Lifestyles Magazine recently caught up with Sharon Wynne, a longtime antique collector and owner of The House of Wynne: A Collection of Shops, located in Tyler, Texas.
What are your thoughts about the future of the antique business?
WYNNE: My perspective comes from my store, The House of Wynne, the 17 other antique dealers that have booths in the store and our customers. Without a doubt, the antique business has changed over the past 20-30 years with lower demand for antique collectibles and furniture. You can definitely buy antiques at lower prices today compared to the past.
The interior design in homes and businesses favors a more contemporary, clean aesthetic with pale, neutral colors and modern styles so naturally the antique business has been affected. While the business has greatly changed, we have found that there is still a strong market for antiques.
At The House, we like the challenge of showing customers, especially the younger generations, how to add antique collectibles or furniture into their homes to create their own look.
Old things tend to have a story to tell. Isn’t that part of the charm of antiques, too?
WYNNE: Exactly! Several of the attractive parts of an antique, small collectible item or furniture, is the history of the piece, charming details that cannot be mass produced today, and the quality construction. You won’t find an antique item put together with 48 screws in Step No. 2.
I love the creativity of some of our antique dealers and customers that repurpose an antique for a different use. Maybe an old school desk becomes a coffee table, an antique spittoon becomes a planter, an old oil tin becomes a lamp or antique brass horse bits are framed in shadow boxes to create a lovely piece of art.
What is the difference between collecting and investing?
WYNNE: Investing is always a gamble or guessing game no matter what your medium for investing happens to be. Most of our customers that are serious investors are looking for art. In different antique stores and malls, you never know when you might find a nice piece of art for a good deal.
Collecting seems to be much more of a carefree hobby and a special way to decorate your home with pieces you love. We are amazed at what some folks collect and there’s usually a neat story behind each collection.
If you want to start collecting, how should you begin?
WYNNE: To begin a collection, find something you have an interest in or an item that has meaning to you. Maybe it starts with something your grandparents left you, a gift from a friend or something that fascinates you. There’s usually a story behind every collection. I personally collect Mason’s Ironstone.
Collections of special items or furniture can help turn a house into a home by adding warmth, special memories and personality.
What are a few good categories to explore?
WYNNE: Collections are purely personal preference at all different price ranges. The possibilities are endless. For small collectibles, our best sellers are Rose Medallion porcelains, Majolica and blue and white accessories.
We have customers that collect barley twist furniture, small mirrors, outdoor concrete statues, birds of any type, sheep of any type, sterling silver, 19th century tools, bamboo decorative items, books, silver trophies, World War memorabilia. The list goes on and on.
Are younger customers discovering antiques?
WYNNE: Yes! Younger customers are discovering antiques but on their own terms. They don’t necessarily want all of Grandma’s heirlooms in their new house but maybe a piece or two to mix in to create their own look.
Why not pair Grandma’s barley twist side table (yes, brown furniture) with a new lamp. Mixing different periods is perfectly acceptable and encouraged these days.
What’s the most exciting parts of being in the antique business?
WYNNE: That’s easy to answer! The interesting people I have met and the thrill of “the hunt.” As antique dealers, we love shopping to find unusual items, fantastic finds and items on customers’ wish lists. At The House, we literally get new merchandise every single day. It’s so much fun for those of us that work there and for our customers.
How has the internet and social media changed the business?
WYNNE: Honestly, I think it is a love-hate relationship. New technology along with the ease of placing orders online with free shipping is hurting retailers especially the small, local businesses. Luckily, for our store, many of the items we sell, customers want to see, touch and feel in person and not buy online, which is understandable for antique collectibles and furniture.
On the flip side, if the small retailers embrace the online avenues for their business then potential growth is endless. We sell quite a bit of merchandise from Instagram and Facebook posts and emails sent to customers. I am always trying to post new arrivals or interesting finds each week.