Scouting pro and Chairish Stellar Seller Heather Cook traveled to England to hand-pick the very best British antique and vintage finds. Below Heather lets us in on her shopping tips and trick for shopping across the pond. Keep calm and start shopping: Heather’s collection of English finds are now available here.
Tell us your story about how you ended up starting Heather Cook Antiques.
I grew up in a house full of antiques…old furniture and was very jealous of my friends who had new matching bedroom suites. As I grew older I not only appreciated antiques but enjoyed the hunt for that special piece. I thought it would be a fun hobby to have a small antique booth in a small shop in Atlanta. My hobby quickly became profitable and the rest is history.
Are there distinctions between pieces that came out of the US vs. in England?
Age. Each trip I usually hit the jackpot with a few wonderful pieces from the 1700’s.
How does shopping differ in the US vs. in England?
As a dealer, I find shopping in the US very stressful and competitive. I don’t enjoy rushing around town in the early morning trying to beat other dealers to estate sales or the direct competition of bidding at auction. It’s so much more relaxing in England… travelling the countryside searching for tiny shops and shopping large fairs where there are plenty of treasures for all.
If you could only pick 5…which iconic pieces are your absolute favorites?
Creamware – I love creamware…both French and English from the very plain to heavily reticulated plates and platters and beautifully woven baskets. A special find would be an old stamp on a piece of Wedgwood creamware. My collection is displayed on my dining room wall and bedroom shelves.
Majolica – The colors and shapes of majolica always catch my interest. I buy everything from plates, platters, jugs, match strikes and boxes in the English muted browns and greens and even the bright French blues and pinks. I especially get excited when I find pieces with birds or other animals.
Carved wood – From carved furniture to trays and cutlery, I’m fascinated by the intricate craftsmanship and texture of carved wood. I buy a lot of Black Forest pieces which are more like sculptural art. My favorites are black forest hunt plaques with animals or anything carved with acorns.
Bar Items – From sterling liquor tags and aluminum champagne buckets to English pub signs, I love finding antique and vintage bar items. Antique and vintage little tools… corkscrews, ice scoops, coasters and shot glasses are some of my favorites. All of these items are usable and create great conversation when entertaining.
Hunt theme items – In Georgia many people have second homes in the mountains that they decorate with horns, antlers and hunting scenes. I started buying hunting items for my clients, but fell in love with paintings of dogs and deer, Cane ware, hunt pots with animal finials and antler cutlery complete the look.
What are current vintage trends in England?
Globes… I see globes everywhere. People especially collect older globes depicting countries that no longer exist.
Painted furniture – Just as it is in the US, the English are also loving the muted painted look.
Tea services – the English love their heritage and even the young people are buying antique tea sets and actually using them.
What are some of your tips and tricks for shopping in England?
Plan ahead. Book your trip around the dates of large fairs. Explore the small shops in the countryside for a few days and then go to the fairs. That way you are sure to find lots. And if you find larger pieces, there are always international shipper at the fairs.
On manners, dealing with vendors and speaking…
I love this question! Because there are real differences and I think they are so funny! One: Currency. A “quid” and a “pound” are the same thing… it’s the same as a “buck” and a “dollar”. My first shopping trip to England, someone asked for ten quid and with a hand full of pounds, I said I did not have any quid. Two: When negotiating and the dealer says, “Well, go on then,” that means that they accept your offer. The first time I heard this I literally walked away, thinking the dealer was asking me to leave.
What regions of England are your favorite to shop?
Two of the largest antique fairs are in the Midlands. I’ve become familiar with the dealers at the fairs and the surrounding shops in the countryside.
What is your shopping motto?
Try to have your own look. Buy what you like and trust in your look.
What is your favorite vintage piece (either for yourself or a client) that you’ve ever purchased in England?
Well that answer changes with every trip… I usually keep a few things from each trip in my house and then sometimes, I end up selling them later. Other times it works in reverse… where I sell things that I love and regret it and then spend years tying to find another. I have bought and sold water filters for years and finally decided I loved them and wanted one of my own. Right now my favorite English antique in my home is an English water filter that I had made into a lamp and is in my kitchen. It has a beautiful hand-applied label from London.
A big thank you to Heather for sharing her insider knowledge on shopping vintage and antiques in England!