The setting is decidedly English country, and the house — in real life, a historic estate known as Highclere Castle — is filled with antique treasures, many of which will never be available for purchase.
For new collectors who want to learn about vintage furniture, there's no place better than an antiques show. The Maryland Antiques Show of Hunt Valley opens Feb. 24 in Timonium. For three days, more than 40 exhibitors from across the country will be offering their wares. Admissions to the show benefit Family & Children's Services of Central Maryland.
While the government considers an antique anything over 100 years old, many see things through a more flexible lens. You might consider the beautiful mahogany dining table that belonged to your grandmother an antique, even if it's just 50 years old.
But what if you have antiques that you've inherited from parents, grandparents and other family members, and you don't know much about them?
That's where an appraiser such as Baltimore-based Mimi Kapiloff comes in. She can help you understand what you own, whether an 18th-century huntboard from Ireland or a Grand Rapids dining room set from the 1960s. As an appraiser, she doesn't buy or sell antiques, but provides clients with an objective opinion of their value.
If you think you have valuable antiques, it's always smart to have them appraised for insurance purposes or in case of a death or divorce. Kapiloff tells of doing an appraisal for a family and discovering a 15th-century Italian marriage chest in the pile of items destined for the thrift shop. The chest turned out to be worth more than $800,000.
The most important thing to remember about collecting antiques is to buy what is your style and not what is in style. Many shows offer tours by antiques dealers and other experts to teach buyers how to incorporate antiques into their lives.
Deborah Gore Dean, owner of Gore Dean in Cross Keys, is leading a tour for new collectors at the Maryland Antiques Show and will show them how to incorporate antiques in their homes. Here are a few of her tips for new collectors:
•Always buy what you love — shop for value, but buy for love. If you don't love something, no matter how much or how little it costs, it's not a good value.
•Buy what you know — study and then collect. The more you know about what you're buying, the better your buys will be.
•Use antiques for impact. An unusual lamp or a great chair can change a humdrum room into a statement of who you are.
•In another generation, it was the standard to have everything antique as a sign of wealth and sophistication. Now it's sophisticated to mix and match styles.
If you go
Maryland Antiques Show of Hunt Valley
The show is at the Crowne Plaza, 2004 Greenspring Drive, Timonium. Hours are 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Feb. 26. Admission is $15. There an opening night party on Thursday. For more information, go to mashv.org.
Big D.C. Flea Market
The show is March 3-4 at the Dulles Expo Center in Chantilly, Va. Admission is $8. Guests include decorator Eddie Ross, a contestant in the second season of "Top Design" on Bravo. Ross will be leading a tour March 4 to show how to transform less expensive antiques into something special.