The Cheat Sheet To Finding The Good Stuff

1. In Peter's world, it's all about the couture details, craftsmanship, and the sign of an artisan's hand: Look for hand-stitching, nail-head trims, embroidery, and hand-woven textiles. It makes anything more special.
2. Look past the scratches, dust, and dirt. Not only can you have anything restored, cleaned, or reupholstered (see below for a list of resources), but you can also change the finish on a table. Try to survey the options while focusing on the possibilities—not on the limitations. In the world of interiors, there really are very few.
3. Don't focus on provenance—unless you really know what you're doing, or are shopping at an auction house that guarantees authenticity, you don't want to splash out big money on something that might be a reproduction. (If you see something too good to be true, it probably is.) This is not to say that there aren't treasures around—just take a deep breath, get out your phone, and search the internet for originals so you can confirm that the details are correct (the wing of the arm, the stamp on the bottom, the type of wood).
4. Measure your space before you go. Beyond the parameters of the area you'd like to fill (i.e., the space allotted for a coffee table), bring measurements for the supporting furniture (i.e., the height and length of your couch, etc.). If you live in an apartment building with small elevators, or a house with unusual doors, be sure that you'll be able to get the item inside!
5. Interact with your potential purchase. Sit in the chairs and make sure they're comfortable and that they don't wobble; make sure a table is the right height, etc. Don't be shy about giving your potential purchase a test-drive.
6. If you're interested in an item, but not overly attached, walk away—do a second lap at the end of the day. If it's still available, you'll have much more negotiating power.
7. Know your budget—and don't forget to factor customs and shipping in (see below for a list of resources). It's easy to get totally carried away in the moment, so know your upper limit.
8. Look for pairs and sets: Vendors generally hate to break them up, so you're going to get a better deal. Besides adding symmetry to a space (see below), you can often use an extra lamp or chairs in a different room.

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