Sure, we all love the thrill of the hunt. But looking for treasures is only truly fun if you actually come out with a new piece or two — which isn't always so easy. Just take it from Marina Karassellos, owner of Ode to Abode, a new source for artful decor collections. Unlike other vintage shops, Karassellos' operation essentially sells ready-to-go vignettes, so the box you purchase will be filled with a curated selection — anything from bones to fencing masks to industrial lamps. (Some vignettes mix in new items as well.) It's a concept that has led her to find only the most unique vintage and antique treasures, so we tapped Karassellos for her secrets. Here, her top tips:
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1. Leave the city … stat.
Flea markets and antique stores located in urban areas get a ton of traffic. Meaning: Prices can be high and the selection can be slim. "Head into the country, way out to the ends of the cornfields," says Karassellos. "Hardcore antiquers are already there, but not nearly as frequently. Usually, rural indoor markets with multiple vendors have bi-annual sales and you can find some real bargains. Call before you go, get the dates and turn it into a road trip." If you do stay in the city, cast your net wider: Head to international shops and grocery stores for under-the-radar trinkets. Think: colorful vases, spices or roots to fill jars, and beads of all kinds.
2. Use that search bar creatively.
eBay and Craigslist will always be good sources for rare finds. And they'll be even better if you get crafty with your search terms. "Think of the material you're interested in, not the item itself, and type that in," says Karassellos. "If you want a vintage table, try words like 'wrought iron.' Another way to search is simply by typing a general vibe or design style, like 'industrial.' You can find tons of inspiration and might even fall in love with some unexpected things, like lightbulbs, old pully drawers, or metal chains to embellish your space."
3. Find beauty in the unexpected.
"See things through rose-colored glasses," says Karassellos. "There's actually a lot of visual interest in objects like broken masks and fossils." Even something as obscure as an abandoned wasps nest can transform into a fantastic curiosity when hung from a commonly found object like an antique bird cage stand.
4. Consider presentation.
It's not just what you get, it's how you show it off. With that in mind, keep a lookout for staging areas and vessels. "A petrified wood slab could be a great surface for a vintage pot," says Karassellos, who also points to wire baskets, sheet metal, and fabric as artful ways to stage. You might have to do a little handiwork to get something just right. For example, love a painting but not sure how it'll mesh with your scheme? Create a unique hanger using a found fabric that complements your vibe (think lush velvet if you're into Victorian, or rope if you're in a nautical phase).
5. Be a storyteller, first and always.
Groups of vintage items often speak louder than one. Don't be afraid to tell a story. Think of a book you love and come up with an entire vignette in honor of it. When you see one single piece that speaks to you, imagine the whole world that might surround it. "Go into your imagination," Karassellos says. "There is a wonderful juxtaposition in seemingly unrelated objects sitting next to each other. It creates questions and sparks conversations."