Let’s Go to the Auction! Tips and Tricks and A Big New Addition!

We all know I love vintage shopping. We all know I like a bargain. Good—glad we got that out of the way. See that rug up there? I bought it. For $40. At an auction!

There are lots of ways to find good deals on vintage/antique stuff: occasionally you’ll get a deal at antique stores, but I tend to favor consignment shops, thrift stores, salvage shops, flea markets, Craigslist, and the curb. Sometimes I venture into the land of eBay and Etsy but I like to see and touch and inspect things in person, so online shopping can be tricky. Also I hate waiting for shipping because I’m impatient.

In the past couple of years though, I’ve started going to more and more AUCTIONS! Auctions are my kind of fun: the people-watching is usually good, and I like seeing how much things go for even if I’m not really interested in them. It’s an exciting way to spend an evening…or afternoon…or morning…when ISN’T a good time for an auction, really? Especially if you’ve never been to one, though, the whole thing can be a little intimidating. In my experience, the general crowd at an auction seems to be largely composed of dealers—which is good if you’re not one, because you’re often bidding against people who have to be able to re-sell whatever’s for sale at a big mark-up for their attendance to be worthwhile. So if, like me, you have rooms to decorate and renovations to outfit, auctions can be an awesome resource once you get over the initial apprehension that might come along with trying it out.

Every auction house works a little bit differently, but here are some tips I’ve picked up along the way with the ones I’ve gone to!

1. Finding the auction! A quick Google search should pull up auction houses in your area. Most of them will have a website or at least a Facebook page giving some detail about the upcoming sales. Some places hold auctions on a regular schedule—once a week, typically—but others may be a few weeks between sales. Auctionzip.com is a great resource for finding sales in your area.

2. GO TO THE PREVIEW. ALWAYS. Before the auction, there’s a preview. Sometimes it’s a day or two before, and sometimes it’s just a few hours before the auction actually commences—usually the auction house will list this information, but just ask if it isn’t listed. GO. This is your opportunity to look at all the things for sale, and inspect anything you might actually want to buy. Usually there are paper copies available of the entire catalog that you can use for reference. I like to circle items that I’m interested in, and perhaps make small notes so I remember any flaws or repair work or whatever. There’s typically a LOT of stuff so it’s easy to forget—particularly if there are ten light fixtures you might want but two you REALLY want. You have to be able to remember which two! Obviously don’t break anything, but the preview time is there for you to touch things, open doors and drawers, and make sure it’s something you really want to buy. It may also allow you some time to check what similar items might be selling for online, so you have a point of reference for what a fair/good price might look like.

3. Bring a tape measure! You never know what you might find, and seeing a bunch of stuff sprawled out in an open space can mess with your sense of scale. You want to make sure you can fit whatever it is in your life!

4. If you can’t make it to the preview, your auction house might post the whole catalog online. The pictures are generally poor quality, but sometimes it’s enough to get a good idea. Sometimes, a few more items will be added to a sale that never make it into that online catalog, so going in person is definitely the best thing. If you can’t make it to the preview, though, sometimes it’s best to just skip the auction—purchases you immediately regret upon actually seeing them in real life suck!

5. Register to bid! The auction house will typically want your name, address and phone number, and then you’ll be in their system which makes the process faster next time. They’ll give you a bidder card with a number on the front, and typically a place on the back for you to fill in with your purchases. That space on the back of the card is really for your benefit—once you win an item, your number is noted in their system as the winning bid. But it’s good to keep track of your purchases yourself regardless—mistakes happen occasionally, and you don’t want to spend your whole paycheck!

If it’s your first time at an auction house, give yourself plenty of time to register—the registration counter will become crowded as the auction approaches, and you don’t want to miss the first items if you’re interested in them because you don’t have your card in hand yet!

6. Bring a checkbook! Or cash! On your winning bid, there is a buyer’s premium: essentially a percentage of your winning bid that gets added.  The buyer’s premium is usually between 10-20% of the winning bid, but many auction houses charge a lower buyer’s premium if you pay with cash or check instead of a card.

7. Lots: anything that goes up for sale as a unit is called a “lot.” When you bid on a lot, you buy it all—so sometimes a lot will be just one piece of furniture, sometimes it will be two chairs and a side table, or it might be a box lot like the ones above, which are just groupings of similar items that the auction house decides to sell as a single lot. Don’t disregard box lots! Even if there are 30 things in a box lot and you only want 2 of them, sometimes you can buy the whole thing for 5 bucks and then you just have 28 things to get rid of or resell or whatever. Ha!

8. Bidding! The actual bidding part is SUCH a rush but also sort of scary, so a few things are liable to happen: either you get so determined just to WIN that you end up over-paying and regretting it, or something is just going way too cheap so you buy it just BECAUSE and then you have shit you didn’t really want, or most LIKELY you get too nervous and flustered and don’t bid or stop bidding and then lose stuff that you actually would have paid more for if only you had a second to think! That’s the WORST. So I like to pencil in my maximum bid next to the item in the catalog (and keep that shit close to your chest!), so I don’t end up in any of those positions. It’s such a simple thing but makes a huge difference, I promise! Always know how high you’re really willing to go before you bid.

My rule: don’t be the first to bid, ever. Often, the auctioneer will open bidding at something like $100, and then nobody will bid until he drops down to $5. Let other people bid it up and swoop in toward the end if it’s still in your price range. You don’t want to be the dummy that raised your hand at $100 when you could have walked away winning for $30. At the same time, don’t wait too long because sometimes nobody will bid, and the winner is just the first hand up—so if you want it, be that hand.

Also, try to sit toward the center, in clear view of the auctioneer. It SUCKS to bid on something and the auctioneer just doesn’t see you. I like sitting more toward the back than the front—that way I can watch my competition. You can pick up a surprising amount from body language!

