A common refrain I hear from clients is disappointment that they feel the younger generations are not interested in antiques and instead want to furnish their homes all at once with new items from big-box stores. While of course this stereotype has many exceptions (I am one of them), it is a topic I think about a lot. As both a long-time antique lover and an appraiser who is younger than some of my colleagues in the field, I feel I have a perspective that bridges both worlds. After extensive time mulling the issue, several thoughts emerged which I outline in this post.
Choosing antiques over new furniture reinforces values that are frequently identified as important to many millennials.
Reason 1: It's good for the environment. The greenest item is the one that already exists, right? Purchasing an antique saves the expenditure of resources that would go into the production of a newly manufactured item. I'm certainly not the first to think of this--check out the UK-based website Antiques are Green (http://www.antiquesaregreen.org)
Reason 2: It's good for your health. Many newly manufactured furniture items contain toxic chemicals such as formaldehyde and acetone. This group of harmful chemicals are called Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) and they continue to off-gas and release toxic fumes into your home for decades to come. Antique furniture was mostly produced without the use of these chemicals and any off-gassing of VOCs has long since ended. For more information about indoor air quality, VOCs, and toxins in new furniture, explore https://www.health.ny.gov/environmental/indoors/voc.htm, http://www.health.state.mn.us/divs/eh/indoorair/voc/, and http://www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/hwtr/CleanupSites/boeing-fabn/VOCs.html
Reason 3: It's good for others. Ethical fashion is increasingly a concern among millennials as the human rights impacts of the fast fashion industry become better known (See the blog Unfancy and the film "The True Cost" for recent explorations of this issue.) Brand new furniture from a large store is the equivalent of fast fashion for your home. Antique furniture is "fair trade" as it already exists and the labor and human cost that went into it happened long ago. There are also some wonderful artisans currently making studio furniture with sustainable materials and humane labor practices, but it can often be quite expensive, which brings me to Reason 4...
Reason 4: It's good for your wallet. Antique furniture is frequently significantly less expensive than new items which incorporate a manufacturer markup. Furthermore, antiques are made of quality materials such as solid wood that will last for many years, eliminating the need to replace poorly made new items as they disintegrate or break down the road. If antiques are passed to you by a family member, they are the ultimate bargain as they are free. Rather than viewing those items as "stodgy" or "old-fashioned" due to their connection with parents or other relatives, try exploring the stories behind them. Start asking questions. Where did your parents acquire this? Why did they like it? How did they use it before giving it to you? Do you have memories of this piece from growing up? I've found that reframing the context of an inherited antique item to reflect the stories surrounding its use can help revive interest in and appreciation of the antique. Plus, it's a great way to help capture your family's history.
Reason 5: It's good for creativity. Why do you want your living room to look like everyone else's? One of my favorite things about antiques is that they are unique, handmade objects. For the pieces in my home, I like thinking about the people who made them, the trees that went into them, the experiences they witnessed before living with me, and the future they will experience after me. My home looks like no one else's because I have collected a group of handmade objects and arranged them to suit my exact taste. Why would you want to give up this satisfaction just to let a big corporation tell you what your living space should look like?