village. There are large antique markets as well…I have found silver serving pieces for a song…and full sets of English and French china at such low low prices…some antique shops have a ‘free’ area…! While the hubbies golf, my friend and I hunt and gather….we end our season with a trip to Brimfield in September …each little treasure holds a happy memory…..Smiles……Anne
Yvonne @ StoneGable says
Wonderful mirror and such a good tip! Your home is a joy to behold, Anita!
Wow. Anita, what a great find!! I usually know the difference between real and not, too and so true that doing lots of studying and research and you will be able to pretty much tell the difference.
Marian Zimmerman says
nice , right now my favorite frames are gold with black. I wish I could find an antique frame like your mirror
Marian, try eBay. They have a pretty decent selection.
Barbara Chapman says
I know I’ve read this post before but I am glad you shared it again at French Country Fridays… 🙂 This is a favorite post and I love the story of how this mirror came to be painted black. I’m not a fan of black in decorating either so I would probably have done the same thing and painted over the black, too. A wonderful story to read again and again! Do love your vanity, too.
My best antiques are my armoire, which is identical to the one you keep in your dining area, I think. I am absolutely sure they were manufactured by the same people with their veneers, the way they are laid on the side pieces, the bonnet top and carvings. My door has a beveled mirror, though. I like your clear glass! I found this beauty at a mall where the woman was closing down her shop and was selling two storage pieces. She had made an inside piece for the door (for displaying it open) covered with fabric and foam. I took that out. It sat in our upstairs hallway at our last home filled with bedding and we all used it to check our dress before heading out for the day. Now it is lovingly in our bedroom but still holds comforters, sheets and pillows. This small armoire and my “dresser,” a French commode, are my favorite pieces.
Thanks again for sharing this story,
I love antique furniture. My issue is making it work in my mid-century ranch house. While it may be looked down upon for some, I see nothing wrong with painting certain items to make it work or just fit what you like.
Phyllis Lappan says
Where do you purchase your French Bergere chairs?
Love reading your blog. So beautiful and you share amazing
Thankyou for your post . It’s synchronicity for me. In the last two days I’ve developed a strong interest in antiques. I have a poor memory for some details so would never be like a catalogue in my head but it’s so special to find furniture that has been made in a more handcrafted way usually making it resilient and of quality