Also, also: SOME auction houses will have the entire catalog photographed and displayed on a slideshow so you know what you’re bidding on. Sometimes, auction house workers will carry each individual item up to the podium area as they come up. In the first case, bidding is more likely to go in order of the catalog—meaning you know if you can go to the bathroom or something because the next item you’re interested in is 20 lots away. When the catalog isn’t photographed, often they’ll just auction things off in the random order that the auction worker grabs them off the floor, so you have to pay attention.

9. Leaving a bid: If you can’t make it to the auction in person, you might still be able to buy stuff! You can usually leave a bid on an item with the auction house, and then your bid competes against bidders who are there in person. EDIT: if you leave a bid on a chair for $400, and the highest bid in the house is $50, you will win it for $55 or $60—whatever increments the auctioneer is increasing the bid at.

10. Phone and online bidding: again, if you can’t be there in person but might be able to bid in real time remotely, the auction house might be using a service like Auctionzip.com to allow online bidding. It’s the future! It’s kind of like eBay but way more intense: you have to sit there and wait for your item to come up, and then you’re bidding in real time against any other online bidders and whoever is sitting in the auction house. It moves quickly! For phone bidding, tell the house which lot you want to bid on, and they’ll call you when the item comes up and you can bid over the phone, much like you would if you were in the room.

11. Bring refreshments! Auction houses often sell concessions like hot dogs and sodas and stuff, but maybe you don’t want that? Bring your own! Even though each individual lot might only take 30 seconds or so between opening bid and hammer, the entire auction might last a few hours. Be prepared! For the love of god, leave your kids at home and don’t bring friends with short attention spans. Auctions are just too boring for some people.

12. It’s OK to leave early! If you’re over it, or everything in the catalog that you were interested in has already come up, snag the opportunity to beat the line at the end and check out early. It can take a while for everyone to check out, and then even longer for the house to bring out your items if you wait all the way until the last lot.

13. Be nice! Nobody likes a sore loser, so don’t be one. Also, if you have friends you go to the auction with, make sure you’re not competing!! If three of you want the same item, be open about your max bids then let whoever is willing to pay the most bid on it. It’s never worth losing friends over! With other attendees, don’t be an asshole! You never know if you’ll end up walking into that dealer’s store, and you don’t want to be remembered as that jerk from the auction. Also, you might start seeing items that you saw go at auction for $10 in a store for $200—knowing what somebody paid for something does not give you license to begrudge them what they’re reselling it for.

OK SO NOW THAT YOU KNOW HOW TO DO IT…wanna see a thing?

I went to an auction a couple weeks ago. I saw THIS. I was filled with FEELINGS.

SO I BOUGHT IT FOR $200 AND NOW IT IS IN MY BEDROOM! It’s so tall. It’s so beautiful. It’s so…not my usual thing! Where furniture is concerned, I typically like modern from the past 60-70 years or so, or really primitive kinds of antiques from before 1850-ish. Then again I can be a sucker for Art Deco, so I don’t know. This armoire is Eastlake style—call it 1870s. I normally don’t like Victorian furniture for myself, but I make an exception for Eastlake because it was really a reaction against what we think of as Victorian furniture—the SUPER ornate, Rococo-revival kinds of stuff. Although the style of my radiators are literally named “Rococo” and I think they’re incredibly beautiful. What’s my point?

I have no point, except that the way to Narnia is through my bedroom and I’m pretty psyched up about it. I really like waking up and seeing this thing.

Right now the inside is set up with a clothing rod, but…I want a TV in it. I know I just renovated the den and the bedroom, but I do kind of miss having a TV in the bedroom because I’m trash, but I also want it concealed because I’m an insufferable snob. It’s a delicate balance.

To tie this post together, this is part of why you go to the preview! The armoire is not in perfect shape—it’s missing a few little trim pieces and the lockset for the doors, but look what was hiding in that lower drawer! All the pieces! Plus a finial that doesn’t appear to match anything. So $200 and an hour or two of little repair work, and it’ll be good to go.

I love you, towering Eastlake armoire. Welcome home.


181 Comments

  1. 1. Thank you for posting on a Wednesday – I needed a pick-me-up.
    2. I LOVE Eastlake stuff. I first heard about the style from Erin Boyle on Reading My Tea Leaves, and I managed to snag two Eastlake dressers for almost nothing from thrift stores here in Philly. Mine have beautiful floral carvings on them that are rustic and delightful, but the wood is not great. I think your new armoire/entrance to Narnia looks beautiful and really fits with the character of your house.

  2. Daniel. I LOVE, love your writing. It’s your wit come leaping off the page when least expected. Happy for the new purchase that fills you with feelings. Aslan approves.

  3. Thanks for the great advice. I drive past an auction house every day but never went in. Also nice of you to sneak in the Eames lounger pic.

    • Ha, I forgot it wasn’t there last time I posted about the bedroom! I can’t keep up with my own furniture shuffling.

  4. Daniel, Thanks for such a well thought out and insightful post. I used to go to auctions when I was a teenager, but haven’t been in a couple of decades. They can be a lot of fun, and you can score some amazing finds, but they can also be nail biters when you really want something. Your timing on this post is perfect as we are transitioning from an apartment to a house and there are a lot of rooms to fill.
    BTW, I am a modernist at heart, but your piece is absolutely stunning. I have been pining for an Eastlake bed for our master bedroom, if we can get it up our narrow stairs.

    • Hop back on that auction train!! Your new project is so exciting!!! And beautiful, of course! I’ve seen some great Eastlake beds recently…they’re out there for sure!

  5. Is…is that a collection of wooden toilet seats in one of those lot boxes?!

    I need to go to auctions. Maybe I could find a good deal on a Hoosier cabinet!

    • Haha! Not only is it a collection of wooden toilet seats…it’s now MY collection of wooden toilet seats! My BF is appalled and repulsed but they don’t make them like they used to!

      OMG, I feel like Hoosiers abound at auctions! I’ve found that larger wood furniture like dressers and hutches and sideboards go for practically nothing!

