Spring always makes me want to spruce things up at home. And, happily, this year I find myself vintage treasure hunting again.

vintage treasure hunting at the Heirloom booth at Ottawa Antique and Vintage show
The “Heirloom” booth at the vintage show on Saturday. Those green metal garden chairs are right up my street.

I’ve always been a lover of old things. My house is full of beat up wooden boxes and tins, bits of old furniture, jugs, you name it. Most of the treasures in my house are family treasures. The wooden tool box and butter churn in my sun room that came from the farm. A blue and white tea set, a few pieces of furniture, and a painted plaster cat chasing a red ball which all came to me from my grandmother Sullivan, and which all lived in her house when I was a child. Lately I’ve acquired some treasures from my mum. My favourite being an orange and green painted tea set which now resides in my buffet.

The things I have that aren’t family treasures I found when my friend Mary and I used to regularly scour antique shows, and shops, back in the eighties and nineties. But I haven’t gone vintage treasure hunting for a while now, unless it’s the vintage clothing show in the fall. Which I love.

lots of vintage treasures at the Heirloom booth
Lovely quirky things at the “Heirloom” booth. See that painted rocking chair on the right?

The last ten years I was working I didn’t have a lot of time to dedicate to home decor shopping in the spring. Mostly because once April hit, things at school kicked into high gear. Major projects in all of my classes, and piles and piles of marking. Then, once I became a head, there were tons of other things to be done between April and June. Budgets, staffing and timetables, and curriculum planning for the next year, plus meetings, meetings and more meetings. I’m lucky I had time to shop for my spring wardrobe.

House stuff was definitely relegated to the summer holidays. And to be honest, shopping for the house actually took place during a designated couple of days in the summer holidays, and mainly consisted of restocking sheets, towels, and other necessities. Because, well, the rest of the time I was more interested in travelling, camping, cycling, reading, having lunch with friends. You know, holiday stuff.

Once I retired I felt the spring urge to go vintage treasure hunting again, but there were always other things to preoccupy me. Major outside renovations, siding and windows one year, then inside work removing carpet and having hardwood floors installed. Then we bought new living room furniture shortly thereafter. Of course there was the spring Hubby had heart surgery, and the years we travelled in the spring. And once the summer arrived, oddly enough, the urge went away. Weird, eh?

If those all sound like excuses, I guess that’s because they are. If I’d really needed something, of course, I’d have made the time to buy it. But vintage treasure shopping isn’t about need necessarily. It’s about the hunt, and enjoying the process, as much as it is about finding what you’re looking for. At least in my world. If you know how I shop, you’ll understand that I need a lot of time to find just the right piece for just the right place in my house. I know, I know. I’m as anal about shopping for the house as I am about clothes shopping.

vintage white plates, painted and unpainted furniture, locker from a convent, and some religious iconography
Hmmm. White. Maybe I need more white in my dining room?

But this year, folks, I’ve been doing my research, looking in decor magazines, and on Pinterest for inspiration, and I am ready to shop. I’ve identified a couple of areas of need. I want to find a series of small vintage pictures to put on a wall in my dining room. And some jugs to use as vases. And of course I’m open to being inspired by whatever I find.

That’s what was so lovely about Saturday this past week. My friend and I attended the Ottawa Antique & Vintage Market at the field-house at Carleton University. We happily strolled and browsed, up one aisle and down another, and then we came upon the “Heirloom” booth. I thought it was the most beautifully curated booth I’ve seen in a long time. I just wanted to stand and gaze. And then take everything home. Ha.

Like this “tablescape”, below. See how they tucked all manner of plates, and even some non-plates under each other? Mixing instead of matching. I love that. Each place setting is different. I love how they hung white sheer curtains at the back of their booth, overlaid with unfurled sheets of old paper from player pianos. Everything was white, or cream, or had the soft patina of age. Except for a couple of tiny pots of green, and those cheery daffodils below. The whole effect was stunning. At least I know I acted stunned, standing in the middle of the aisle, gazing, blocking traffic, while the flow of shoppers moved around me. Ha.

vintage treasures arranged into a tablescape
The beautifully and creatively arranged table in the “Heirloom” booth.

