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Walls of Wonder

Contemporizing the Classics with Eleanor-Scott Davis and Anna Applegate Interiors

Anna Applegate, an interior designer based in Raleigh, North Carolina, is known for her thoughtful curation of mixing the old with the new. While her style is undoubtedly of-the-moment, Anna loves to incorporate antique and vintage furniture into her spaces. Her number one way to make traditional furniture feel fresh? Art.  

Here, Anna shares some of the most frequently asked questions that come her way regarding antique and vintage furniture — and styles them with artwork from the forthcoming collection of paintings by Well & Wonder artist, Eleanor Scott Davis.

Q: I feel like antique and vintage furniture can make a space feel dated and heavy. What suggestions do you have for incorporating them while maintaining a style that feels fresh and youthful?

A: You do see a lot of darker woods in older furniture, so I like to balance those heavier tones with lively colors and patterns. This can be done with paint, wallpaper or whimsical fabrics (in the case of upholstery). But my favorite way to contemporize stuffy furniture is by pairing it with fun art. Bright, abstract art hung above an old chest or sideboard really makes a statement. I’m also a big fan of using funky lamps, fabric lampshades, and interesting accessories to style an antique chest; the pairing of something traditional with something a bit more unexpected is, for me, the sweet spot.

Q: I am so intimidated by the price of antiques. Do you you always have to spend a lot of money to get a quality piece of furniture?

A: Not at all! I love to search for antiques at estate sales, auctions, consignment stores and on Craig’s List. You may have to work a little harder than if you went directly to an antique store, but there are great deals to be had on quality pieces if you know what you’re looking for. 

Q: So what should I be looking for? Are there any trademark signs that indicate a piece is of good quality?

A: I always check first to make sure a piece is structurally sound (not too wobbly, the legs don’t look like they have been glued back together before, etc.) Dovetail joints on drawers are generally a sign of good construction. Also, always look for the manufacturer’s label; this is especially valuable for upholstery, when you can’t see the interior construction. If it’s by a well-known North Carolina manufacturer (like Hickory Chair, Henredon, or Lee), than you know it has good bones.

Q: I inherited many family heirlooms but now feel that my house is full of dark wood furniture. Do you ever paint or lacquer old furniture or does this negatively affect the value?

A: It depends on the piece. If it’s very old, made of solid wood, or is a valuable antique, resist the urge to paint (and use the tips from question #1 to balance the dark wood tones). However, if it’s a vintage piece that’s made with cheap veneers (I’m looking at you, faux bamboo dresser) or simply has a lackluster finish, paint away! (But do make sure it’s in good condition; lacquering furniture can be expensive, so you want to make sure that the frame is solid enough to warrant the expense).  A fun tip when choosing a paint color for a piece of furniture: pull a color from the art that will hang above it.  

Q: What are your favorite places to score vintage and antique furniture?

A:

Pigfish Lane(@pigfishlaneantiques). Allow at least an hour to browse their 50+ booths. Located in Raleigh.

Union Camp Collective (@unioncampcollective). Owner Charlotte Smith has the most interesting stuff and is the most lovely human. Located in Raleigh. 

Polished Picks (@polishedpicks). Great for faux bamboo! They’ll paint or lacquer for you in any color. Located in Raleigh but also sells on Instagram. 

Acquisitions Limited (@aquisitionsltd). High-end antiques that will be passed down to your grandchildren. Located in Raleigh. 

Winston’s Collection (@winstonscollection). Fantastic pieces at fantastic prices. They’ll also paint or lacquer for you. Located in Winston-Salem but sells through Instagram. 

Slate Interiors (@slateinteriors). Beautifully curated booths. Located in Charlotte. 

Sleepy Poet Antique Mall (@sleepypoetcharlotte). Allow all day for their 250+ booths. Located in Charlotte.

Chairish (@chairishco). Thankfully, we can now also access great finds online, from the comfort of our sofas. There’s always something new & interesting. And, it’s a platform that I trust, which is import ant when you’re buying furniture sight-unseen. Online at www.chairish.com