By Naomi Atwater

Earlier this year, Oona Atwater opened her dream business to share her passion for antique, vintage, and handcrafted homes. Atwater Interiors and Gifts is in Whistle Stop Antique Center in Ontario, NY, with the goal of finding things that have a unique story because a handcrafted home should be affordable to anybody.

Oona grew up going to garage sales and antiquing with her mom and aunt, and hunting for meaningful items has always been important to her. When she started her own home, she was excited to curate her own collection and spent her free time perusing second-hand and antique stores. And it didn’t take long to have more than she needed for a beautiful handcrafted home.

Oona started reselling some things through Facebook Marketplace and other online resale groups. Still, for several years, she dreamed of starting her own physical shop to share her findings, and finally, she ran into someone who gave her the final push to set up a booth in Whistle Shop Antiques.

As she started up, Oona says she needed to begin small and ask a lot of questions, like what pieces to pick, how to price appropriately, or how to display her shelves. She admits that starting something new is always a risk, and you’re never fully ready, but being a full-time educator, her organizational and math skills came in handy! 

Oona’s dream would be to become known for her style and be a brand that people think of when they want to purchase something they know will be memorable or meaningful for themselves or someone else! She’d love to see second-hand gift-giving be normalized and seen as a beautiful, sustainable, and even more thoughtful approach that brings long-lasting value to your home.

We often have an idea of what we want our homes to look like from Pinterest or other social media. And sometimes, figuring out what our own style is becomes challenging! That’s why Ooona recommends going shopping with a clear mind and seeing what you are drawn to. Even if something does not seem trendy or is quirky, if you are attracted to it, you likely will not regret spending $5 on it. Chances are, you have a unique style that’s waiting to be discovered, which you can end up loving more than you would copying someone else’s Pinterest photos!

Oona suggests it’s also helpful to have a vision for your space and to be patient in the process. You can have a fast and expensive home, or you can have a slow and inexpensive home. The second option creates a lot of opportunities for your own style and story to shine through instead of copying someone else’s. It’s fun to see what you can make work with a small budget and make moments with your stories in a more meaningful, thoughtful, and intentional home.

Usually, this approach means you’ll leave the store with fewer items, but they’re more important to you and your home. 

If you are trying to start your own antique, thrift, or secondhand business, give yourself a budget that is reasonable and realistic! There will always be a risk, so it is essential to start small and see how your business does. 

Start by searching on Facebook Marketplace, garage sales, and estate sales. Begin curating your style by looking for a particular type of object, like a style of pottery or clothing, or something that has local significance to your area. Research the things that you find and establish prices that you wouldn’t mind paying yourself. 

To make sure something you are considering is worth the price, do a quick Google search on the maker and item to see reviews and how quality the item may be. This helps you know if the price is reasonable or if it is, for example, something that could break in extreme temperatures or chip easily.

Oona says taking a calculated chance is worth it because the worst that can happen is that it falls apart; you get to keep a collection of things you think are beautiful.

Follow Atwater Interiors and Gifts on Instagram for antique and home inspiration and to stay updated on the latest collections!

Naomi lives in Pittsburgh, PA but her roots are from a little Christmas tree farm in upstate New York. She works in marketing for Greater Europe Mission, an international nonprofit organization. She’s always finding ways to make room in her budget for traveling and reads over 100 books each year.