Tips on Styling and buying Vintage For Your Home

Vintage sideboard: B’s Yard via Etsy. Jumper: H&M (old). Jeans: 7 For All Mankind (old). Shoes; Boden (old). Photograph: Christopher O’Donnell.

I’ve never really been much of a vintage shopper. But vintage furniture? That I can do.  I think this is really where your home can stand out on its own and bring more of a unique style to a homogenous interiors world (thanks Instagram).

But, if you’re a novice like me, how do you incorporate it into your home without looking like a musty old shop? And can vintage be mixed with modernity?

I’ve asked 5 experts and owners of home and style I admire, to talk us through their tips.

The wonderful home of interiors guru: Lisa Dawson

“Pick pieces you really love and you can’t go wrong. There’s nothing more exciting than the juxtaposition of old and new!  Gallery walls are a great way to start – hang vintage finds next to typography; old family photos next to a favourite contemporary print.  Mixing it up focuses the eye and creates points of interest.”

Follow Lisa’s amazing home on Instagram here.

Mary, from Mosey Home in North London says yes to mixing eras, too:

  • “It is a big YES YES to putting pieces from different time periods together, so a Victorian piece of ‘brown’ furniture can be great with something rustic from the 1970s. The important things are the shapes and colours and how they work together. We are often told we should layer and add texture, the effect of this will work so much better if you using old and new together.

Don’t worry too much about the condition. If a piece you love has a few marks and signs of wear, well, that is just it’s vintage story. Better that it has a new life with you than you regretting not getting it because of a few scratches.

  • Maybe it is my museum background but I love to talk about objects, their design and their story. I think it is fantastic to have pieces at home that you can talk about, so ask the shop/seller if they know anything about the history and materials of the pieces you buy.”

I recently took part in a ‘Style My Shop’ challenge with Mosey Home, photographed by Barefaced Studios for North Four Magazine.

Kate Watson-Smyth, author and creator of one of my favourite interiors blogs Mad About The House offers the following advice:
“I think it’s absolutely crucial to include antiques and older pieces in your home – they tell a story and add character. One of my top ten design hacks is Something New, Something Old, Something Black and Something Gold. Do that and you won’t go far wrong.
So when it comes to the old, there are ways to style it so that it looks fresh or, what I like to call, antique punk. I have an antique chaise longue which I bought my husband for his 40th birthday (honestly he was totally fine with that) and we recently recovered it in a pale blush pink with a dark floral velvet on the arm and behind the back. Covering the whole thing in dark florals would have looked traditionally Victorian, but by mixing up the fabric that gave it a modern twist.”

Freelance Interiors writer, Claudia Baillie, offers the following advice:

“People always say to me, ‘you write about interiors, your house must be full of amazing things?’, but the truth is that the vast majority of my furniture is from eBay and charity shops. At antique fairs you’re almost guaranteed to find an item or two that you fancy, but there’s nothing more thrilling than unearthing something brilliant in an otherwise dodgy Oxfam. Outlets dedicated specifically to furniture are always worth a visit, as in between the mattresses and melamine you might find a gem.

It used to be all about drastic upcycling, and there’s no doubt that a carefully applied coat of paint can breathe new life in to a piece, but my personal view is to be wary of crazy colours and wacky knobs and try to embrace the item as it is.  There’s definitely more love being shown to brown furniture these days, so a good polish and some gentle restoration might be all that’s needed.

Rattan and bamboo are a huge trend at the moment, and these kind of pieces are so easy to find on eBay. I’ve recently bought a pair of bedside tables and a brilliant mirror for far less that they would cost new, they’ve been delivered straight to my door (for very little I might add) and there is the added kudos that they’re vintage. eBay really is your best friend when looking for second hand specifics, plus the search part is pretty good fun too.

Vintage shopping can be daunting: I like to shop on sites where I can trust the quality, service and style, so for me, Etsy is where I have bought most of my vintage pieces. I find a brand I trust and get to know their online shop, then add it to my favourites so I get alerts when they add something new.

