There’s a fine line between collecting and hoarding, and Courtney Creighton knows it. Her home in League City, Texas, is like a museum, the product of years of careful curating and a talent for constant editing—every single antique addition is intentional.
“I knew I wanted white walls for a museum-like space,” says Creighton, an antiques dealer and collector whose finds you can shop on Chairish. “I wanted it to be more about statement pieces with a subtle background.”
Despite the 2,700-square-foot home’s current maximalist style (the descriptor “unique” doesn’t come close to doing it justice), it wasn’t always this way. The incredibly cool, gallery-like interior was once floor-to-ceiling beige. No, really.
“It was definitely a process,” says Creighton. “We moved in around 2012; [it was] a cookie-cutter house. It was wall-to-wall beige carpet with beige walls. I think I’ve rebelled against that—it took years to get it to the way it is now, but I’m happy with it.”
You might even say that her house was her first vintage shop.
“At first, I didn’t know what I was doing. I bought everything from Kirkland and Hobby Lobby because I thought that’s what you were supposed to do in the suburbs,” she explains. “I started looking at a lot of books and visual guides and saying to myself, okay, I can think outside the box and I don’t have to do what I’m supposed to do. Who cares? It’s my house. [It’s] kind of how I got into selling because I had to make room for the things I wanted.”
Creighton has been collecting for as long as she can remember. She credits her passion to a bust currently perched on the fireplace—a Craigslist find she scooped up for $10 that she says sparked a hunger to keep hunting for one-of-a-kind pieces. Now a seasoned pro, she sells on sites like Chairish and keeps a lot of her inventory in storage. With three kids, she’s conscious of maintaining a balance between gallery and home: While the space definitely has its museum-like qualities, it never feels impersonal.
“I keep interesting pieces, but I try to keep in mind that nothing here is really too precious,” explains Creighton. “I let the magazines and books pile up; I don’t like to keep it too stark. My favorite design books are ones that look like someone lives in the space—when you can see a little peek into their lives. It’s just like that because five people do live here.”
Her taste, like the contents of her home, is constantly evolving, and in the process of curating her space and pinpointing her personal style, Creighton has effectively fine-tuned the vintage decor hunt down to an art form. Which is why we figured there’s no better person to shed some light on the world of antique shopping—you’ll want to bookmark these tips for the next time you go to a market or a Goodwill. Before you accidentally panic-buy the first vase you see.
“Go to the large furniture sections first, because those are going to be the first things to catch anyone’s eye,” says Creighton. After you’ve rifled through the big-ticket items, then turn your attention to knickknacks or decor—unless, of course, something immediately catches your eye.
Negotiate (where possible)
Attempts at bargaining in the middle of a Goodwill will probably not be well-received. But if you’re headed to a big fair, like Brimfield or Round Top, it can’t hurt—just be sure you do your research and know the value of what you want. “I definitely try to negotiate; as a seller, I know what things are worth,” she says. “I’ve gotten more confident with that over time.”
Look for red flags before taking the plunge on a splurge piece. “The weight of an item is a good indication of the quality,” explains Creighton. “Look at the hinges and joints on furniture; the intricacy and the details of how something is made.”
Any legit dealer should easily be able to answer any and all questions you have as to the specifics of a product. The biggest question to ask? “‘Do you know where it came from?’” says Creighton. “If they say an estate sale, ask what other types of items the person had.” A seller who knows their product and has clearly invested time and effort into tracking it down usually means a more high-quality piece.