      • I would love to get my hands on some old toilet seats. The seat we purchased when we put a new toilet in 10 years ago has deteriorated (it’s plastic) and can’t really be cleaned or look clean at least since the plastic has bubbled! Terrible. Now I’m looking to replace it with a wood seat and the price is ridiculous. However I know that wood can be refinished and terrible plastic seats just end up in the trash.

      • That is genius. I paid an embarrassing amount for a restoration quality, quartersawn white oak toilet seat, and had it stained to match our floors. I am sure it will outlive me but it groans like nobody’s business.

  6. I used to LOVE auctions when I lived in the Prairies, because people were so cheap you got antiques for a song. I got a 9′ stained glass double paned door for $60. The 6′ matching one sold for well over 100, but because the 9′ one was second (and also probably because it was enormous) no one wanted it :P
    On the East Coast though, there is a dearth of antiques, so the ones that are on auction usually go for way more than I want to pay.
    This was a fun read, thank you :)

  7. The timing of this post couldn’t be more perfect! I work for an auction house–the same one I’ve been going to buy stuff from since I was penniless, in college. Now it’s 20 years later and, one day a month, on auction day, I work there. You are correct! It’s insanely fun and the buys are unparalleled. And it’s addictive to buy stuff at 90% off retail. My entire house–heck, life–is from the auction. When we bought a house I bought a van so I could schlep all my finds home. Great post! Yes, come to the auction! One thing I would add: be prepared to wrap, pack and schlep; auctions are not hugh-end retailers and they expect you to figure out that stuff yourself. Most auction houses deliver for a fee.

  8. For a second I thought you photoshopped the armoire into your room.
    I’m so glad you got it. It’s perfect!

  9. I bought my apartment in an auction… it is quite common in Belgium if the owner wants a quick sell. It was certainly one of the more nerve racking moments of my life, but a huge adrenalin rush too!

    • AH! That’s awesome! Real estate auctions are a thing here, too, but I’m always a little confused about how exactly they work legally and financially. It’s probably better if I don’t know!!

      • In Australia, you go to the bank and get a pre-approval for a loan. So you know just how much you can spend. Then you look around for properties being auctioned and research how much the neighbours went for. You bid. If you win, you and the owner organise a settlement date. (sometimes this happens before you bid, if you are not very flexible about it) On the settlement date, your bankers and your and the owners lawyer meet and exchange the cheque .

  10. Swoon! Love the armoire. Fits so perfectly in your bedroom. Thank you for this post, I’ve been dying to know more about auctions — which I can never attend unless perhaps I take a week of vacation to do so.

  11. Damnit, Daniel. Why does this little blog have such a hold on me? Is it because I like mid-modern mixture? Or because your house has become the one that I dream I had (just after all the work you’ve done, not before)? Or because I think you’re cute?

    Anyway, the armoire is very nice, but I would likely feel a bit overwhelmed with it in that room, unless you vaulted the ceiling. What did you do with the chest of drawers that was there? And I’d love to know how you are using that little anti-room to its left. A walk in closet?

    And yes, I know way too much about your house. Not stalking, I promise.

    • Haha! There are worse vices out there than reading my blog, I think! Don’t fight it, invite it!

      I was worried about it being overbearing too, but it’s really not! I think the depth helps—it’s only like 18″ deep, and since the top part with the doors is separate from the bottom part with the drawer, I pushed the top all the way back to the wall so it feels sort of built-in, and the bottom can stick out a little to account for the depth of the baseboard. ANYWAY—chest of drawers is being kept in another room (I think maybe for the room above the kitchen, which will be a guest room), and I haven’t done anything significant to that little room! It’s pretty much just holding stuff. And by holding I mean hoarding.

  12. In my auction experience, leaving a bid is treated like a max bid and if the floor’s max bid is $50 and you left a $400 bid, you’d get it for $60 or $75 or whatever.

    • Huh! I don’t *think* that’s how it works here, but I could be wrong about that! I’ve only left a bid once and I didn’t win, but I’ll try to find out!

  13. Everything about this is fabulous (especially YOU, Daniel!) Great information but do you really know anyone who doesn’t carry a tape measure at all times? Actually, nobody I know does because they know I always have one. Now we need to see the great rug in place. The armoire is beyond wonderful!

    • Thanks Anne, as always! :) I have to shamefully admit…I’m terrible at remembering to carry a tape measure! I try to keep one in the car, but sometimes it migrates elsewhere and isn’t there when I need it…half the time I end up measuring things with a dollar bill (which is exactly 6″ long)!

      • I always steal one of those paper yardsticks that are free at IKEA and keep one folded up in my wallet. And then I always forget it’s there. *facepalm*

  14. Where did you put the rug you got??? I love this post! So informative! And I can’t believe you got your Narnia portal for only $200!!

    • I didn’t put the rug anywhere yet!! I just added it to the pile of rugs! It’s hard to have a lot of rugs out in the house with renovations going on all the time, so I just keep stockpiling…oops!

  15. It is stunning, and it really works with the wall color!

  16. Love this post with all the tips, THANK YOU for taking the time to write this.

    And besides the great inside scoop, thank you for the following :
    “Right now the inside is set up with a clothing rod, but…I want a TV in it. I know I just renovated the den and the bedroom, but I do kind of miss having a TV in the bedroom because I’m trash, but I also want it concealed because I’m an insufferable snob. It’s a delicate balance.”

    This MADE my day as I literally laughed out loud. I love this universe that gives me such joy.

    So, just wanted to say, thanks for sharing your time and talent. This morning, feeling blessed.

  17. Great post! Lol at number 11, who the fuck bring kids to auction?! That’s the most dangerous thing to do, what if kids damaged something or worse flung number card up when you’re not looking?! This could ended in absolute disaster! :D

    • We went with my parents to auction all the time when my sister and I were little! Now, granted, these were farm or livestock auctions and either outside or in a large indoor arena, but otherwise similar. The only difference is that you don’t always get a number – I grew up where everyone knew everyone else, so you just raised your hand or waggled your fingers and whooped to bid. The only thing I ever remember being told was that I couldn’t raise my hands while we were there, no matter what – and I was very, very, very careful about it. :)

  18. This is awesome Daniel! I tried to search for auctions when we were in Oregon on vacation and couldn’t really find any. Thanks for this website reference. Some reason all the auctions within 50 miles of Los Angeles are all for jewelry??? So weird. I”m so jealous of you findssssssssssss. I am really struggling to find some good oil paintings, lights, rugs, and stuff for the house!

