10 Designers Share Their Favorite Antique—Plus, Find Out Why They Still Love These Pieces Today
From vintage oil paintings to hand-me-down secretary desks and more, these finds supply both charm and history.
A good antique does more than add character and personality to a space—it tells a story, too. "Decorating with antiques is impactful because it brings in a thread of history," explains Lauren Lowe of Lauren Elaine Interiors. "Not only is it a history of the decorative arts, but it can be your own personal history as well."
However, when it comes to selecting a superior antique, separating the stellar from the so-so can be tricky. "Solid craftsmanship is everything when it comes to antiques," says interior designer Kendall Wilkinson. "Look for natural variations in form and patina, but most importantly, a good antique should speak to you. It can be a flea market find or a serious investment piece, but no matter what category it falls into—if it brings you joy, it's a winner."
Curious to see these collections in the homes of interior designers? We asked a few of our designer friends to share their favorite antique, and why they still love it, and here's what they had to say.
A vintage console from Paris.
Wilkinson loves her favorite antique so much that she shows it off in the entryway of her home. "In my entry, central to the intersection of the main rooms, I have a vintage blue glass mirror from the 1920s and my favorite piece: a console (which I use to store linens) that I purchased from Les Puces de Saint-Ouen, the Parisian Flea market several years ago," she says. "These pieces remind me that this too shall pass because if they have lasted through the last one to two hundred years, unscathed, then we can too!"
An ornate 19th century Louis XVI chest.
For Paloma Contreras, the provenance, period, and construction of an antique is part of what makes it special. "My favorite piece is a beautiful 19th century Louis XVI chest with the most beautiful marquetry inlay detail," she says. "It was one of the first antiques I ever purchased for myself on my very first antique-buying trip in France."
Antique oil paintings.
For Emily Spanos of Emily June Designs, artwork makes for great antiques. "My favorite antique in my home is a grouping of small oil paintings that I have collected from family members and antique stores over the years," she says. "I love the stories they bring individually, and that I can continue to add to it as I travel or come across an unusual find."
An heirloom secretary desk.
Maggie Griffin of Maggie Griffin Design says her favorite antique is one that her mom used before gifting it to her. "I still love this little secretary desk that my mother took to college with her," she says. "The fretwork on the cabinet doors still feels fresh and current making it perfect for my own guest room!"
A growing collection of fine china.
Jean Liu says the best antiques are the ones that can grow with you over the years. "I still love my collection of Old Paris Porcelain the most," she says, which is a variety made by artisans in and around Paris from the late 18th century to the 1870's. "It's a collection I started building in my 20s. Some pieces were purchased on trips like my honeymoon that hold special memories. The porcelain also not only creates a nice juxtaposition in my dining room against a modern wall covering, but it's also functional."
A found Venetian mirror.
According to Lowe, where you find an antique is just as important as how it looks. "My favorite antique I own is a Venetian mirror, not only because it is beautiful, but because I love how we acquired it," she explains. "I found it hiding up in one of the bedrooms when we were first touring the house we lived in previously and I loved it so much that it inspired me to ask if we could negotiate all of the furniture, rugs, and art into the purchase price. We had it hanging in our foyer and now it is hanging proudly in our dining room."
A set of Louis XVI dining chairs.
For Julie Rhodes, the best antiques are ones that create a subtle focal point in a room. "I love the antique Louis XVI dining chairs I use in my dining room at home," she says. "They look just as good with a skirted dining table as they do with a clean-lined desk, and can be reupholstered and reworked as time passes."
A hand-me-down mirror.
Marika Meyer says the only thing better than a beautiful antique is one that's been in your family for years. "My favorite antique is a circa 1940s gold-leaf Italian mirror handed down to me by my grandmother," she says. "She was an interior decorator with a penchant for Neo-Classic mid-century pieces, and this was one of many pieces she collected while traveling the world with my grandfather. It hung in her entryway for as long as I can remember. Now, in my own home, it's a reminder of someone who was an inspiration to me."
Vintage Italian alabaster lamps.
Megan Hopp of Megan Hopp Design has a self-proclaimed "obsession" with shopping for deals on vintage Italian alabaster lamps. "They can sell for upwards of $1,000 on popular online vintage sites, however, I am committed to finding mine at thrift stores," she explains. "The lamp I keep on my nightstand I found at a thrift store in the West Village in NYC, and it was the first I ever purchased so it will always have a special place in my heart. It isn't technically in the best shape, but to me it's perfect."
A trio of antique finds from travels.
Jan Showers says her favorite antiques are ones that have the ability to work with other periods and styles, but still stand apart from all the others. "There are actually three antique pieces in my dining room that I purchased during buying trips to Paris over the past 25 years," she says. "A one-of-a-kind Barovier chandelier designed by Andre Arbus, a French late 18th century mirror depicting the travels of the family who owned it etched into each border section and a hand-painted early 20th century buffet in a luscious and warm yellow."