How to Antique Shop Like a Pro with Martine Ast
The designer walks us through a trip to an antique store and explains why she didn’t get “The Marvlizer” but did like sconces from the Four Seasons.
Inside Avenue Antiques in Calgary.
Photographs by Andrew Guilbert
Vintage pieces can add a touch of class and timelessness to your decor, but antique shops can be overwhelming if you don’t know how to navigate them. Martine Ast, a senior designer with Paul Lavoie Design, grew up spending her idle moments in her grandparent’s barn-turned-antique store in Saskatchewan, and now helps clients find the perfect vintage pieces for their homes. We followed her through Inside Avenue Antiques to find out her secrets.
The Antiquing Scene in Calgary
Calgary is a relatively new town, and as such suffers from a dearth of desirable antiques when compared to similar locales Ast visits. “In California, there’s lots of vintage, lots of mid-century stuff. Same in Texas – great stores with so much mid-century,” she says. “Here we don’t have that. We have more of the prairie-look pieces. For our generation, we don’t appreciate it that much, because that’s all we see for antiques.”
What to Look For
The main thing Ast looks for in antique stores like Inside Avenue is accessories and smaller items as opposed to larger pieces of furniture. These, she says, add character to a room and provide the flourishes that can make a contemporary space stand out. “I love to mix new and old in any interior, even if it’s traditional style or contemporary style,” she says. “That’s where you create interest.”
“The design on the glass is neat, and the shape and scale. Going back to the smaller cocktail glasses, as opposed to a massive growler, you appreciate what you’re holding as much as what’s inside of it.”
“If you’re doing something modern, a contemporary piece of art glass like this could work.”
When to Buy New, When to Buy Used
When it comes to things like art, vases or decorative pieces, Ast prefers finds from antique stores rather than larger chains. “I think the prices on a lot of these pieces are comparable to [modern stores],” says Ast, referring to a collection of German pottery
“There’s some history to them, they’re all from the 1960s, so I think you’d appreciate them more than if you were to walk in to a Pier 1 imports, say.”
That being said, there are still some things she believes it’s best to buy new, like small appliances.
“I don’t think I’d mix my morning smoothie in this, although I would set it on a countertop because it’s really damn cool,” says Ast. “I love the name: ‘The Marvlizer.’ It’s hilarious.”
What to Avoid
Ast believes that an individual’s taste dictates what will or won’t work, so it can be hard to tell people what to avoid when it comes to antiques. “It’s more personal preference when it comes to antiques,” she says.
“Someone may love those big vases, and in the right context they could work.”
Hidden Gems to Look For
“I think books are often overlooked. You can find really beautiful books in stores like this.”
“One thing to look for is a piece of furniture like this. It would be great with some recovery. You could paint the wood and transform this chair.”
“Another thing you can find is really cool lamps, and just change the shade. The bases are so cool and this is a perfect place to find vintage lamps.”
Best Finds of the Day
“This table might be it. I think it’s pretty cool. If you walk into any new store you’re going to find a chrome table with a base, so you see this today in a reinvented fashion. The upholstery is a positive – the black and the cream have a long life, and I think you could work with the existing fabric.”
“These [wall sconces] are so cool. They’re vintage from the Four Seasons hotel in Vancouver. I’d have them rewired, but if I was to buy something today, I’d buy these. You can tell that it has an art deco reference. I’d like to use it in my own house.”
Art can definitely be a find, like these hand-tinted photographs of local areas like Marine Lake, which Ast suggests could be given new life with some contemporary frames. “You can imagine a whole wall of these as an art feature, they’re only $30 to 45,” she says. “I think a collection of them would be cool.”
Look for your perfect pieces at Inside Avenue Antiques, 3419 8 St S.E., 403-287-1988
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