1) Pick your theme. The theme will likely depend on your starting point. It may be that you have a 300 year old country cottage (that's where we started out!) or you may have a more modern house in a country setting. The essence will be whether you have an old setting with modern accents or vice versa. One thing we have learned is that 50/50 old and new doesn't really work - so start in the older style and add a few new pieces or vice versa. The room may be formal or informal in its style - the antique pieces can determine the character of the room.
3) Don't worry about matching the age unless you really need to. A lot is often said in the antique world about exactly matching the age of the antique to the room setting you are creating. We can certainly understand this if, for example the house and room has a distinctive, say, arts and crafts history, but in most instances an exact match is not necessary - it is the style and look that is important. We would even extend this thought to the materials that the antique pieces are made of - there is a real benefit in different types of wood and metal being brought together to highlight the style of the pieces being used
4) Country Antiques can be a lot less expensive than new items. Country antiques are often very inexpensive - certainly compared to modern reproductions and design creations. Look for original pieces with character that were well made from quality materials - they will certainly last another lifetime
5) Always buy on condition. We always buy our antiques on their condition (and completeness) and on their functionality - make sure everything works if there are moving parts! Don't buy anything that is damaged or in poor condition. There are plenty around to choose from so unless it is something really special - keep looking. Many items can be cleaned and restored where necessary at minimal cost. A good clean and wax treatment can work wonders for an older piece of wooden furniture.
More information, ideas and examples can be found at our website www.antiques4cottages.com