Then I started chatting to one of the owners, Emily. That’s her below with the dark hair. What a lovely young woman. And so keen about her growing business. We chatted about where she and her partner find their treasures, how much fun (and how much hard work) it is to set up their booth. How lovely it is to be able to be creative, and to share their passion for their finds with their customers. Emily said they have a permanent booth at the flea market in Carleton Place, located at 525 High Street, and will soon be opening a second spot in Perth. You can also find them at the spring and fall Ottawa Antique & Vintage Market held at the Carleton University fieldhouse. If you want to, you can follow Heirloom on Instagram here. Or contact them at Heirloomhousehome@gmail.com.

the women behind the vintage treasures of Heirloom collectibles.
The girls of “Heirloom.” Emily on the left, and her partner, Sheila.

I didn’t buy anything at the “Heirloom” booth… this time. But I went home with lots of food for thought. I didn’t leave the show empty handed, though. I bought a lovely cuff from the 1920’s. And a teensy, weensy cotton handkerchief, soft green and pink and white. Just like the ones we used to tuck into our little-girl purses when we went to Sunday School, along with a dime for the collection plate. Ha. I’m really dating myself now. That hanky will make a sweet pocket square for the jacket of my navy spring suit, don’t you think?

Successful vintage treasure hunting. White ivory cuff from the 1920's and 1950s women's cotton handkerchief
Silver and ivory cuff from the 1920s and a cotton handkerchief.

I suppose that I will get to wear my navy suit before autumn rolls around. Maybe. Sigh. But looking out my window at the sleet coming down, and the snow covered lawn (again!) … it feels as if I may just have to move somewhere warm to be able to wear my spring wardrobe.

Now, “enough of that” as my mother says. Instead of whining, I’m going to get on my exercise bike and pretend I’m pedalling to Perth, Ontario to go vintage treasure hunting. In my sneakers and my navy Max Mara suit. With a lovely little green hanky tucked into the jacket breast pocket.

On second thought, I’d better leave the bike at home and take the car.

When one goes treasure hunting, one needs cargo space to bring home the treasures.

I wonder if Hubby will lend me his truck. 🙂

Now, how about you my friends? Are you doing any spring sprucing up. Shopping for treasures, vintage or otherwise?


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20 thoughts on “Vintage Treasure Hunting Again”

  1. Spring is the perfect time of year to go “vintage treasures shopping” as you call it. (Um, well… Summer, autumn, and winter aren’t too bad either.) I love that table scape by the way, just the right amount of modernity (simple white dishes), texture (worn wood), and the freshness of the flowers and plant. Lovely.

    I can’t remember the last time I went through an antique shop unless it was to divest myself of a few things before my last instance of shedding and relocation. My focus at that time really was to reduce my own abundance of possessions, rather than to enjoy the process of browsing and learning and considering the acquisition of more. But I really think it is the browsing and learning about the history of objects and then imagining all of their uses that is so much a part of the pleasure, regardless of what you do or don’t take home.

    I will confess to a “faiblesse” for blue and white transferware, however, which has been known to seduce me into taking a “new” old dish or plate home.

    Happy hunting! And may spring come soon to your neck of the woods.

    1. I think I may need some more white plates or a vase or something to brighten up the wood in my dining room, which is quite dark on its own without the dark furniture.

  2. I’ve been hunting for old treasures all my married life . Mainly at antique fairs which were madly popular at one time . Not so these days as the next generation have switched to minimalism & lots of ‘ surfaces ‘ . They see old treasures as clutter . That’s fine but like all decor it’s not always easy to get right . Cluttered homes can be full of junk & claustrophobic . Minimalist homes can feel like a dentist’s waiting room . My home of course is tasteful & perfect ?. I rarely visit those fairs anymore as it would mean dumping something special to find room . The only temptations now are , funnily enough , jewellry & scarves . So I would loved to have poked around on that stall you found & I’d have broken all my rules for those garden chairs .

