What could be better on a crisp autumn afternoon than browsing through shops on Main Street or foraging through country antique shops in pursuit of that one outstanding collector's piece that has your name written all over it?
Of course, the art of collecting has changed dramatically from the good old days when our grandmothers and mothers kept their ornate sideboards a brilliantly polished display of tea service sets and humble Hummel figurines The search has become all about inspired choices, the opportunity to be avant-garde with enthusiastic and inspired pairings and the freedom to break free of traditional formats and designs. It's all about pieces that complement rather than match, with usability at the top of the list.
"I've noticed that people are collecting things differently than they used to," says Bessy Ferguson, owner of Queensville Antique Mall. "They're coming in now and buying things they can use on a regular basis."
Queensville Antiques, whose motto is "If we don't have it, we can get it; if we can't get it, you don't need it," has over 100 booths and 16,000 square feet of vintage collectibles. Ms. Ferguson defines vintage collectibles as anything from the 1950s to the 1990s, and antiques as treasures that are at least 100 years old.
After touring the booths for a couple of hours, I honed in on some one-of-a-kind pieces that I was eager to adopt as both decorative and functional finds. Old wooden boxes, which come in a variety of sizes, ($45 and up) emanate an authentic country feel while doubling as handy storage units. A seasoned hand-painted wood bench ($169) perfect for the front foyer, radiates a warm country welcome while providing a handy place to store boots, mitts and hats. As a kid, my collection of dolls filled every inch of my room, so the vintage doll carriage ($269) had me rigorously justifying why I should be pushing it home, albeit with no kids in my house. The Alaska ice crusher ($129) is a great way to break through the ice at a party, especially with brand new in-laws or those semi-uptight guests; and the hand-painted Japanese wine bottles ($12 each) bring something unique to a get-together.
And speaking of parties, Queensville Antiques has a booth that sells 'gotta have' beer accessories for the men (and their man caves) on your Christmas list, including a collection of beer signs that double as bar lights. Overheard favourites of two obvious man cave aficionados were the shiny red Budweiser sign ($250) and the multi-coloured psychedelic OV sign ($350). The vintage Jack Daniels card tin ($7) is a jewel of a container for poker cards and chips. The beer signs, jugs and old collector whiskey bottles, such as the Little Brown Jug ($39) will have your guy believing there really is a Santa Claus.
Anthony Leber, owner of Banks Antique and Vintage Furniture, agrees the collectibles market has changed dramatically over the last few years.
"The market for antiques is just not there," he says. "In the case of Royal Doultons, there was such an overflow that they lost their value. People are buying vintage and retro pieces from the '80s and '90s- things that remind them of their teenage years."
Banks offers some fun and unorthodox ways to switch up the ambiance of a room. There's the one-of-a-kind retro-beat 1950s driftwood lamp ($295) and the unquestionably unusual San Francisco tea light candle bridge ($95), a fun way to illuminate a dinner party.
You can also get the collectible look with new pieces from stores such as Home Sense, Winners and the Bombay Company, where I spotted some whimsical elephant lamps. ($179; $149).
Quirky or quaint, collectibles can speak volumes about your style and make your home uniquely you.