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Sourcing Antiques and Vintage Post Brexit

For those of you who are just recently following us or new to our site, Pure White Lines started in 2012 solely as a one-man band with Matt, our founder, trading in vintage and antique furniture. Matt started Pure White Lines in a shipping container buying and restoring furniture – turning it over to both the trade and private clients. The name PURE WHITE LINES originated from the huge amounts of classic French line painted furniture Matt restored! 

If you look at our antiques and vintage collections today, we carry a collection of mid-century inspired pieces. We believe classic styles and quality items never go out of fashion. Think, 19th century marble French commodes, worn and perfectly aged French farmhouse tables. Beautiful station clocks through to anything that catches our eye and whatever we’re lucky enough to find on our travels. It is certainly harder and more expensive to source good vintage than it was a decade ago, any dealer will tell you that, however there are still great pieces waiting to be found!

What hasn’t changed however are the locations where the best vintage and antiques can be discovered. So here’s our quick buying guide for home and abroad of where to find the best pieces and our founders top tips on what you need to get the best price and get it home safely!

Church Angel sourced in Northern France, Juliet collecting some French antiques, and the latest addition to the team – never to young to start!

Our Tips

Go with your gut. Great items are harder than ever to find. Competition is fierce, especially at the larger French fairs. You will need to be quick and not mess around otherwise someone will have your gem away swiftly right under your nose. While most buyers still have a little etiquette if someone is negotiating, I’ve seen plenty of situations where another will jump in and make counter offers if someone is too slow.

If you love it pay the money and don’t hit the vendor with a low blow offer incase you offend! Generally your gut feeling is a good guide and the good stuff goes fast.There is nothing worse than the feeling of when you should have bought something and didn’t! The time for negotiating hard is after the first couple of hours when dealers tend to question if they will have to reload something on their vans – this is when you can get the best deals!!!

If buying in Europe you will need a shipper. Anyone regularly buying or sourcing in Europe now has a headache with paperwork and getting items back through customs so the best thing to do before you go is to approach a reputable shipper. When you find something you love and have done the deal – these guys will even collect from the dealer and (hopefully!) get it back home in in one piece for you!! We recommend AWL or Hedley’s Humpers. Top Tip – Remember when you’re negotiating to calculate your shipping into your budget as that huge bank of French drawers for four hundred Euros won’t seem so cheap after the twelve hundred Euro shipping bill!

If sourcing in the UK hire a van. Make sure you hire a van and one with van ties so your bargains don’t go flying around  the back at every corner you turn on your way home! Also be prepared to wheel your purchases out of the fair…. especially at Kempton Park or Ardingly where it can be a pain to get your van close to load, especially on a busy morning! You can usually find transport at these fairs when required (Van Butler is a good on-site one). You could try your luck and offer the dealer a bit extra to drop it off – although most will just want to get home after the early start.

Cash is king. When you’re at a busy market whether in France or the UK to get the best deals we suggest to bring along cash. Especially if its your first time buying at the fairs and you have not had a chance to build up any relationships with dealers. Most UK fairs will have cash point facilities. We recommend having your cash ready the day before so you can concentrate on the hunt!

Top Tip – especially on the continent get a proper money belt and be very cautious – pick pockets are rife! We see it happen at every single big fair in France – you’ve been warned!

Beautiful iron statue of Diana of Gabbi purchased in Southern France and a French Shame / Torture Mask from the revolution (late 18th Century)

Destinations in the UK 

Kempton Park Market: Most dealers say the glory days of Kempton Park were decades ago and it’s more a jumble sale than a fair nowadays. That’s not to say some great things don’t still turn up there. A lot of dealers will use Kempton to clear old stock and to refill the coffers by clearing surplus items ready for their next buying trip. Get more info here.

Ardingly Antiques Fair: Big fairs in Sussex are usually held on a Tuesday and Wednesday bi monthly. The fair opens to buyers at 8am but most of the serious dealers will purchase a selling pitch and go in at 5.30am and take in an empty van to fill. Those coming in later at 8am can’t understand why there is nothing good left! Get more info here.