    1. I saw a minimalist home on a lifestyle blog today and I was thinking of your comment. When I look at them I always wonder where do they keep their keys, and the notes about what they need at the grocery store, or where do they put their book down when they finish reading it? Those garden chairs would have been great in your garden.

  3. Beverley in Canada

    Oh, that sweet little hanky! And the white patent leather Sunday school purse it brings to mind. Accompanied by white cotton gloves of course…

    How clever to tuck it into a breast pocket. Must remember that. ?

    1. White cotton gloves of course. We always had white gloves for church. I remember my mum wearing white elbow length gloves. She said when she was growing a lady never went to town without a hat and gloves.

  4. Glad you had a visit to a lovely show and found a couple of small items. Simply no room left in my house for new/old treasures. Inherited all my in-laws things when they moved out west a couple of years ago. Focusing on the replacement of the infrastructure — our outside deck was redone this past week. Bathrooms, carpeting, roof, HVAC all to come.

    1. Oh… that’s what we focussed on when I first retired, foundation repairs, siding, windows, a surprise roof repair, a new deck, then inside floors, and finally new living room furniture. We’re done with the big things for a while!

  5. I really enjoy poking around these kinds of places but very rarely buy. It is the seeking out of things that I like, just to know that they still exist somewhere. Often it is things from my childhood that were disposed of long ago. There is something very comforting in this. I just like seeing them, like old pals.

  6. What a fun post Susan! When I was younger I got the bug to visit antique shows and shops every fall and would often go on Saturdays. I have lived in older houses since leaving my childhood home, and modern furniture and decor would look totally wrong. So I have furnished my homes with lots of older quality wood furniture while buying new for upholstered items. I reached the point where I could no longer accommodate more purchases, so now when I go I concentrate on unique accent pieces. A friend and I are planning a day of this soon, after the latest (and we hope FINAL) winter storm blows through here in Minnesota the next couple days. I do love seeing well-curated booths and displays, so looking forward to this!

    1. Thanks, Deanne. Pretty much everything that is not a bed or a sofa or an upholstered piece is something old. I love the idea of combining new and old stuff.

  7. Love, love that booth! I know the stopped dead in my tracks feeling as I experienced it last week for the first time in eons. I could have bought it all. To top it off, a very attractive man (turns out to be the booth owner, a musician) was playing his guitar, and offering songs with purchases! The magic was in the curation. I realized I needed it all to have the same effect and really I just want him to come to my home and curate my stuff. Only the fear of the young man misunderstanding why this middle aged woman was really inviting him to her home kept me from asking!

    1. You’re right it’s the arrangement of items that’s so fun to see. And sometimes chatting to the owner can be fun. Not always. Ha.

  8. I’ve always been a devotee of antique fairs, flea markets and NYC’s clean out the house weekend, though I haven’t been to that in awhile. Families bring out their castaways curbside on Friday evening, and the City will haul away anything that isn’t scoffed up before the City trucks arrive. The last time I did that I came home with a beautiful silver candelabra, an English wood and leather side chair and a lovely chess board…all for nothing!
    As for your finds, I love that ivory cuff. I would have come home with that, too!

    1. That clean out day must have been a blast. Hubby and I used to head out every Saturday morning with our cups of tea to see what garage sales in the area were offering. Then it wore off. But we loved doing that for a few years.

  9. I love this post as I’m really ‘into’ vintage and antiques, here in England. I have a unit in a vintage shop and love buying for it. The Heirloom booth is great – so well displayed. The only thing I’d say is, it’s so disappointing as a seller when a customer admires everything and chats to you, but doesn’t buy anything, even a small item! Love your blog; you write so well.

  10. Hope my previous comment didn’t come over as rude! I was just recalling days of doing booths in draughty tents, or outdoors in market squares and people chatting, but not buying! But you’ve given them some great advertising. I’d love to attend those fairs! We have a lovely local one in an old country mansion that you’d love – at Burton Court, Herefordshire, UK – http://www.antiquesintents.co.uk

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