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Triangle antiquing community provides vintage pieces and stories


Leah Schwagerl, a UNC senior, grew up around furniture from the late 1800s and early 1900s in her grandmother’s house, pieces that she said were unique, quirky and higher quality than items that are made today.

Now, she said she enjoys looking for antique furniture and trinkets, inspired by her grandmother.

“Not that I necessarily go and buy it, but it's more of an inspiration thing for apartment setups and interior design purposes,” she said. 

Schwagerl participates in the active antiquing community in the Triangle. Kevin Mayeu, the founder and owner of the Raleigh Furniture Gallery, said almost any type of antique item has the possibility of coming through the area. 

“If you can imagine it, you will see it,” he said.  

Ranging from true antiques — pieces that are more than 100 years old — to mid-century modern items, Mayeu said the antiques world is very nuanced. The Triangle and surrounding area, he said, sees pieces from locations as far as Europe, Asia and South America. 

Raleigh Furniture Gallery, which Mayeu opened in 2011, focuses on antique and other high-end furniture. Beyond Mayeu’s store, the area is home to antiques stores, markets and festivals all specializing in something different. 

Schwagerl said she tries to go antiquing a couple times a month, and often finds events, like markets, through social media. She has visited a vintage market in Chapel Hill, TrunkShow in Raleigh, and is hoping to go to Raleigh's Father and Son Antiques in the future. 

Jenny Sellars, owner of SuzAnna's Antiques in Rolesville, said she has noticed an increased interest in antiques among younger people. While she thinks some people have developed a "disposable mentality" and prefer furniture from stores like IKEA, she said, there is a resurgence in people buying antiques.

“Now people are realizing that the older items are much more stable and much more stationary and they're better quality and they're more fun, and you can update them with paint or with stain, or with doing something differently or using them in a different fashion from how they used to be used,” she said

She said younger customers are drawn to barware and mid-century modern pieces,  and what they buy might depend on life stages. For example, college students might be looking for a cheaper coffee table for a first apartment, or millennials might be searching for their first family dinner table. 

SuzAnna’s antiques, Sellars said, aims to keep 90 percent of its items vintage or antique, and provides a mix of different pieces while trying to keep prices manageable. 

Sellars said that antiques are objects that tell a story, and said customers might be drawn to them because they are visual memories. 

“It's just the nostalgia that brings people back,” she said. “They'll walk through the shop and look at things and be like, 'oh, my grandmother had this and I remember her sitting there making cookies and using this bowl,' or 'that tin was always sitting on her counter.'"

For Schwagerl, the draw of antiquing is the thrill of the hunt.

Various festivals and markets across the Triangle provide the hunt that customers like Schwargerl look for. Located in the N.C. State Fairgrounds, the Raleigh Market is hosted every weekend and has sections for vintage and antique furniture items. And in Efland, the Tarheel Antiques Festival is hosted twice a year on the farm of the Lloyd family, who have been farming in the area since 1752.

“You never know what you're gonna find,” Schwagerl said. “And so, just how unique all the pieces are, and the stories that some of the vendors tell as you're looking through their tent, or their market or their building, if they have a storefront. I find that to be really appealing.”

@dthlifestyle |

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