    • Huh, that is weird! I don’t know!! With estate auctions (which seems to be the vast majority of the ones I go to), sometimes there’s a particular focus based on what the person had/collected…maybe that’s what you’re seeing? And other sales would have more of the kinds of things you’re looking for? The west coast is a mystery to me!

  19. Hi Daniel, thanks again, your writing is so much fun to read.

    As another auction fan it was interesting to hear how auctions are arranged in the US (I’m from Finland). Very much the same I believe, just some small differences in details. Here the online participation is the new and very popular way of participating, I guess it’s partly because around 10% of buyers (who end up winning the lots) are from abroad.

    You can fall in love with your auction finds, I understand completely. Your armoire is beautiful. My best find from an auction has to be a brown 12-arm Murano (Venetian) chandelier from 1930s. The catalogue mentioned that it was partly broken and they could not verify that its electrics worked. I bought it with the idea that I would have to pay to get it fixed. Well… Not broken, all the 12 arms and lamps work, I washed it with great care and it turned out to be warm amber and not brown, and best of all: the old owner sent me (via the auction house) an old, dusty cardboard box full of original spare parts for the chandelier. :-)

  20. thanks for the great post! i used to attend an auction in Santa Barbara on a regular basis. `1. not only should you measure the piece to ensure a fit in your space, you should figure out how it will fit in your car/van/truck or how you can hire/borrow a method of delivery. 2. research your selection as much as possible, make a note on your MAXIMUM PRICE. Auction Fever is obvious when a bidder far exceeds retail. 3. auctioneers SOMETIMES react to lack of bids by offering the item to the person who FINALLY offers a bid, even if it represents 1% of asking….you can make an offer if there is a pause. 4. be aware that some auctioneers have ‘friends’ who bid up items. you can identify staff members at the preview and take a look around the room to see if those people are bidding. 5. when the antiques dealers stop bidding the price has exceeded wholesale. it can still be a great deal but… 6. if there is a dedicated collector bidding against you, be prepared for disaster if you try to stay in, unless you are the dedicated collector. 7. don’t accept their offers of a glass of sparkling wine…

    • Thanks for adding these, June! Number 7 made me LOL…sounds like Santa Barbara might be just a *tad* more upscale than the auctions I go to, although it’s a good idea for getting those cards up I bet!

  21. A trashy insufferable snob! That’s my kind of person! Hahahaha! Love the armoire, I love a tv in my bedroom (how else is one supposed to watch trashy television from bed?!) and I LOVE auctions!

  22. I love love love Eastlake Victorian furniture! I love how geometric (and almost modern) the shapes and lines feel. I have an Eastlake plant stand I got FO FREE because I work at an online auction house and sometimes people don’t pay for/pick up their stuff. One day I, too, will have a Narnia portal.

  23. Personally, I love antiques, even the over-the-top rococo kind. So your new addition makes me drool.
    Everything we have is second-hand, from the local equivalent of garage sales and flea markets to kind of fancy schmancy antique shops. (Mostly the first.) However, I have never been to an auction. My husband has, and has bought some nice antiques that way, including using the call-in method. You’ve made me eager to check it out, and your tips are smart.
    Just FYI, I recently dyed an old chair whose upholstery, the color of raw chicken, was revolting but in perfect condition. As part of the process, I learned that an armchair can be hosed down and will dry pretty quickly in summer. I already routinely wash my rugs outside every summer, and certainly everything bought second-hand gets washed.

    • Nice! I’ll have to try that at some point…I dragged an upholstered saarinen chair out of the trash, in perfect shape except one missing glide and some stains on the upholstery. What did you dye it with?

  24. It is possible I sobbed a little when I saw the rug. I was not prepared for the armoire.
    I need a friend with a driver’s license and way too much time on their hands to take me to auctions here…

  25. Love it! And I love the warmth it brings to the room against the cooler grey walls….such a beauty (although I’m not surprised – you always make excellent design choices).

    Did you see Brady Tolbert’s recent bedroom reveal? He put a TV inside a vintage armoire/desk/credenza thing and it turned out excellent. Definitely worth a quick look – http://www.bradytolbert.com/my-bedroom-reveal/#more-1756

  26. Daniel, if you ever find yourself in Maryland on a Wednesday (or, ya know, go on purpose), you MUST go to Crumpton Auction on the Eastern Shore. It’s wild and crazy and HUGE, and you can find the best treasures. My family has gone any number of times over the years and we’ve found some incredible things: old decorative iron grates, furniture, fabrics, rugs, glassware. I remember one time we went there was an entire lot of old stop lights… The best part is that in the fields (there are three fields and a barn), they often sell by the lot, so if someone has bought a lot but there’s something in it you wanted, you can often make a deal with them on the side, or you might get lucky and it may get left behind if it wasn’t the one thing in the lot they were after. It’s a field trip worth taking if you’ve a fondness for auctions. https://www.crumptonauctions.com/

    • Oh looooordddddd, give me the strength to stay away from that!! That seems BEYOND dangerous and also like a helluva lot of fun.

  27. Love the wardrobe, now all you need are a lion and a witch…
    True story – my uncle bought his house at auction *by mistake*. But he was too embarrassed to say it had been a mistake, so he just signed the paperwork. He didn’t even know which house it was! (They had been looking at several and he was only at the auction to practice bidding with “safe” low bids). Luckily my aunt liked it, and they lived their for the rest of their lives, so it all worked out okay. I always tell this story to people about to buy a house – your house will find you! (Obviously it’s also a good auction story)

    • This story makes me happy!

