7 Tips: Buying Vintage Home Decor

A good portion of the decor in my home is vintage. Guests that visit often ask me where I got this vase, that painting or fancy rattan lounger. Much to their surprise, I know where each piece was purchase, who I purchased it from and more often than not, I have a story to go along with that particular piece. But there are a few things to remember when buying vintage home decor.

7 Tips to buying vintage for your home decor and when to buy newvia DesignSponge (photo by Honey Lake Studio)

Not only do I want my home to be functional, comfortable, and affordable, but I also want it to be unique. Buying vintage tends to satisfy that individuality. By mixing old and new I can repurpose vintage items that are found, flea, or salvaged pieces. My decor always has a story to tell and my guests usually walk away talking about my home to others.

READ MORE AFTER THE JUMP…

7 Tips to buying vintage for your home decor and when to buy newvia sfgirlbybay

One might call me an estate sale and flea market junkie. The Boy calls it obsessed. Every weekend I’m out there, sometimes in the rain, usually in the scorching sun and humidity. I hit early buyer hours to beat the heat and to score the best treasures. It’s such a great way to stretch your budget and find those one-of-a-kind elements that no one else has.

7 Tips to Buying Vintage - Antique tea cups and flatware mix and matchingvia Patrik Hagborg Photography

You may be asking yourself when is buying vintage home decor a good idea and when should you just buy new. Well, let’s set a few ground rules.

Artwork: If it speaks to you, snap it up! Vintage artwork is usually fairly inexpensive, funky and unique. I wouldn’t expect that you’re going to be finding a hidden Jackson Pollack, but you never know. Stranger things have happen. I personally like the vintage paint by numbers, portraits and abstracts. When I visit thrift stores, I usually hit the artwork section first.Don’t forget to check out the frame as well. Sometimes a horrendous piece is harbored in a beautiful frame.

7 Tips: When to Buy Vintage and When To Buy Newvia anthology magazine

Upholstery: Furniture from back in the day was well made. Very sturdy. More often then not, the bones of a vintage sofa will outlast a new couch any day. Deciding whether to upholster an old sofa really comes down to quality and how much money you’re willing to invest. Personally, I’m in love with any vintage Chesterfield, but reupholstery can cost more than a new piece of furniture. Between fabric, re-stuffing, repairing springs, cording, tufting, and labor, you could be well over the $1000 marker. Ask yourself if it’s worth the investment.

7 Tips - When to Buy Vintage and When To Buy New - Upholsteryvia anthropologie

7 Tips to buying vintage for your home decor and when to buy newvia eighthundredquareft

Now if you see a fabulous piece on the side of the road, please think real good and hard about it. It may have an interesting funk when you bring it home or worse yet…bed bugs. No one wants any part of that. Free vintage upholstered furniture should be approached with extreme caution…be prepared for the worse. There’s a reason it’s sitting on the side of the road with a “TAKE ME I’M FREE” sign. You may not want that reason in your home.

Wood Furniture: Over the course of the last 25 years, wood used in furniture making has succumb to lower standards. Gone are the days of dovetailed corners. Instead, frames are glued with an epoxy or stapled. If you find a piece that has great bones but it missing hardware or a knob or two, just replace them. I can’t tell you how many knobs and pulls I’ve replaced with something funkier from Anthropologie. It’s a great way to update a piece and make it unique. Easy peasy lemon squeazy.

7 Tips to Buying Vintage - Wooden Furniture Mid Century Modern Dresser

Barware (Dishware and Silverware): I loves me some vintage barware. Glasses are adorned with such interesting designs and patterns. I’ve actually had really good luck on Etsy with a seller by the name of LouLouMint. Since I create fun cocktail recipes for HOH, I especially love to use vintage barware. Also it’s a hit at parties. The gold rims, metal ombré, and funky designs are so pretty and unique. I love to mix and match which is great because if it breaks, well, c’est la vie.

7 Tips to Buying Vintage - Antique tea cups and flatware mix and matchingvia

Also, all my fine china is mix and match. I have one full set of antique china from a friend of my mother’s (her husband brought it back from the Korean War.), and I’m petrified to use it. If that gravy bowl shatters, I’m screwed. I opt for mismatched tea cups and neutral mismatched plates. Vintage Pyrex is another flea market find I’m drawn to. If you’re at an estate sale, standing between me and pink Pyrex, we might have to throw down. I will not hesitate to push you out of the way.

