Should millennials buy antiques?
The answer is a resounding yes. When I talk to someone my age about antiques, the responses are usually something about it being an expensive hobby for elderly rich people. And it’s true, there are indeed luxury objects whose date of fabrication means they now have an even higher price tag than when they were bought new, but the factory-made china set a grandmother inherited from her grandmother is an antique too! Maybe you call it vintage, thinking that antiques really just refers to the expensive Georgian furniture you see on display at the V&A, and, as other Gen Y antiques enthusiasts pointed out before, you wouldn’t be to blame for that. Here are some reasons why millennials should be buying antiques.
It doesn’t have to look old
A big issue that people seem to have about antiques is that it isn’t modern. Although you can buy vintage furniture from as recently as the 1990s (the label applies to anything older than 20 years), you can also give a heart attack to your family by painting the beautiful shades of waxed wood to match the décor of the space. If you think the brown old furniture is too much grandmother’s house to suit you, paint isn’t the only way you can upcycle it to make it nicer. You will still have an object of much better quality than what you can buy with a low budget, and something that also sells on the market for upcycled furniture in the 3-digit region as starting cost.
Some objects also look of a much modern style than the period they are from, because designers all take inspiration from the rich history of our discipline. A Victorian chest of drawers painted in white can turn into a gem of shabby chic furniture, which has been on trend for a while.
As start-ups prop up with the aim of personalising IKEA furniture, it appears clear that people don’t really like their houses to look all the same as everybody else’s. In particular, the stereotype of the millennial is that we worship at the altar of our individuality and uniqueness. We want our homes to reflect who we are. Spicing up our home décor in a way that turns a house into our home using objects which are not so readily available in a big furniture chain is one way of doing it. Whether we keep them as they are, or we upcycle them, they will certainly make our house stand-out.
If you’ve ever watched Antiques Roadshow, you will have seen just how many people have treasures they bring to it and are blown away when they discover even the old copper pot is worth a good £50 if sold. You may have plenty already in your family, meaning you don’t have to pay a dime for them. Some give things away for free on the Internet, or donate to charity shops instead of selling on the antiques market because they don’t know what their value is, making them bargains for any cash-strapped millennial. If you buy in a charity shop it also turns into a charity donation, which is a win-win. Small local auctions and flea markets are other options where you can find things to suit taste and budget. Thanks to the prejudice against old furniture and antiques as the prerogative of old people, the market itself has been in decline, meaning better pieces at lower prices until the taste changes and antiques become more in demand again.
Re-using objects has a double impact: fewer things are made new, and fewer things are headed for the landfill. It also fosters a more intentional mindset: these are valuable items that stood the test of time, and may have sentimental value. We may even treat them with more care because we can’t just go to a store and replace them with the exact same thing (I know the pain of breaking a plate in a design which was discontinued by the maker…). Some would say it takes more effort to buy antiques, but that’s something very subjective: I have more fun scouting in a market for something ready to use than building furniture which instructions require a PhD in engineering to decipher. We all value convenience and effort differently, and some of us think a little effort which brings a greater return for ourselves (it's a good investment) and for our planet is still worth making.
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