      • Me too! That’s so awesome! Love.

        (the very first auction I went to, I remember they auctioned off all this land…like multiple wooded acres, with a WATERFALL…and I wanna say it sold for like a thousand dollars. I still think about it all the time…WHAT IF?!?!)

  28. oh man i think auctions would be super dangerous for me! fun, but dangerous.

    that wardrobe is GORGEOUS! good work!

    • They are dangerous!! I have to be verrrrrrry careful. I basically go when I’m shopping for some particular client project (or just can’t resist), and inevitably find way more stuff for myself.

  29. Auctions are my favorite! They sure do get the adrenaline flowing, don’t they?! I miss this about the east coast; west coast “estate sales” aren’t as full of potential treasures. Years ago, we went to one in PA that lasted over the course of three weekends (an older cousin of the family who never married and kept everything). I distinctly remember getting worked up because the auctioneer seemed to be overlooking our bid, instead focusing on two dealers in the front row. At one point, on an old photograph of my great grandmother’s homestead, I let out a yelp of frustration and sure enough that seemed to do the trick, as we eventually won the bid. While I don’t recommend my approach (there’s a slight bit of emotion involved when you have to compete with strangers for family items), your suggestion to sit in line of sight of the auctioneer is a good one to avoid the aforementioned scenario.

  30. I’ve never been to an auction, but wow! I totally want to go now! Not that I need any furniture ;). Thanks for an entertaining read!

  31. What great finds! Such good prices too :) I love auctions………..I just need to be super careful, because I have been known to get carried away with auction fever, and that doesn’t help my checkbook at all. Where did you end up putting the cute rug?

  32. Wow, Daniel! Love that Eastlake armoire, and it looks so great in your room. You’re making me re-think our habit of scouting for finds at the As-Is department of Ikea…

  33. This whole post makes me so happy! I want to go to auctions! I love your new wardrobe! I love having a TV in the bedroom hidden! Hurray for everything!

  34. I’m an auction addict myself! I tend to buy smaller items that I can fit in my car, how do you arrange a truck if you don’t know if you’ll win something? Most of the auctions I go to will not let you pick up at a later date, you need to take your winnings and go. It’s so frustrating! I’ve actually thought about buying a cheaply used truck just for auctions. Yes, I went there! (I also fix/paint/resell a bunch. I’m not a hoarder. No, I’m really not!)

    • Maybe I’ve been spoiled…the ones out here seem to all offer delivery for a fee, or you can pick up larger items within a couple days if you’re taking it yourself. I have a utility trailer that hitches to the back of my car for hauling stuff…usually construction materials, but it comes in handy for the large piece of furniture here and there too!

  35. That armoire is GORGEOUS and I am JEALOUS. My mom and her late husband used to go to auctions a lot, they loved them. He especially liked getting the random box lots just for the surprise factor. And he’d do the super cheap ones, like you said, so if he didn’t get anything good, he could just pitch the stuff and go on to the next one.

  36. The wardrobe looks perfect in your bedroom. $200 was a steal! So jealous.

  37. Old armoires are the best! I bought a late 1800s walnut one (not at an auction – love that price you got!) – I found mine online at an antique store on the other side of the country and had it shipped (i needed a particular size to fit in a wall nook between two closets in my last place.) I would love to start going to furniture auctions – though the requirement of having a vehicle to move large furniture in with you, and people on hand to help move large stuff, seems prohibitive. Did you show up at the auction with a truck ready and helpers to load and unload?

    I have bought artwork at charity auctions, and the adrenaline rush of buying something at an auction, or even bidding for stuff, is huge. So I think at some point there will be more auctions in my future.

    What I love about my wardrobe is that, like many of that era, it was made to come apart into panels. Mine has these great sliding wood fasteners that put it back together. So it is easy to move – it breaks down to just the base with the drawer, with 5 panels for the top part, and then the crown to put on top. I’m guessing the top of yours is built solid, because you are able to push the top part back to the wall. (I’m not sure I love what that does to the visual line of front of the piece, though.) I also wanted shelves inside mine, rather than a hanging rod – and since I didn’t want to stress the sides by attaching shelves, or majorly alter the antique piece, I measured the inside and looked for a free standing shelf unit that would fit inside, standing on the solid base. The Skandia shelves that the container store sells filled up the inside space perfectly, and they are really sturdy and can hold a lot of stuff easily – and also come apart easily for moving.

    While yours looks great where it is, I wouldn’t be surprised if it migrates to elsewhere in your house, as there are more elegant ways to have a concealed TV than having the doors open to the side like wings when you are watching tv – sometimes they get in the way to walk around, while doors that pocket into the unit, flip or roll up, or wrap around the outside, take up less room. The great thing about these pieces is that they look good in any room, and can be used to store anything.

    • It might be worth checking with the auction house…the ones around here usually offer delivery for a fee, or they’ll hold large items for a couple days while you figure out renting or borrowing a truck or whatever. There are always a few auction workers to help you load, too. I feel like buying big stuff at IKEA is more stressful! But that’s just been my experience.

      I think I may just build a simple free-standing thing for inside to avoid messing with it too much! Seems easy enough! And then reversible, too, for when I inevitably change my mind…

  38. We turned my grandmother’s armoire into a media cupboard by building a shelving unit that slipped right inside from the back (the back on ours comes off easily). Apparently, if you put a lot of screw holes in an armoire, and alter it from its original state, it loses its value as an antique (eye roll), so building a separate unit that slipped in snugly allowed us to have adjustable shelves. We had a cabinet maker build it for us and it fits perfectly, it also added stability to the armoire, since ours is not nearly as well-made as yours!

    • Nice! I’ll probably attempt something similar. I’m sorta of two minds when it comes to altering antiques…I guess for me it comes down to the individual piece and how extensive the work is, but generally I think furniture should be used and enjoyed, and if keeping it 100% original prevents that, what’s the point? But that being said, a solution like yours seems ideal because it’s functionally the same, but more reversible and lets you maintain the value of the piece if you ever chose to sell it. Something essentially freestanding inside this thing seems like a perfect solution!

