Finding antique treasure in the most incongruous place – now that’s a thrill

<span>Photograph: Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Getty Images

On one hand, I am the world’s least organised person. On the other, I was buying furniture for my future first home aged 13. I am not sure where my love of design and homeware originated. All I know is that while pals were reading Sugar magazine and watching EastEnders, I was purchasing Yellow Pages-sized interiors quarterlies and refusing to miss an episode of Grand Designs.

Mostly, this obsession took (and takes) the form of shopping for secondhand, vintage and antique pieces. My earliest “get” was a huge Guinness pub mirror – somewhat sought after nowadays – that I picked up for £7 in the local Roy Castle shop. I bought my first record player at 15, a restored number. In beautiful synchronicity, it was a 1960s Fidelity targeted at the teen market.

True contentment is browsing antique shops, flea markets, car boot sales and charity shops. All the better when I stumble across a place I never knew existed in an incongruous location. I used to live in an area mostly populated by chicken shops, old-style internet cafes and drug dealers. But, randomly, in the middle of all this, was a wonderful antiques place. Velvet cocktail chairs; opaque-use kitchen appliances; Parker Knoll two-seaters. Tucked-away places and those outside big cities are less expensive and have far more curios. Some sellers scout the same pieces and objects over and over again, which is no fun.

My treasure-hunting doesn’t merely encompass furniture. I will also excitedly pick up first editions of books; obscure records by artists I have never heard of; things I don’t even understand the point of, but that steal my heart.

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The internet has changed this habit. One can now browse online market places and end up in a 5am bidding war for a lightly scratched G-Plan bureau. I’d say the dedicated investigative work that takes place online to seek out something long-desired equals that of happening across a wonder in real life.

But, as we know, there is rarely pleasure without pain. As someone who does not drive, I find myself straining muscles I didn’t know I had heaving footstools home. Or undermining a bargain by paying through the nose for delivery. But that I can take a stroll and pick up five old Penguin editions for a quid each? Or step out of a shop, door chiming sweetly as I leave, in a long-neglected, ridiculously patterned knitted jumper? That’s a vintage pleasure.