Love the look of vintage furniture but not sure how to style it at home, if you should upcycle it to give it a new lease on life, or whether to leave it well enough alone? TLC has called in the expert to give you the lowdown, in this comprehensive vintage furniture guide.
Samuel Clarke from online vintage furniture emporium Kitsch Please is on deck today to give you hints, tips and tricks on all things vintage furniture. If you’re into rocking this year’s biggest interiors trends (and my personal fave), The New Eclectic, this post will definitely be of interest. So let’s get you sorted!
How to Buy, Style & Touch Up Vintage Furniture
What to consider when buying vintage furniture
Generally speaking, there are a few considerations that should be made when deciding on a vintage piece, and whether it’s worth the price that’s being asked for it.
- Its origin / where it was made
- Who made it – does it have a maker’s mark or stamp?
- The availability versus rarity of the piece – is there much else like it?
- The size, materials and overall condition of the piece – are they up to standard?
Now whilst that’s all good in theory, it should also be about what your gut tells you. So often I’ll come by a piece with no known designer, in a pretty shabby condition, but I know that I just have to have it! So don’t over think it too much.
If a piece really speaks to you – grab it!
Because the thing about vintage pieces is that there isn’t an unlimited supply. If you take a while to mull-it-over or sleep on it, chances are someone is going to snap it up in the meantime! So some quick decisions are sometimes necessary, but that’s all part of the thrill of the hunt.
Assessing if the Piece is any good
Most vintage pieces are sold with some imperfections. It comes with the territory of being around for so many years! But therein lies their value; they have lasted the test of time, which is a lot more than can be said for many of the modern furniture productions.
Basically, assess the piece on two levels. Firstly, cosmetic. If it looks a bit shabby (and not in the charming way), what can you do to give it a new lease on life? If it looks like more trouble than it’s worth – steer clear.
Secondly, functional. Does it still work and can it be used? If it looks like it’s going to need a bit of work that, with all good intentions, you’ll probably never get around to – steer clear.
To Upcycle or Leave Alone?
Some pieces are definitely easier than others to bring back to life once you have the right tricks up your sleeve. One of my favourite things in the world (not exaggerating) is Orange Oil or Scandinavian Oil. Dab a little on a soft cloth and rub into tired, distressed and even water damaged wood, and watch it come back to life before your very eyes! I’m a bit OCD so I find it really satisfying.
Another tip I can lend is to either teach yourself some basic upholstering skills (thanks, YouTube!), or have a trusted upholsterer at hand. Vintage upholstery just isn’t as resilient as the rest of a piece, and more often than not needs replacing. But it’s a relatively easy thing to do or get done, and once you have, voilà! You have the customised, vintage piece of your dreams.
Whether you should refurbish / improve / alter a vintage piece depends on its relative value. If it’s designer – don’t mess with it too much, you run the risk of it losing its re-sale value.
Mixing New and Old Pieces
Select a few ‘hero’ pieces to introduce into a room. Perhaps it’s a statement piece of furniture, like a Mid-Century Scandinavian sideboard (drool), or some unique, conversation-starting decorative pieces.
The beauty of these pieces is in their story, and where they’ve come from. Your choices and their addition to the space make it unique and a reflection of you and your personal style, and this is the life-blood of your interior.
How to stop it looking like Nanna’s House
I could go on and on… but in short, it’s about balance. Balance in the mix of old and new. That might sound obvious, but it’s surprising how slippery a slope decorating with vintage can be; suddenly you may find yourself living in an era-specific movie set wondering where all the years went! Which might be what you’re going for, but generally speaking, most people don’t want to over-do it.
So, balance. There are no steadfast rules here, but getting the right balance in adding a little old in with the new produces refreshing, unique and eclectic interiors.
Identify a few extra special vintage pieces that will ‘carry’ the room. They don’t have to match, or even be from the same style or era. Achieving the eclectic vintage look is about not being afraid to clash styles and eras, but also consider how you can use colour, texture and themes to build a bridge between them and tie it all together for a cohesive, harmonious space.
When decorating with different eras and styles, there can be a lot going on. So here’s the big tip — just because there’s an empty space, doesn’t mean you have to fill it! Consider yourself somewhere between minimalism and maximalism. Work with your canvas, allow some of it to peek through, and leave some negative space for the eye to rest.
Samuel’s Fave Vintage Pieces
They’re like children, it’s hard to play favourites. But I do! I I do tend to gravitate towards Mid-Century Scandinavian furniture. Their minimalist aesthetic with straight, clean lines accented with smooth organic curves… I love how the pieces from this time often feel/look like they’re about to take off into flight.
But perhaps what I love most are the little pieces one finds along the way. The little $3 treasures you find at a flea market, or the garage sale you stumbled across while on holidays. This collection of oddities provide the finishing touches to an interior to make a space truly ‘you’.
What are some of your fave second-hand or vintage furniture finds? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.