As far as silverware goes, I also mix and match here as well. I’ve seen complete sets as the flea market, but I just think it’s more interesting when a table setting is not so matchy-matchy. Check all pieces for chips and cracks. Pass those by if they will be used to serve food. No one wants broken glass in their mouth and remember, most vintage pieces like this are hand wash only. Not dishwasher safe.

7 Tips to Buying Vintage - Barware and Antique GlasswareChampagne Smash Cocktail Recipe

Repurposed: When you are on a budget, repurposing items can be a genius way to bring style into your home. It’s also a great way to create artful vignettes with quirky and personal objects. Just because a vintage ladder was once used by a carpenter doesn’t mean it can’t be used as a shelf, towel rack or hung horizontally and used as a pot holder in your home. A small vintage step ladder can become a side table. Look at shutters or a solid old door as a headboard for your bed. By repurposing vintage finds, it’s easy to tell your story and create one-of-a-kind decor.

Have a beautiful table with only three legs? Don’t fret, Cut it in half, and secure to a wall to create a half table console in your entryway. Add casters to a oversized picnic basket and create a unique and functioning side table with storage. Convert an old typewriter table to a nightstand.

7 Tips to Buying Vintage - Repurpose Vintage Itemsvia emily henderson

Electrical: I go back and forth on this one. Don’t get me wrong, I loves me a vintage lamp, but I’ve also been zapped a few times. My advice, proceed with caution. Watch for things like frayed wiring and mangled plugs. Before buying, ask if it works. As far as vintage kitchen appliances, me personally, I tend to leave them alone. Yes, I still use my mom’s hand mixer from 1964, but I’m familiar with that old beast (the mixer, not my mom). As a vintage find, there can be safety issues. If you absolutely love it and must have it, buy it. It can always be used as decoration.

7 Tips - When to Buy Vintage and When to Buy New - Electrical - Should I buy a vintage lamp

Tablecloths and Vintage Linens: I recently went to an estate sale where there was literally 2 tables stacked with old hankies, doilies, napkins, and tablecloths oh my! Now I don’t know when they stopped selling table linens, but they seem to be a dying breed. I sometimes find them new at Anthropologie. When flea-ing, I snap these suckas up like it’s going out of style. Vintage patterns can be really bold and unique. Personally, I like to layer and mismatch…much like I do with my vintage dishes. 

Crochet vintage linens repurposed as a bedspreadvia

What rules do you keep in mind when buying vintage home decor? If you like these tips, be sure to check out my post on Vintage Shopping In Chicago and How To Shop An Estate Sale.

24 Comments

  1. vintagemodernlove September 8, 2015

    this is a great article kyla! i definitely started cracking up at the old beast comment. hahaha

    Reply
    • kyla September 8, 2015

      Thanks girl! And hey! I was just thinking about you! I am thinking about going to the Sept. 26th Randolph Flea. Not sure if you are going.

      Reply
      • vintagemodernlove September 9, 2015

        funny, i was just thinking about you too! summer is nearing its end and i haven’t been to a flea market yet. i’d totally be up for going on the 26th, wanna plan on it?

        Reply
  2. Michele September 11, 2015

    All your points are excellent advice for the new to vintage shopper. People who are always on the hunt like this wind up with distinctive homes that reflect their personalities. Almost everything in our house was found at a thrift shop or yard sale, aside from a couple of emergency purchase Ikea bookshelves following Hurricane Ike.

    Reply
  3. DoloresB October 15, 2015

    Home designing can be a really awesome experience. I think it’s the most fun when you get to start from scratch, because then you can pick whatever style you want. It makes me want to move and start over.

    Reply
    • kyla October 19, 2015

      It really is. I just have to train myself not to want to redo it after 6 months =) I just have so much fun with it. Thanks for stopping over!

      Reply
  4. mary jo leifermann November 21, 2015

    you have such epic taste and style !!

    Reply
  5. Lauren Woodley November 25, 2015

    Thank you for all of the insight about buying dishware and silverware for your home. I love having different styles and shapes of kitchenware (like what you’ve shown in the picture), but it can be hard to find the perfect combinations. Thus, I appreciate the tips you give for Etsy shops and using vintage barware. I will definitely have to check them out. Thanks again for sharing!

