Starting your Antiques Collection – 5 Easy Pieces

You’ve got some money in your pocket. You want to use it to buy a real antique.

And here’s the catch—you don’t want to make a big mistake.

Never fear, says Alessandra Branca, the Italian-born interior designer and antiques dealer who divides her time between New York, Rome and Chicago, where she founded her own design firm in 1984 ( She’s believes in buying five pieces that are absolute, complete keepers—foolproof, if you will.

“These are the pieces you will have from ages 25 to 95 and will take from house to house,” Branca says.

Japanned Screen or Cabinet
“Hung behind a sofa, a Japanned screen becomes a work of art. A Japanned cabinet (pictured above) can serve as an armoire. Either black and gold or red, they are neutral and mix with any era, from the 18th century to the 1970s.”

Baroque Refectory Table
“A table is the first thing you look for. This long and narrow table was made of solid wood, dark, often walnut or oak. It was made in the 17th or 18th centuries and can be used as a dining table, desk or sofa table – offering flexibility and the ability to grow with your life.”

Louis XVI Oval-Back Fauteuil
“This arm chair has a very clean look and can be upholstered in modern or traditional fabric, everything from toile to patent leather. This piece mixes really well. You can float it or use it as an accent next to a sofa – buy a pair if you can.”

Brass Faux Bamboo Coffee Table
“Made in the 1890s up to the 1940s by Bagues, these tables can have a glass, lacquered, or antiqued mirror top. Mixes with traditional, transitional, modern.”

Bouillotte Lamp
“This bronze lamp was made for the 18th century game of bouillotte. It is very sculptural and beautiful and looks wonderful on an end table or next to a bed.”

Branca and Richard Wright, who is a contemporary and modern design auctioneer, will speak on Oct. 6 at a special event inaugurating the Antiques + Modernism Winnetka Show (which runs Oct. 22-24) sponsored by the Women’s Board of the Winnetka Community House.