Almost 20 years ago we bought two flats in a Victorian house and set about turning them back into a semi detached home for our growing family. Money was tight but our expectations were high and we knew we wanted to make our home unique and interesting. Ikea then was not really going to cut it for us. Around the same time that we were exhausting the local charity shops and car boot sales, we found out about a massive international antique fair that was held every other month, in Newark Nottingham. We instantly fell in love with our regular trips there, the excitement and the buzz of never knowing what we were going to find, has never left us and 20 years later, we’re still going as often as we can.
Obviously over those 2o years, the trend for vintage, salvaged and reclaimed has grown enormously and although there are still bargains to be had, the heady days of bringing home a french bust for £20 or a dutch mirror for £30 have gone. But if you take plenty of cash and you are prepared to barter, you will come away with some gems and have a fantastic day out, meet lots of interesting people with a wealth of knowledge and build up your dealer contact list. Be prepared to pay what you think an item is worth though, don’t forget it’s not a car boot, these items are often the best of their example you’ll find and the vendors need to make a profit.
So last week as we set off on a rainy Manchester morning and drove into lovely warm sunshine as we approached Newark, we were armed with a list of what we were looking for. Namely a leather armchair, an ethnic rug, some mid century wall lights and lots of artwork to complete our recent lounge renovation. What’s always so brilliant about these types of fairs are that although you know what you want, you’re never prepared for what you didn’t know you wanted until you see it. It’s such an exciting way to shop and is completely addictive. I still get a thrill as I walk through the turnstile, into the showground. The anticipation of that perfectly imperfect item waiting for you to take home is so thrilling.
The antique fair is held on Newark’s show ground and is vast, so be prepared to walk, a lot. Comfortable shoes are called for, suitable clothing for the weather, pockets full of cash, although there are bureau de change available for a small cost and if like me you have a dietary requirement, take something to eat. There are food and drink vendors around the show ground, but they are mainly of the fast food variety. Also take a large rucksack or a big laundry bag and a trolley that you can pull it around on. There are usually vendors on entering where you can buy them if you don’t have one and they are highly recommended. If you see the thing of your dreams and you can’t transport it back home, the vendor may be able to arrange delivery or there are shipping companies at the show ground that can organise that for you.
The event, organised by IACF is on for two days and a full calendar of the organisers events can be found here. The first day you will pay more to enter but as all the dealers, interior designers, props stylists and shop owners are there that day, you will find the best that the vendors, from all over Europe, will have to offer. One the second day the entry fee is reduced and you may pick up some great bargains as the majority of the dealers won’t want to be taking a full van back onto the ferry for the return to Europe. One tip I would advise though, is get there early, especially on the second day, as many of the vendors start packing up shortly after lunchtime, especially if they have had a profitable fair. It’s what they call swings and roundabouts, there are advantages to both days and of course you could always attend both days?
In case you are wondering if this is the chair we bought, no it wasn’t? Out of all the things on our list we only bought some artwork but we got contact details for dealers that regularly get the items we are looking for and of course it gives us another excuse to go and do it all again. The chase is never quite over if you’re a salvage hunter, as some of you well know?