    Reply
  6. Linda Tucker November 25, 2015

    Thanks so much for sharing this advice on buying vintage home decor and furniture! I really like your point on finding a good piece of wood furniture, even if it is missing a knob or two. It is really nice that it isn’t too hard to replace those, especially when are usually essential to making the furniture functional. In fact, I think I might try going to a flea market near me this weekend, and see if I can find something that would fit in my living room!

    Reply
  7. Veronica Marks December 17, 2015

    I really appreciate your tips on upholstery on vintage furniture. I actually inherited a really great armchair from my grandma. However, the upholstery isn’t in very good condition. It still functions well, and I’ve wondered if I should just put a cover on it or if I should get it fully reupholstered. I will have to price out the reupholstering with a few people and see if it’s going to be worth it. Thanks!

    Reply
  8. Kate Branham December 17, 2015

    I love the look of your vintage furniture and decor. I love looking for and finding vintage furniture myself. It is always fun to bring something new home and figure out where it will work best!

    Reply
  9. Jason Strong February 18, 2016

    Both my brother in law and sister are huge hipsters and love this kind of style. Well, they just moved into a new home and have a lot of space to add some decor. This article has some great tips and I think that it can help them fill the empty spaces in their home.

    Reply
  10. Westly Smith March 1, 2016

    I like your section about artwork. Like you say, if you like it, you should put it up. I think that’s a great way to personalize your home decor. With artwork that you like, it will make your house unique!

    Reply
  11. Nash Rich March 4, 2016

    I’m not going to lie, I find some pretty great stuff at yard sales. Nothing is better than looking in my parents basement though. I’m a guy, but that doesn’t mean I can’t like some good decor and old stuff! Thanks for the good ideas!

    Reply
  12. Aman Bansal March 11, 2016

    I will say just fabulous. Awesome. Vintage home decor is quite useful to get know about old people livelihood, how they live and decorate home. I like blue and white color combination theme bedroom that you shared in the post.. 🙂

    Reply
  13. Alise Harper June 29, 2016

    I just got married and am finding that home decor is important for the aesthetic appeal in the home. I like the idea of having a functional, comfortable, and affordable home with a mix of decor that is old and new. This is a great idea to have old and new decor to add the unique feel. Thanks for the great ideas!

    Reply
  14. Drew July 7, 2016

    I love those old school chairs that you decided to put at your kitchen table. They really are a nice look to the rest of the house and they add to the vintage theme.

    Reply
  15. Drew October 21, 2016

    I love vintage home decor. You have a lot of great ideas here. I can’t wait to steal a few of them.

    Reply
  16. Jay Jorgenson November 16, 2016

    I really like all these suggestions, especially the idea of going to the flea market to buy new furniture. For my wife and I, home decor is so expensive, and so we are always trying to find cheaper alternatives to the expensive furniture stores. I really like what was said about wood furniture. I think when it comes to knobs, that that is where you can have some fun.

    Reply
  17. Danni Black November 22, 2016

    I really like your tip about artwork. I think that some of the most unique homes have the best artwork in them! My husband and I have been thinking about redecorating our home for a while now so we will have to keep these tips in mind. Hopefully, we will be able to find some accents that we really like and give us the unique feel that we are after.

    Reply
  18. Emily Stone December 1, 2016

    I absolutely love this, some much great home inspo! I think my favourite take away from this, is the artistic walls, I love adding a splash of colour or creating a focal point of attention in a room.

    Reply
  19. Troy Blackburn December 21, 2016

    I like what you said about wanting your home to be functional, comfortable, and affordable while also having it be unique. I’ve heard, too, that home decor can increase the value of your home. Could that be true? We are in the middle of remodeling right now, and I’ll have to keep these great home decor tips in mind!

    Reply
  20. SOFIA January 1, 2017

    Love your ideas, I do have taste in vintage decor as well, My husband is planning to renovate our kitchen using 1980s kitchen layout this year and we are so excited about this project.

    Reply
  21. Deedee Lewis January 27, 2017

    Using knobs with other interesting pieces as home decor sounds like a fascinating and unique idea. My sister loves the antique stuff and is currently working on putting up more decorations for her apartment. I will for sure be sharing these tips with her for more antique decor ideas.

    Reply

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