  39. Gorgeous armoire Daniel. In the perfect spot.

  40. I’ve been buying from auctions for about 17 years–but I’ve never attended one. I just have gotten a lot of practice buying from photos. I email the auctioneer with questions or ask for extra photos sometimes. There’ve been a couple of surprises, but for the most part the purchases work out great. You can find auctions on LiveAuctioneers or Bidsquare, including international auctions. The auction houses will put you in touch with their local UPS store to arrange for pickup and shipping to you. The one caveat–pay attention to weight and dimensions. The dumbest purchase I ever made was an antique birdbath from an auction house in New Orleans for $50. I thought–$50! That’s great! I knew shipping would be more, but I hadn’t really thought through the fact that the birdbath was large, and solid stone. When the UPS store told me shipping would have to be pallet and around $800, I ended up asking them to give the birdbath to an employee or put it out with the trash.

  41. Having just read through the comments–yes, leaving a bid for say $400 is treated like a max bid. If the competing bidder only goes to $25, you’ll get it for $30, etc. 95 percent of the time I leave bids, after viewing the item online, rather than bidding live. That gets too dangerous, impulse-wise.

    Also–all auction houses will provide you with a list of local shippers who will pick up and ship your item for you. For large furniture this could be potentially expensive, but for regular items, it’s very useful. I won a Tolomeo desk lamp for $25 and had it shipped for another $25–and it retails for a few hundred.

  42. I continue to envy your rug acquisitions. How do you plan to go about cable management in that armiore?

  43. EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEeeeeeeek….it is BEAUTIFUL!!! GOOD BUY!! franki

  44. Fantastic post, although I don’t think I could ever bid at an auction because of my social anxiety. I mean, what if I do something wrong?? The whole goddamn world could end!!! Ok, not really, but that’s what it feels like. Also, you got a GFT! (Giant Fancy Thing, a la Victoria Elizabeth Barnes). I think she would be jealous of your gorgeous Eastlake!

    • Sara – GFT yes!! I said that to myself as soon as I saw the first picture of the armoire, and searched for “GFT” in the comments to see if anyone else had already said it.

      Daniel – do you follow Victoria Elizabeth Barnes? Her writing has a similar wry tone to yours, and she is very very funny…

      So glad you found something you love, and curious as to how you are going to modify it for your purposes! Cheers

    • Well, I was going to add “now we’ll call you Victoria Elizabeth” as a joke when I wrote my first comment on here, but decided the humor might not translate well. Better to remember the GFT phrase, which I had forgotten.

  45. This is a tad off topic (but now I know of their existence I’ll be on the auction lookout!) but has anyone else ever heard of a built in bread warmer/radiator combo??? Like this one, https://www.oldhousedreams.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/88-East-Broad-Street-32.jpg

    I can’t believe I never knew about them before! So genius! I could have all the warm pies and maybe even some warm socks/slippers if I had one of these. I obviously need one to go in that house I don’t own…

    Daniel, I think you may need one for your kitchen reno! haha!

    • Wow, I’ve never seen anything like that! Amazing!

      • Glad I’m not the only one! I’ve now been looking at lots of pictures of various types and there are even some with glass doors so you can keep a eye on your pies.

  46. Love the tips for auction – yes, I get scared at the idea of throwing my hand in the air to bid & just last week missed out on a pair of antique chairs that went for $5.00. We recently moved into an 1897 built Victorian & have been looking for a Narnia portal for Jules’s bedroom – when I saw yours I instantly thought it was exactly what we needed and then burst out laughing when I saw your Narnia comment! Any chance you’d be willing to sell it to us for the $200? ;)

  47. The armoire is gorgeous and looks like it was built for that very spot. It even looks perfect with your wall paint color and woodwork style. Such a lucky find!

  48. Hi Daniel,

    Love the blog :) I recently bought two rugs at auction, one is really dirty, sent it out to be cleaned it came back essentially the same!! How do you clean your lovely finds?

    • Thanks Robin! So this might make old rug lovers cringe, but…those old rugs can take a beating! I have a Bissel carpet cleaner that works quite well—for a new purchase, I like to clean both sides (sometimes more than once, depending on the filth level!). Smaller, thinner rugs I’ve been known to toss in the washing machine in the hand-wash/wool cycle, then lay flat to dry. Some people just take them outside, drape them over a fence or something, and spray down with a garden hose and let dry in the sun. For regular cleaning I just vacuum, but I might break out the Bissel again every now and then if things are soiled or looking especially dingy…which is liable to happen with dogs running around in a house under renovation!

    • My answer will probably make rug purists cringe as well, but figured I’d throw it out there. My friend used to take all of her rugs to the do-it-yourself car wash. Those high pressure hoses and soap really do an amazing job on rugs. I mean, you have to plan ahead to get them back home, as of course they’re wet, but it does work.

  49. Agreed…your Eastlake buy is wonderful! We all love the deals available at auctions. BUT.
    Could we have a moment of silence for the people who consign their family treasures at an auction, only to receive a check for pennies on the dollar? This was me, just finished taking apart my mother’s home, couldn’t absorb it all. Ouch! I guess I’m getting the karma I deserve after my years of being the buyer and taking home the deals.

    • Absolutely—my family has gone through a similar experience and it’s very emotional, even with items that nobody wanted or had room for before letting the auction service take over. You just have to hope that whoever ends up with those things next loves and appreciates them, I guess—including the fact that somebody bought, lived with, and cared for those things first. Vintage/antiques can be bittersweet that way, but it’s also part of what gives them soul!

  50. That random finial looks like the missing drawer pull at the bottom of the wardrobe — could it be? Hard to tell from the photo. But I LOVE the piece!

