How to Go Antiquing Like a Mainer

According to Portia Clark of Portia’s Barn in Portland.

“Buy what you triple-love,” says Portia Clark, who has been running Portia’s Barn, a rotating collection of curated vintage and found rugs, furniture, art, and objects, out of her home in Portland since 2017. In Clark’s opinion, one that has been honed and perfected since her high school days prowling Goodwill for vintage clothing, that’s the number one rule when it comes to finding gems in the dusty corners of antique stores, vintage boutiques, and flea markets across the state. “I don’t want to buy something where, if I don’t sell it, I’m stuck with it,” she explains. “Double love is okay, but triple love is when you wake up the next day like, oh, I hope that hasn’t sold.” The second rule? Be curious. Stop at a variety of places—especially nonflashy or unmarked ones—and stop often. The 30-mile strip of Route 1 that stretches from Kittery to Arundel, for example, is home to more than 50 unique antique shops. “Be nice and ask questions,” says Clark. Like the watches you see on display? Kindly ask if there are more stored behind the counter. “A lot of times people will open another drawer for you.” And don’t be afraid to fix things, be it an old, beat-up dresser that needs a little elbow grease, or a lamp whose wiring looks a bit, let’s say, sketch. “There’s a wonderful shop in South Portland called the Lamp Repair Shop,” says Clark, who takes her finds there to be looked over. “I’m usually like, okay guys, I think this looks okay, but is this safe?” Another situation in which being nice often pays off is haggling. “If you’re respectful and really like something, you don’t have to be afraid to ask, ‘What is the best you can do on this?’” says Clark. Especially in smaller shops, bargaining is expected. Are there rules on how many types of wood to place in one room? Yes. But also no. “Stop looking at Instagram,” says Clark. “If you love a collection of items and they speak to you, they’ll have a place and won’t go out of style,” says Clark. Finally, and perhaps the most practical piece of advice: rent a trailer and hitch from U-Haul to schlep your treasures home. “It’s $19 for the day, and you don’t have to pay for mileage!”

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