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Good design doesn’t have to be expensive to look expensive. Some of the greatest designs are often created using a blend of old and new. Enter flea market finds, vintage pieces, stores selling overstocked items and even garage sales. The key when evaluating newly found treasure is to be able to recognize if something is of quality or not and perhaps even its potential value.

Here are some tips on what to look for when on the hunt.

1. Look for hardwoods vs. veneered items. This is a great quality test, especially if you are considering a piece of older furniture. Furniture made during a certain time would have been made using solid wood as opposed to veneer over particle board.

2. Do the weight test. Well made items tend to be heavier than their cheaper counterparts.

3. Look for markings. Often markings are a good sign, as they may indicate an artist signature or quality stamp.

4. Look for signs of wear. Items that are chipped or look like they have been repaired tend to have reduced value.

5. Be aware of items that are new but of poor quality. If you are looking for value or an heirloom quality piece, a piece that appears new will likely not be what you are looking for.

6. Shop well known or juried shows. There are numerous markets across the country in which the vendors pay a fee to showcase their wares. Often these vendors are vetted, and their work is submitted prior to their participation in the show.

7. Buy directly from local artists and craftsmen. Buying directly from the person who made or will be making your item is the absolute best route, especially if you are in search of something that may be curated and unique.

8. Don’t overpay for an item. Do your research and don’t be afraid to haggle.

9. Shop early. When going to a market in which items are cash and carry, the earlier you shop the better to secure the best items.

10. Grab brochures and business cards. Even if you are not ready to buy, keep the contact information of an artisan whose work you like. You can always reach out to them later and make a purchase.

Cathy Hobbs, based in New York City, is an Emmy Award-winning television host and a nationally known interior design and home staging expert with offices in New York City, Boston and Washington, D.C. Contact her at info@cathyhobbs.com or visit her website at cathyhobbs.com .

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