Sign up for our Newsletter

There’s much to dazzle the eyes at James Maguire Antiques. (Photo credit: Doug Young)

Antiquing here on the South Fork can be a treat for the eye, a learning experience and a thoroughly entertaining treasure hunt. So why not make a day of it? Whether you’re after timeless furniture or items with singular craftsmanship to define your living space and personal style, half the fun is the search. Interior decorators and designers know this all too well and frequent many of the antique shops across the East End for nostalgic and unique pieces, chandeliers, furniture, mirrors and collectibles for their clients. While this may sound intimidating to the average home shopper, antiquing is for everyone and makes an excellent day-trip agenda. Just make some room in the car trunk before the trek. You may find something you can’t live without.

For over 22 years, James Maguire Antiques (94 West Montauk Highway, Hampton Bays, 631-723-3928) has been a must-stop on the antiquing trail. It occupies a historic house with many rooms that are lovely to explore and are tastefully filled with 18th- and 19th-century antiques and furniture, brass chandeliers and home decor objects. “Some people come for specific items and find them, and some people don’t know what they are looking for and find things,” says Maguire, who acquires his goods from estate sales and auctions, including concrete garden sculpture and wrought iron outdoor furniture. “I buy things for the shop that I like. This way, if I get stuck with them, at least I like them.” Don’t forget to check the storage containers out back — Maguire calls them “spillovers” — that are filled with unique finds.

Specializing in 18th- and 19th-century American and European furniture and decorative arts, Ann Madonia Antiques (36 Jobs Lane, Southampton, 631-283-1878) has been an East End fixture since 1990. Madonia’s in-store displays often mix older pieces with mid-century objects that attract younger customers — or what she calls gran-millennials. “There’s a traditional vibe coming back in vogue. I’m finding more and more people in their twenties and thirties interested in what their grandmothers had,” she says. “People like quality these days.” 

Madonia also realizes the importance of “good art,” which is evident from the Warhol — an the “original silkscreen print, with the original pigment” — in the front window. A recent find of a watercolor, “Sailing by Montauk Lighthouse” by post-impressionist David Burliuk, who resided in Hampton Bays, is also proudly displayed. Madonia loves to share her knowledge of long-gone craftsmanship in her larger furniture pieces, too, many of them mahogany with decorative flame graining in the veneer finished with a French polish, an old technique done by hand. “When you find furniture with these details, beautiful hardware and water-like lacquer finishes, it can add texture to a room,” she explains, “especially when complemented with a gold leaf mirror.” Not in the market for an 18th-century wardrobe? “I always have a sale table,” reassures Madonia.

East-Enders naturally are drawn to historic nautical décor, and Randy Kolhoff’s Black Swan Antiques (26 Main St. Sag Harbor, 631-377-3012) delivers the goods. “It’s Sag Harbor, and we are connected to and have an appreciation for the sea,” says Kohlhoff, an avid fisherman and antique expert with over 20 years in the business. The inviting shop in the heart of the village attracts a loyal fan base. While whales, ship paintings and swordfish taxidermy adorn the walls at Black Swan, you can also find unusual one-of-a-kind pieces and furniture in a range of styles from primitive to classic French. “An appreciation for craftsmanship as opposed to mass-produced is coming back,” notes Kolhoff. “We tend to attract unique customers looking for unique things, and antiques lend themselves to that.”

The eclectic furnishing finds at Marika’s (6 South Ferry Road, Shelter Island, 401-862-6607) make it one of those pullover spots that beckon you from the road, most likely because the lawn outside resembles a fantastic yard sale filled with vintage outdoor furniture. For over 30 years, the Shelter Island shop attracts not only day-trippers, locals and second homeowners but avid collectors looking for a great deal. Owner Marika Kaasik knows good design, and while there is a treasure trove of lighting and other objects to peruse, the furniture finds are a surprising delight. Step inside on any given day, and you can spot pieces designed by Charles Eames, George Nelson, Hans Wegner or Heywood Wakefield. You may even blink and miss an incredible Cavour Desk by Carlo Mollino or a three-seater Oslo sofa!

We’re going to need a bigger car.