'Buy less, but buy better' – Made in Chelsea's Mark-Francis on why secondhand shopping is the way forward

'Ultimately we don't need as much as we think we do'

Mark-Francis Vandelli
(Image credit: Ogilvy)

Made in Chelsea's Mark-Francis Vandelli perhaps has the pinnacle of expensive taste, so who better to consult on tips for secondhand shopping? Investing in secondhand pieces of furniture is on the rise, but knowing the tips and tricks to spot high-value and high-quality items that you'll actually want in your homes can be tough. 

This is why Mark-Francis has teamed up with Google Lens to offer his secondhand furniture shopping tips, so you can learn to search like professional curators, without needing any expert knowledge. With authenticity and worth to consider when making a purchase, you want to know that what you're spending money on is the right decision.

So to help you find the best furniture for a mid-century living room, or to renovate a tired kitchen, Ideal Home spoke to Mark-Francis on his top tips for antique shopping. His first nugget of knowledge? Simply buy less, but buy better. 

Mark-Francis Vandelli

(Image credit: Ogilvy)

Mark-Francis' top tips for secondhand shopping

Having grown up joining his parents at auction viewings and galleries, Mark-Francis has a natural flair for hunting out the best secondhand furniture and art pieces that add value to his home and reflect his taste. 

But if you're used to the experience of shopping on the high street then it can be hard to know where to start with secondhand shopping. Charity shops and online platforms such as eBay can help you unexpectedly land on a special find, but online auctions are Mark-Francis' go-to spot for learning about antiques. 

'I would religiously join my parents at auction viewings and galleries, watching them examine Italian old masters, disassemble French commodes and analyse antique jewellery,' he says. 'Their passion came to be my obsession and the thirst to look, learn and collect became unquenchable.'

What should you shop secondhand for?

Living room with blue built in cupboards, fireplace and antique mirror.

(Image credit: Future)

Once you've decided on how you want to secondhand shop for furniture, it's a good idea to have a particular piece in mind. Although, of course, Mark-Francis says, 'invariably you come home with something that is the literal opposite of what you set out to buy.' 

The beauty of buying secondhand is that you can stumble across one-of-a-kind items without expecting to find them. So this means you need to go in with an open mind and see what you find. 

However, having a few specific items in mind to search for can make it much simpler. 'Side pieces are always a great investment because they will always hold their value,' says Mark-Francis. Not only will it be a great accompaniment to a living room or dining room scheme, but Mark-Francis adds, 'If you're investing with the resale value mind, always look at side pieces.' 

'I think an antique mirror will work in almost every environment as long as the scale is right the proportions and style.' 

Google Lens is also a great help for finding ways to purchase an item you might see that's out of your price range, or unavailable to buy. You can simply take a photo of the piece with the app and it will bring up multiple options to buy online. 

'It's changed the whole thing because how are you going to search for a gold and green rimmed scalloped edge plate? You're going to get 1000 results and it's just not going to make sense.'

Things to watch out for when secondhand shopping

Shopping for furniture on the high street often means you have a generous returns policy in case it breaks or you change your mind. Secondhand shopping doesn't always offer this same peace of mind, but the payoff can be far greater than buying something that everyone else might own. 

So to shop with less stress, there are a few things that Mark-Francis recommends watching out for. 

'Especially with furniture, proportions are so important and the photograph of some things look much smaller. Something can be much bigger than you expected it to be and it just takes over a room, so I think proportion and measuring things is very, very important.'

'But condition, that's fundamental,' Mark-Francis urges. 'So often things arrive and they fall into bits and it costs more to restore something than it did to buy it.'

Ultimately, properly taking the time to think before you buy will help you to make the best purchase. 

'The more you have bought, the more you learn to be discerning because ultimately we don't need as much as we think we do. We definitely don't need as much as we want.'

How do you know it's authentic?

John Lewis ercol collection shown in living room set up.

(Image credit: John Lewis)

If you're simply searching for a few vintage pieces to spruce up your home, then knowing whether things are authentic might not be a concern. However, with larger pieces of furniture that cost more, you want to know that it comes from a reputable source in order to avoid any secondhand shopping scams.

It's also a great way of discovering whether mid-century gems such as ercol furniture are legit. 

'For me, Christie's is absolutely brilliant because you have a quality control,' Mark-Francis recommends. 

'I've bought countless things online and I would say that if I haven't been to see them in person, more than 50% of the time, I'm disappointed by what I get. So I'd say that with an auction house, you already have that filter. They won't take 90% of what people want to sell and you can always trust the description because they've got the world's leading experts.' 

'So whether you're spending £100 or £100,000, you have a 10-year guarantee. So if the item ends up not being as it's described, you have a 10-year guarantee to return to get your money back and I think that's amazing, especially because we know that the market is riddled with forgeries and fakes.'

'The more you spend, the bigger the disappointment, so that's why I think it's really important to put your trust in a company that you can rely on.' 

Mark-Francis and Google have scoured countless vintage shops using Google Lens to discover gems that will be on offer as part of an exclusive 'Google Lens x Mark-Francis Vandelli Edit' auction. In partnership with leading auction house Sworders, the edit will be available for the public to view at its London showroom on Saturday 4th November. 

All proceeds are going to Choose Love, who provide humanitarian aid to, and advocacy for, refugees around the world. 

Holly Cockburn
Content Editor

After starting out her journey at Future as a Features Editor on Top Ten Reviews, Holly is now a Content Editor at Ideal Home, writing about the best interior ideas and news. At Top Ten Reviews, she focussed on TikTok viral cleaning hacks as well as how to take care of investment purchases such as lawn mowers, washing machines and vacuum cleaners. Prior to this, Holly was apart of the editorial team at Howdens which sparked her interest in interior design, and more specifically, kitchens (Shaker is her favourite!).