Ali Searls made a discovery last year while traveling to Ohio to help her family sell her grandparents' estate. She stumbled upon unique vintage items on sale at auctions and in secondhand shops for a fraction of the cost of what they'd go for in the New York metro-area where she currently resided. To fill a niche in the market, she decided to go into business, frequently returning to the midwest to hunt for one-of-a-kind items and making them available to other interested design enthusiasts at fair prices.

Searls set up shop on V&M, an online marketplace for vintage furniture, art and antiques. Additionally, she offers a concierge service and looks for specific pieces for clients' homes or businesses. Since launching this venture, Searls has become passionate about decorating with vintage items and is quite the expert on scoring great finds. She has shared with us four tips for finding the perfect pieces and incorporating them into our interiors:

Add one great item from the past to a modern space. Incorporating an amazing original piece that you love into a room will give it character and personality and prevent it from looking like a bland showroom. On the other hand, it's important to edit because too many quirky pieces may make your home look like a museum.

Look for quality. Let's face it. Many items were just made better in the past. Keep your eye out for well-made items that are now only available by mass-production, such as handblown glass and pottery. Searls is partial to housewares made by turn-of-the-century artisans.

Be creative with your finds. Look for items that you can repurpose. Maybe that antique jug would be a perfect umbrella stand! Imagine these pieces intermingling with your current items. For example, vintage salad plates may look amazing with your modern china set.

Don't buy items that aren't functional "as is." Searls agrees that there is charm in patina, but unless you are handy or are looking for a project it's best not to buy items that need a lot of work before they can be enjoyed. Chances are it will never happen. Secondhand items that are in good repair are out there -- just keep on looking!

Click through the slideshow below to see a few of Searls' recent finds, and make sure to browse her V&M shop.

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  • Mid-century tea set

  • Spoked Chair

  • Brass Accessories

  • Matching Vases

  • Rustic Chest

  • Apothecary bottles

  • Scandinavian Design

  • Floral China Set

  • Scrolled Vanity

  • Vintage pulleys

  • Intricate hardware