Lincoln Antiques Fair: We always found Lincoln Fair great for industrial pieces and nice vintage lighting. This used to be the biggest fair in Europe. It is often on at times that coincide with other shows so you can do it on the Tuesday/Wednesday and Newark fair on the Thursday / Friday.  Get more info here.

Newark Antiques Fair – probably historically England’s best and most popular trade fair. Takes place every 2 months at the Newark show ground. Notoriously cold and windy in winter but there are always bargains to be had! Top tip – head to the back sheds at the rear for some of the best dealers! Get more info here.

Shepton Mallet: The south west’s biggest fair and that often turns up great country style furniture from Devon and Cornwall dealers. Get more info here.

Auctions:  In the UK there is also a fantastic auction scene where items can be found week in week out. Remember if it’s a quality piece – with the help of the online world and the availability to view an auction from the comfort of a laptop in bed  – it’s very rare to find something great no one else has their eyes on. Top Tip – remember you will be paying up to 35% commission on the hammer price so take this into account.

Destinations in France 

France has time and time again pulled off some great antiques sourcing for us. Back when we had our shop at the end of Columbia Road, we’d have a very busy weekend in store helped by the flower market footfall, then come Monday we’d be heading back out to France to refill stock ready for the following weekend rush. Post Brexit things have changed and we can’t do that anymore.

The North:
Chatres and Le Mans Fairs – two of our favourite French fairs and where we always seemed to find interesting items at reasonable prices. These fairs are monthly and although technically for the trade – where there is a will there is a way! No one said it was easy….
Where to eat the night before le Mans

Saint Ouen: The Saint Ouen flea is the biggest in the world and best to go on a Friday morning early for actual trade selling and prices. By 11am its often over and everyone has shut up shop and taken the rest of the day off ready to open their stalls over the weekend for the swathes of tourists. There is incredible stuff here and in all the fleas along this stretch of Rue De Rossiers. Be prepared to be hit with prices you would expect from any top London antique shop if not more. This is not an easy place to buy on a budget. With that said its not impossible and it’s a great day out when in Paris! Try lunch at Le Voltaire which used to be Matts regular when in town. 

The South:
Bezier, Montpellier and Avignon are great fairs in the summer and all three of these fairs can turn up some amazing stuff. There is no such thing as a bargain at the fairs anymore as the dealers know there are far more buyers than genuine quality antiques around so will ask high and generally someone will pay it. It’s a very in international buying crowd and people come from all over giving the fairs a great atmosphere and generally the fairs will take place over 4 days with a day off on the third day. Most of the dealers will have red wine, cheese and saucisson on offer. It’s a great opportunity to have a drink and get to know them for your next visit once the buying is done – it may after all just get you a better price!! These fairs are held every 2 to 3 months.

Top tip  – One place we always stay in the South is a small town called Isla Sur La Sorge. It has over 100 antiques shops and dealers. Although its not always priced to trade  – its a really great little spot if you’re into antiques with some fantastic food options available!

Top Tip – eat here when in Sorgue – on fair days its full of dealers and tables in summer are set out in a beautiful French garden – book in advance.

Destinations in Italy

Parma Fair –the one we all look forward too! Certainly, the most expensive and hardest to buy at but every dealer’s favourite. We have a group of friends from the trade and always go out here together and treat it as much as a gastronomic trip as an antiquing one. 

Parma has some of the best mid-century as well as some of the best historical antiques out there. A walk around here is never boring that’s for sure. Held twice yearly in February and October. Top tip – Watch out for fakes and reproductions passed off as genuine –  this fair is renowned for it.

Hopefully the above has put you on the right path to finding some great pieces for your home. We are sure if you go to these fairs there will be plenty of adventures, wine, food and great times to be had even if you end up with an empty van! Happy hunting…

Juliet with a fabulous 19th century Glass House bought in Italy and with a post fair glass of Champagne at Le Jarden du Quai – Isla Sur La Sorgue

Just some of our great finds that are now available to buy…


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