Not sure how to re-create that interior look you love with vintage finds? Here’s how.

Not sure how to re-create that interior look you love with vintage finds? Here’s how.

You are moving into a new place – or perhaps thinking your current home could do with a lick of inspiration. It’s easy to create a collection of stunning boards on Pinterest but actually getting started can be a tricky reality. It might seem that the rest of the online world knows exactly what they want and can name it – what even is a Børge Mogensen sideboard? And where do you find one exactly? Design blogs are full of inspiring homes, the owners of which will talk about how they happened across across a piece from somewhere at the end of earth. It can quickly go from inspiring to a bit intimidating.

Pressed for time?

Pressed for time and not keen on navigating the unchartered territory of vintage furniture, many might retreat to the more familiar realms of Ikea. We still think that it is worth making the effort to track down that perfect vintage piece. It needn’t take up all of your free time either, although for some the process of searching for and discovering that one special find becomes a real pleasure! It is so satisfying to unearth something that is completely unique to your home.

We should connect to the items we place into our homes. It makes an immense difference to the way we feel when at home and develops a strong sense of belonging to the space, rather than retreating to an impersonal and uninspiring cocoon every night. Your home doesn’t have to – and probably won’t! – look like a design blogger’s home overnight but it’s 100% better to let the space grow slowly over time rather than panic fill it with impersonal furniture from day one.

Concerned about quality?

Vintage furniture might seem quite daunting for first time buyers. Some people feel that they will end up compromising on quality or durability by opting for an older piece. Fortunately, this couldn’t be further from the truth. The craftsmanship of much 20th century design is unbeatable and the fact that these pieces are still going strong and haven’t buckled after decades of use is testament to the skill with which they have been made.

Vintage and antique furniture is often made from beautiful solid woods. You might notice that some mid century pieces are a hybrid of solid veneers and modern materials like plywood. It’s important to remember that when man-made boards like chipboard and plywood were invented, they were state of the art, cutting edge materials. Everyone from famous Danish designers to normal consumers wanted to use them because of the design possibilities they allowed. The key difference when comparing mid-century furniture to modern equivalents is the concept of flat pack. Pieces made in the mid-century period were fully assembled in a factory by craftsmen who were responsible for the quality of the finished product. This product would then be inspected for defects and not allowed to leave the factory unless it passed inspection.  

Modern mass market furniture uses many of the same materials that were used in the mid-century period but very often only the components are made in a factory – responsibility for assembly has largely been passed to the customer.  This means that ease of assembly is the over-riding factor in how an item is made, rather than the long-term strength and usability of the piece. Unfortunately this creates weak spots in modern designs. For example, where the joints of a mid-century piece might be dowelled and glued with a high strength adhesive and left for hours to dry, a modern piece will use a quarter turn of some screws to make the same joint – easy to assemble, but nowhere near as strong. In similar fashion, mid-century furniture typically uses proper recessed hinges on their doors, whereas a modern piece is very likely to use low quality kitchen cabinet style hinges which push into pre-drilled holes. These hinges tend to sag after a while, and the holes they sit in create an area of weakness, leading to doors falling off at the least provocation.

Skilled contemporary artisans aside, the high street has definitely back peddled somewhat when it comes to providing long lasting and high quality furniture. Do your home a favour and choose pieces which have been built to withstand the test of time. This doesn’t just go for wooden vintage furniture – the sturdy frames sofas and armchairs can reupholstered in new fabric to give them a new lease of life. This can be great fun too – you can tailor the fabric and colours exactly to your home!

Pretty quickly, you will see how your home takes on a shape and feel of its own. Secondhand doesn’t mean cheap, it means that you own a quality piece of furniture which has been designed to last for generations. 20th century or antique design is also an investment which means that – should you want to do a design overhaul a few years later – you can sell on the furniture and maybe even make a profit!

So, how to get started sourcing vintage furniture? Below are some easy pointers for creating a unique and characterful home, bursting with brilliant finds.