Vintage drawers: Etsy (the brand I bought from is no longer on Etsy but you can find similar here). Plant pot (used as a wastebin!): Ikea.

Elizabeth Dot Designs, upcycling vintage furniture via her Etsy shop. You can follow on instagram here.

  • I asked Dayna Isom Johnson, Etsy’s Trend Expert for her tips for buying vintage furniture online:
  1. 1.  Ask questions – Be specific with questions you ask the seller. Confirm details like colours, fabrics, shapes, and the condition to make sure you know exactly what you’ll be receiving.
  2. 2. Search by era –  Looking for something from a specific decade or have a style theme in mind? Add that term into the search bar to narrow down your hunt for the perfect item.  For example, “mid-century modern dresser”.
  3. 3. Keep a measuring tape handy – Keep in mind that the sizing from previous decades is not the sizing we use in today’s size scale so, be sure to ask for exact measurements to determine it will fit you or within your space. Also, Etsy is a global marketplace so the items you find may come from an international seller who uses the centimeters instead of inches.
  4. 4. Remember delivery costs – if it’s shipping from abroad or within the UK just remember to check the delivery costs before you buy as this can vary considerably when buying furniture as it depends on weight and size. You want it to arrive safely.

Pandora Sykes, Contributing Editor at ELLE & co host of The High Low, whose gorgeous home (above) is full of enviable vintage interiors, shares her favourite stores with us:

“I buy mostly vintage and antique for my house and there are a lot of fabulous websites to trawl. My bedside tables are from Pamono; my bamboo side table is from Selency; my console table is from eBay; my burnished gold wheatsheaf wall sconces are from Vinterior; my floral fringe Gucci-estate lamps are Chairish… but then my blue Halabala chairs and desk are from The Old Cinema, a marvellous emporium in Chiswick, my antique green leather desk chair is from Retrouvius, my hotdog sauce yellow squiggled mirror is a bespoke one by the brilliant Sarah at Balineum and my chest of drawers was from Phoenix on the Golborne Road. I love Jess, who runs Phoenix – and also the Golborne Road in general. Most of my upholstery is done by Susan Osbourne and I have a lot of lights and objets from Couielles des Chiens. The vintage at Found & Vision is also a must.

I advise people to look for barley twist side tables on eBay and Etsy. They are supremely cheap and useful – I have a few and they’re easy to re-paint. Also, with artwork, it doesn’t have to be expensive. You can get gorgeous prints from Portobello Market for a fiver and King & McGaw make brilliant posters, with multiple frame options. I like to mix and match like they do at one of my favourite restaurants, Chez Janou, in Paris!”

Find Pandora on Instagram here.

Quite a few people mentioned that if you see something you like and you can afford it, you shouldn’t hesitate with vintage. That’s often easier said than done though, so I would suggest signing up to newsletters so you know when new product drops (you usually get an extra discount when you sign up, too).

I hope you found this somewhat useful, it’s a pretty new area for me and often, for interiors novices, the world of vintage and antiques can be somewhat bewildering…but again, the online world has really opened it up and I love browsing online for new finds now.

4 Comments

  1. I love your mix of items, gives the perfect individual home. I love the way this brings a home to life rather than looking like a page out of a catalogue, it’s much more personal.
    We’ve not bought vintage, but we have inherited a few pieces including my father in law’s apprentice piece from when he was a cabinet maker (a dark narrow sideboard that is perfect in our hallway), and a marble topped wash stand that I’ve repainted.
    We have bought second hand, more modern pieces. The best buy was our dining table – we were looking for a Piet Hein ellipse table, but with the discontinued shaker legs. Mostly these are with a white table top, but when one came up in the right size with a walnut top it was a no brainer as we already have walnut furniture. I love it because it’s excellent quality, but not the obvious choice.
    I love mixing it up, so an inherited stripped pine desk (quite ornate with turned legs) has a clear acrylic Philippe Stark chair that is very modern.

  2. This is exactly how I would want my home to look if I had the time (and money) to decorate so well! You’ve done such an amazing job. Could I maybe hire you to decorate my house for me??

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