    • Good guess, but nope! Unfortunately that pull popped off IN TRANSIT TO MY HOUSE…GRRRRRR. I hate it when stuff like that happens! Weirdly I just bought a random bin of antique plumbing parts at a yard sale…taps, porcelain escutcheons, that kind of thing…and floating around the bottom was A MATCHING KNOB! How weird is that.

  51. That is a fantastic cupboard and it adds an intriguing artsy mix to your bedroom. Great post on how to handle an auction and a great wardrobe… maybe the finial goes on the top in the middle? PS: what’s happening to that little cottage?

    • I thought that might be the case with the finial too, but it doesn’t look like there’s anything missing up there (no screw/dowel holes, just solid wood!). I think it just snuck into that drawer somehow and belongs to something else!

      Re: cottage—not sure which one! Olivebridge is rebuilt and done and Bluestone is getting its plumbing roughed in last week and this week!

  52. Are you aware of how bingeable your blog is? Haven’t stopped by in months and just gorged myself on what feels like a dozen posts. You had me el oh elling several times. Quick question: where do you find all the cool historical info on your house? I seem to remember you referencing a few photos of the original exterior? I’m falling in love with a colonial (revival?) built in 1900 and cringingly updated in 2008. Would love to know how I might be able to locate some original or old exterior photos!

    • Aw, thanks Zena! Much appreciated! :)

      It’s been really hard to find historical info on my house! I have exactly one old picture—from 1950, so the house is already about 100 years old—that I was able to get from the city’s tax assessor’s office. Deeds are also public record, so you can go to the deed office and work backwards to get the names of former owners—if any of them or their descendants are still alive, you might be able to connect on Facebook or ancestry.com (where sometimes they’ll have even already posted old family photos showing the house!). Newspaper records—searching both the address and names of former owners—might also provide some interesting history, or other paths you might be able to explore research-wise. It’s not easy, but some houses are definitely better documented than others!

  53. Are you sure the finial doesn’t go at the very top center?

  54. I love how you write about things with such enthusiasm and passion. It’s like having a conversation with you AND having you in my brain at the same time. I love it. This is why I binge read your blog when I need a solid pick-me-up. Also, when will you start selling tickets to Narnia?

  55. Really random question, Daniel, but is there any chance you could do a guide as to how to create a concept board for a room?

  56. If you have a pressure washer to do your sidewalks and patio, I think you could also use it to deep clean any rugs you can carry outside on a sunny day.

  57. I love this post! Thank you so much for featuring AuctionZip! I work there and it was such a delightful surprise to find it featured on one of my favorite blogs — it really is an excellent tool to be able to find auctions going on in your area!

    One other thing I will add about auctions is be prepared to love what you win, because most often auctioneers do not take things back if you have buyer’s remorse. You win it, you pay for it! So be prepared to love what you win [this is also why you should, as you stated, GO to the preview!!!]. Plus, if you go to the preview you can meet some of the folks who work for the auction house and they are usually great sources of information on other consignments that might be coming up soon, other estate sales or auctions in the area, and generally happy to help you find what you are looking for.

  58. Thank you so much for these tips! They’re super helpful and useful. Love them!

  59. Helle
    when shall we have a new post please?

  60. Dan, have you abandoned blogging? I’ll be so sad if it’s true! Miss reading your updates!

  61. *poke poke* *nudge nudge* Hello? Hello? Are you okay? Just let us know, please!

  62. Hi, recent commenters! I can’t speak for Daniel (I’m a reader, just like you) but if you read back through the posts, you’ll notice that there are long periods that get kinda quiet. If you’re looking for more like I always am, you can follow him on Instagram–sometimes he posts pics of what he’s working on and when we’re lucky, we also get Instagram stories which give us little glimpses!

  63. (All of which is to say: don’t panic! I am almost 100% sure we have not been forsaken, Daniel just gets horrifically busy now and again.)

  64. Daniel, hoping all’s well and that you’re just busy.

  65. Daniel, chiming in to see if you are okay … you are missed here!

  66. Daniel,

    Hope all is well with you and you are just busy with your fabulous life.

  67. Hey Daniel, is everything ok?
    I’ve been obsessively checking your blog twice – ok, maybe five times – a day every day since your last post. I’m stuck in a rut home décor-wise and I’m in desperate need of some inspiring post on tearing down walls and the likes.
    Hope you’re having the time of your life on a kick-ass holiday, but please – please!!! – don’t ever leave us!
    A die-hard fan some 4k miles away :)

    • P.S. Wait – You’re not stuck in your über cool armoire’s own Narnia, are you????

  68. Me too, hope all is well, missing your posts!

  69. Ahem. Last post in July!?!?!? We miss you.

  70. Miss you, miss your posts. I’m hoping you’re so focused on a major reno you’re just too busy…..

  71. I hope everything is okay. I miss your posts!

  72. Ditto.

  73. Daniel!! I love your blog and how random the postings are. I stop by every couple of days and it’s an awesome surprise when there is a post. Assuming you are busy with paying gigs, thanks for at least keeping the instagram humming.

    For those of you worried about him, he posted a week or so ago. No worries!

  74. In need of some fresh posts. When, D, when?

  75. Daniel, Daniel where for art thou Daniel?
    Hope you can come back soon. I love living my life vicariously through yours

  76. Adding my concern – I’ve followed you since the beginning. Even here on the outskirts of Berlin, (yes, *that* Berlin) I find home design is rather meh (what passes for a home makeover here just makes me cringe). But your blog has gotten us through more than one dreary winter. “Daniel’s got a new post.” “Oh, good! Let’s see what he’s up to now.” Such a bright moment. But now…we’re worried. Please give a sign.

    • Just to clarify – I LIVE for home design. I just find the average German’s idea of home design ‘meh.’ So, wherever you are, Daniel, I hope you’re well. Looking forward to your return.

  77. Hi Daniel…..missing you! Hope all is well and you post soon!

  78. Hi Daniel, I’ve been a reader for some years and have enjoyed your writing but haven’t commented here before. I am now concerned about not having any new posts since July 19th. I miss your words and hope you are just way to busy to blog…… Looking forward to more of your wisdom and whimsy.

