Karen Barlow is an experienced stylist with skills in art direction, interior design, photography, and styling. A strong interest in vintage dealing led to Karen creating The Old Potato Store, selling ‘unique worn and slightly faded vintage treasures from the stylist's cupboard for a modern rustic home’.
iacf were lucky enough to speak to Karen and discuss all things antique. Including what led Karen to her desire for antique and vintage items and some fabulous hints and tips for those who want to get into antique shopping… but have no idea where to start!
With Karen regularly attending Newark Antique Fair, we had to ask what her favourite thing is about visiting Newark Antique & Collectors Fair - the largest antique fair in Europe.
“My favourite thing about visiting Newark Antique fair is the sheer scale of the fair and the amount and range of different sellers from all over the country and Europe”. Newark has been described as the ultimate treasure hunting ground and holds the crown for ‘Europe’s Largest’ so we can see why Karen says “you can buy so many interesting things there that you wouldn’t normally be able to get in this country!”.
Hearing about Karen’s fondness for iacf’s fairs, we wanted to find out a bit more about where her love for interior designing started and how she became so passionate about vintage and antique items. So where did Karen’s spark for vintage and collectors items come from?
“I’ve been attending antique fairs since I was about 7 years old with my parents, who were both collectors. My dad repaired antique clocks for dealers, but I became properly interested when I bought my first house 30 years ago and have been going to Newark for almost as long. I trained in interior design 14 years ago but had always sold items to other shop owners, online and at vintage fairs before becoming a full time creative business owner.”
Karen’s antique pop up shop on Instagram, @theoldpotatostore, launched just 18 months ago and is already a favourite amongst many antique and vintage enthusiasts. Looking at these images, it’s not difficult to understand why.
Instagram has become one of the favourite platforms to browse interior designs and get decor inspiration, with vintage household items at the heart of the design inspiration. It’s not surprising that Karen’s antique pop up shop has gotten so much interest from vintage enthusiasts. The ease of purchasing these items contribute to the enjoyment for customers, allowing them to browse items through aesthetic imagery helping them imagine the item placed in their own house.
Offering a beautiful vintage selection to choose from, @theoldpotatostore meets consumers’ wants and needs from vintage products and continues to sell products to happy customers. With so much inspiration, it’s understandable why so many people want to get into interior design themselves, and with Instagram offering such a great platform for interior stylists to showcase their designs, it’s easy to see why more people are becoming interior designers themselves.
Knowing where to begin is always the hardest part. Karen has given her advice to those wishing to get into interior design but has no idea where to start!
“It’s a very competitive business so having some kind of creative background and qualification definitely opens doors. Start by collating a portfolio of your work to demonstrate what you can do, even if this is by setting up shots in your own home and sharing them on a social media app. Network as much as possible. There are lots more opportunities for this now with social media and creative meetups in local areas.”
We want to know more about Karen’s personal taste in antique shopping and what led her to our Newark Antique Fair…so what main features are focused upon when looking for antiques?
“I try to stick to a signature palette of muted and versatile colours that will fit into any type of home. I’m attracted to anything with a rustic patina and a time-worn and weathered appearance and I have a particular passion for original paintings and old photography, which I collect for my own home.”
Antique and vintage enthusiasts can definitely tell the difference between those who are passionate about certain items and it helps to follow your heart with these areas. If you’re looking to join Karen in interior designing, or just want a new hobby, follow whichever item category you are passionate for, whether it be luxury interior design, art decor, antique furniture or antique art, there are items out there for everyone to indulge in. If you’re looking for some inspiration, LoveAntiques.com is the number one website for buying and selling antiques online and has a large variety of items available.
Selection of items available on LoveAntiques.com.
Flemish 17th Century Carved Oak Cabinet
18th Century French Mahogany Enfilade with Black Marble
If you are interested in getting into antique dealing and want some expert advice, Karen shares her top tips…
Check out the event organisers' websites and their calendar of events and make a note of them in a planner or on your calendar and I would try and aim to go on trade day which is the first day of the event. It’s more expensive to attend that day, but you’ll get the pick of the best stock.
Get there as soon as the gates open and take lots of cash, as most dealers prefer this and it gives you the opportunity to negotiate on price.
Take a shopping list of items you are looking for so that you’re focused and not overwhelmed by the sheer amount of products for sale and do some homework before you get there of what is a reasonable price to pay for what you're looking for.
To those who have never attended an antique and collectors fair, they may doubt that they will actually find items they will like! Is it worth the journey? Karen holds years’ of experience in interior styling and designing and when questioned what her favourite item she has seen at IACF, Karen couldn’t pick just one!
“There have been so many that it’s impossible to pick just one but if you are looking for beautiful country house furniture there are some beautiful examples. It’s amazing for French country furniture, chandeliers and decorative mirrors, beautiful linens and brocante”.
Genuine French Brocante Style Antiques at Ardingly IACF.
With more and more people investing time into their homes, it’s hard to disagree that Antique and Collectors fairs aren’t the best way to find those one-of-a-kind items that will wow your guests!
We ended our interview talking about a more serious topic, why are antique products so important to raise awareness for? There must be more reasons than just finding beautiful items that are unique. Why are antique items becoming more popular to interior designers and people looking for new finds for their homes? As well as items coming with history, they are also sustainable and much better for our environment.
“As we become more aware of sustainability and the need to stop adding to already overflowing landfills, antiques are a conscious way of decorating and furnishing our homes. The craftsmanship and materials used in these pieces surpass most of what is available today on the high street and the pieces are timeless classics that will fit into any style of home and can be passed down through the generations. If you become tired of a piece and want to replace it, you can always sell it on and usually reclaim your money, so it’s also an economic choice.”
For more information on how beneficial antique items are, read LoveAntiques.com’s blog on “Antiques vs. Modern Furntiture - which is better for the environment?” and discover why so many people are favouring antique furniture over modem furniture and how much you can help the environment by purchasing antique items over new!
Thank you Karen Barlow, for discussing all things antique, we hope to see you again at our fairs in June.