  1. Look at price versus quality

We think it’s quite easy to get overwhelmed by the sheer choice of vintage designs out there and the process can abound in uncertainty when it comes to judging how much you should spend a piece. The good news is that buying vintage doesn’t have to break the bank. In fact, it is often much more cost effective than going for a current-day piece. It is true that finding a really iconic vintage design can get pricey but it depends on the piece. Unless you’re convinced that you desperately want the original designer chair, it’s easy to find a cheaper – and equally well built – vintage alternative. A famous name doesn’t necessarily equate to the item being made out of better materials. Of course it will do sometimes, but this is why it’s worth checking with the dealer who should be able to tell you about the make up of the design. 

These bookcases are a great example of price and quality comparison. On the left is a solid oak bookcase designed by celebrated Danish designer Børge Mogensen, which costs £1,316. Whilst this is undeniably a fabulous piece, the bookcase to the right is also made from solid rosewood and yet costs less than half of the price at £575. It isn’t by a famous designer, but it’s well made and as long as you like the style, that’s probably all you need for now! If you have any queries, just check with the dealer. On Vinterior, you can do this easily by using the button which reads ‘Ask Seller a Question’ on the product listing page.

2. Start with just one piece

We know – this can be difficult. Inspired by the blank canvas of a new home or a room which you’re longing to transform, it can be tempting to try and source everything in one go. There is real wisdom however in the age old advice which says that it’s best to find one piece and let the room grow organically from there. It’s tricky to see how items will go together when in situ and in time you’ll look back at your beautiful home and probably be glad that you gave it the chance to come together bit by bit. On a practical note, there’s nothing worse than ending up with a ton of furniture which doesn’t really fit together and either having to just live with it or try and sell it on again. Less risk and more scope for creativity is a good combination!

This is also a good tip for anyone who is feeling a bit paralysed by the idea of creating a look and doesn’t know where to begin. Don’t worry about the rest for now, just find one piece that you love and start there. There’s no rush and you might find you begin to really enjoy the process of finding pieces one by one. If the room feels a bit bare, get a plant or two until it’s full of wonderful furniture finds. The learning curve will also help you gain in confidence when it comes to sourcing your next piece of vintage furniture!

3. Focus on finding a key piece of furniture

It’s a good idea to start off with one important piece which will set the tone of the rest of the room. This could be a sideboard or a sofa, a wardrobe or even just a coffee table. No pressure though – just because you opt for a 1950s sofa or a mid century modern sideboard doesn’t mean that the remaining furniture must follow suit! Note how the some of the most inspiring spaces are intentionally unbalanced. For advice on mixing and matching different styles, read this blog. Through trial and error you’ll stumble into an stylish array of furniture which you love.

4. Alternatively, start with something small

You don’t necessarily need to start with a really important piece of furniture. Perhaps you want to warm up to a particular style or don’t know yet which look you’re after. The best way to ignite the design process could be to unearth a smaller piece… this might be as simple as an antique plant pot or a beautiful teak mid century mirror. The obvious advantage of starting with accessories is that you can begin to eclectically mix and match style genres to see what works without too high a commitment. We definitely advise putting different design references, or styles, together to avoid anything too matchy-matchy. Get started and browse through vintage home accessories here.

5. Use filters to find exactly what you need

The Vinterior collection of vintage and antique furniture is vast. The number currently stands at 100,000 individual pieces and more are being added everyday by professional vintage dealers from across the UK and Europe. Where to begin?! Vinterior provides filters (example screenshots below) to help you narrow down the search… currently you can browse vintage finds based on price, dimensions, style genre, product type and condition. You might argue that you don’t know yet exactly how you want to narrow the search but even selecting a random category, .e.g. Art Deco between the prices of £50-£500, will highlight some interesting choices for you to peruse. Whatever your budget or taste, there should be a vintage find to kickstart the home you envision.


Title image: decoist.com

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