  79. Hi Daniel. Any chance I can guilt you into a new post? I have caught up with your entire blog (including quite a lot of the comments – your mom is a gas) since you last posted, and I would be so sad if it turns out that the blog stops just as I started. I want to know how House is coming on!

    (Also, I bought a carpet and two antique jardinieres at auction on Friday: you would be proud of me.)

  80. Please -come back now. We need posts. C’mon. You can do it. We need to see what’s going on at, well, any of your projects. It’s getting close to October. Don’t creep us out. Coooooome baaaaack.

  81. Chiming in with the others..
    I need my fix!!
    Greetings from Dublin

  82. If enough of us comment asking you to come back it will eventually work right?? No pressure.

  83. I love your Instagram stories.

  84. Miss you Daniel,
    You seem to be competing with Victoria Elizabeth Barnes with your purchase of a portal to Narnia. She of the Giant Fancy Things has a husband with mad DIY skills and a fondness for mirrors. Open the back or your new armoire and maybe you can come out near Philadelphia. Try this
    http://victoriaelizabethbarnes.com/share-your-favorite-find/
    See also her piano turned into a kitchen island.

    Hope all is well with you and that we will be soon be reading another interesting tale of home restoring in Kington.

    With regards,
    Elizabeth Speicher

  85. Daniel! Ehr miss yehr blehrg! And you, hope all is well. Much love from Belgium.

  86. Daniel, I hope you are very well and just in the midst of an awesome project……that you’ll be sharing soon with us fans!! Missing reading what’s going on with you and your life, projects, awesome finds, your garden, the dog, what you ate last night. You have a unique voice on your blog and I miss it.

  87. Daniel:
    Hope all is well, haven’t heard from you in over 2 months, missing my Daniel Fix

  88. I see from the owner’s web and rental agency that Olivebridge Cottage is finished and being rented for vacation stays. Were you prevented from posting any more on this project? They use your name and blog as part of their publicity. I am sure people would like to know that everyone did right by you.

  89. Where are you? I hope everything is OK. I miss your posts.

  90. I know Daniel hasn’t blogged much in the last couple of months, but for those of you that need your Daniel fix have a look on his instagram! He’s regularly updating his stories with all his projects, I always look forward to them! They’ll definitely tide you over until his next updates

    https://www.instagram.com/danielkanter/

  91. As a mom of a young man roughly your age, the ghosting has me worried. Please just indicate that you are buried in work & will get back to us all @ a later date. Best wishes.

  92. He lives – there is a new Instagram photo! Now we just need to wait for the bloggity blog update. :-)

  93. Manhattan Nest just popped into my head this morning and I thought, I haven’t seen any posts for a long time, and it’s been nearly three months! I’m assuming you’re busy and having fun, but … I want to know what you’ve been doing! Details! Please …

  94. Mr. Kanter is doing short video stories over on Instagram about what he is up to now. I would love to know what happened/is happening with past projects.

  95. We miss you!

  96. I’ve been checking regularly to see if you’ve posted anything… everything ok? That armoire didn’t lead to Narnia did it??

  97. We miss you~

  98. Car 54, where are you? I’ve had nagging concerns for weeks. I hope you’re just crazy busy or maybe crazy in love?

  99. Even in Finland You are missed! Hope to see your blog writing soon!

  100. I simply love that wardrobe. It kinda reminds me of Beauty and the Beast, which even though now a grown up, I adore.

  101. Daniel! It’s been over 3 months since you posted on your blog. Please write a short note to let us know that you’re okay. Or not okay. At least still among us. We worry.

  102. You must come back. I wills it.

  103. Hoping everything is okay. I’m missing your blog posts, but that is inconsequential. Hopefully you’re doing a world tour or something amazing and decided to leave the internet out of your business while you were at it. Come back, or let us know that you’re alright?

  104. I’ve been following your blog for years and have really enjoyed it. I can only deduce from your long silence that you have stopped. I’ll miss you. Thanks for the past enjoyment.

  105. Hi Daniel,

    I found your blog three years ago while dealing with multiple night wakeups with my newborn- it saved my sanity! I’m just writing to say I hope you are doing ok!

  106. Karin, I’ve come to the same conclusion & echo your sentiments.

  107. Me too… I see the odd photo on Instagram but checking this blog daily for four months without any updates is sad. I’ll miss you too Daniel.

  108. Adding my voice to those who miss your posts, Daniel. I hope you are OK and just too busy to post, but that doesn’t really seem to be your style. Take care of yourself, and I hope we hear from you soon.

  109. Come back Daniel! we miss you

  110. Sorry to say this but I am getting angry. You obviously have a big blog following group but you disrespect all of us by being silent for so long. Frankly, I am tired of this.

  111. Barb, you’re coming off as a little bit entitled, and your anger is unwarranted. Daniel publishes his writing and shares his life and work for free. He owes you nothing; he owes his readers nothing (though I too would love a brief check in to let everyone know that you’re OK, Daniel!) He is free to write what he wants, when he wants; you’re free to check in and enjoy it when he does post or not.

  112. Hope you’re doing well, Daniel! Just chiming in to join the chorus of avid followers who really miss your voice on the blog. I’m still upset about The Brick House’s abrupt ending a few years ago (and still hold out hope for Morgan’s return). The internet can’t go on without you! Miss you lots and hope you’re well!

    • I so agree. I just wish Morgan (I LOVED her blog) would have let everyone KNOW that she wasn’t going to blog anymore.
      I hope Daniel is ok. Just want to know if he is simply done blogging, injured, upset, dead, in hiding in another country.

  113. Hope you’re okay :)

  114. Love the wardrobe you found. It looks absolutely perfect in its new home. :)
    I hope you are well!

  115. Happy Thanksgiving, silent Daniel! Hoping you and yours are well.

  116. Hope you come back soon.

  117. Hope all is okay with you Daniel! Just know we all support you and eagerly await your next entry. :D

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