Ardingly is a virtual treasure trove of perfect one-off pieces, if only you know how to find them.
Without a doubt, I have found some of the most treasured possessions for clients, and my own home at flea markets, antique fairs, and charity shops, but Ardingly is by far the best for unique items. Each piece tells a story of its creation and how it’s been cherished and used
First things first, let’s establish……. what exactly are you looking at Vintage, Antique, Repro?
The Ardingly antiques fair guide to production will help you differentiate vintage from repro.
Most of these items are usually over 100 – 150 years old, so working back from 2019 – we are looking at the early 1900s for production.
Mid-century Modern £££
1930s – 1960s, Pieces you would have seen in your grandma’s home, usually extremely heavy to the touch and solid in appearance.
These items are usually 20/30 years old, the rule of thumb I use, “do I remember this from my 80s childhood?” If yes, the item is officially vintage.
Retro/ and reproduction £
These are a designers Achilles heal, beware if you are looking for a genuine vintage or mid-century product. Often they are copies of the above and were usually created in the early 2,000s, great If you’re looking to create a vintage look for less.
Emma Merry Styling’s top tips to shopping Ardingly antiques fair.
Walk away with the best bargains, at reasonable prices.
Planning prior to arrival.
- Print and download the site floor plan, As you shop, mark the booths where you’ve left paid purchases for later pickup as well as those you’d like to visit again in the day. I’ve found that the sellers with the delicate antiques are the ones sheltered inside but I usually start outside on the periphery marquees, these often house the good stuff e.g.: larger French, Dutch furniture pieces.
- Go early on the first day of Ardingly fair for the best selection, as the early bird catches the worm in this case! Once purchased most vendors will hold larger items until the end of the day for you to collect with your car at the end of the day.
- Ensure you stop off at the cash point before you arrive! Cash is king with the stand holders, you will be sure to secure the vintage sideboard if you can produce the cash whilst negotiating with the dealers.
- Get a cart or trolley, ditch the street cred, it’s honestly worth it!
The granny shopping trolley is a great place to store all your purchases as you travel around Ardingly, preload it with bubble wrap or old towels to keep your antiques, secure.
- Before you arrive, do your homework, make a note of the items your sourcing & approximate size, take a tape measure to the antiques fair. It’s likely you will have to make a decision in a matter of minutes and there are no second chances – when it’s gone, it’s gone.
- Most importantly, enjoy yourself. I always have the best day when I visit IACF, I particularly love chatting with all the vendors finding out the story & history of how they came to find each piece. Always be respectful and polite, dealers want to sell their items to nice people, so be that nice person and you will grab a bargain.
- Once you find your wish list items do check the condition of furniture, lighting, rugs, and other furnishings. Think about how much time and money each piece will take to repair, and make sure repairs are even possible before you make an offer. I’ve found it’s worth explaining why you are haggling, by offering to take on the repair work, they may concede and give you the discount.
- Large discounts on the opening morning of Ardingly just don’t happen. Dealers save the large discounts & deals for the end of the final day when they just want to pack up and hit the road.
- Don’t ever walk away from an item if it’s sparking all the joy! If you love it, someone else will, so chances are it will be sold when you return later in the day.
My client has a limited budget & internal storage, what can Ardingly offer?
- Anything that catches your eye and you think “look at this eccentric piece” Novelty items, such as crazy ashtrays, salad bowls, single stem vases! It could be the hero in the design.
- Modern / Midcentury ceramic pots, all colours and all sizes, these are always useful to fill shelves in and around bedrooms, kitchens, or living rooms.
- Time-stamped items, so obviously from a certain era, 1920 – 30 is my holy grail, whether that’s, fabric, an old movie poster, a sewing box, old telephone, these little touches make a high street interior scream interesting and deep.
In modern home design, how would you use vintage/antique pieces?
When looking at mixing old and new, Texture is the key element. Identify the similarities in the texture of the old glass wear to that reflected in the new woodwork. I have created the eclectic kitchen mood board based with a product found at Ardingly to help inspire you.
Special Contributor Emma Merry, Interior Designer:
Emma Merry Styling is a complete interior design & build service from concept to completion with an emphasis on the bespoke. The studio specialises in everything from space planning, kitchen and bathroom designs, to imaginative decorative schemes with custom fittings, luxurious finishes and incredible fabrics. Based in Reigate, the studio covers the South East of England from Surrey and Kent to Sussex and Essex.