The term “vintage” can often simply mean “outdated” to some people and I am sure we all know of people who have upgraded furniture from one contemporary look to another down the years who are bitterly regretting parting with their sets of sixties rosewood Danish dining tables and chairs. At the time, vintage furniture was just furniture and in the mid 20th century would have most likely looked outmoded and old fashioned as design took to its heels, mass production was at its height, and wood became scarce and pricy as the rainforests felt the ravages of all that teak G-plan. Thankfully, much of what we refer to as classic vintage furniture has survived and we are able to source some of the more aesthetically pleasing items from that time, as well as up cycle and restore them for today’s homes.
Our store has stocks of sixties and seventies vintage furniture and the style is clean and uncluttered with teak being an extremely popular wood, which was looked after by applying teak oil to keep it looking good. There is a fab dining table and chairs in stock and a real sixties display unit. One piece we particularly love is an old dresser from 1750 that we have brought into the 21st century by means of a sympathetic painting job.
Buying vintage furniture is not the same as buying second hand, as you are looking for a particular era. So how do we go about buying vintage furniture that has stood the test of time? There are many ways we can find furniture but we need to know what to look for. Here we offer ten tips to buying vintage furniture.
1. Visit Vintage Furniture Stores and Keep an Eye on the Stock
Part of the fun of buying vintage furniture is hunting out sources by exploring different vintage stores. Car boot sales, estate sales, and auctions are also good sources of vintage furniture but it can be tough bidding against the dealers.
Making a friend of your local vendor can help, as they will be happy to impart information and give you first refusal if anything of interest comes in.
2. Wear and Tear
The better condition the furniture is in, the better the buy. Furniture can sometimes be just too shabby and worn out to be of any use other than an interesting example of its era. Upholstered furnishings can be a minefield and you need to look out for pesky rodents in old sofas and armchairs, mould, dirt and so forth. Unless you are an expert upholsterer, it is better to stick to non-upholstered pieces.
3. Quality and Structure
Check furnishings for build quality. Drawers should slide easily and there should be a solid feel to the craftsmanship with well made items. Wood should be free of woodworm and any plastic or composites for instance Formica should be free of cracks. Avoid badly made furniture and that which is made of poor materials. All eras have good and bad craftsmanship and vintage furniture is no exception.
4. Famous Makers
The prices will always be higher for furniture by well-known designers and popular styles. Look for pieces that are homage to the originals, they will be much cheaper and still be as aesthetically pleasing.
5. Scratches and Dents
It is unlikely that any furniture that has been in use will be free of scratches or dents. Depending on the look you are trying to achieve, it might be acceptable to have puppy chewed or cat scratched table legs, so do not be too put off by something like this that adds “character”. Minor defects can be well hidden and minimised with proprietary furniture restoration polishes and products.
6. Bargain and Haggle
While most store owners will not entertain Moroccan Bazaar style haggling, they will be prepared to negotiate a little on price and if a piece you want has a defect or damage of some kind, this is a good bargaining tool. If your regular shops have a piece you like and it tends to be sticking around, it is always worthwhile to make the vendor an offer, as they will most likely be glad to move the piece on.
You have just discovered your new bed will not go upstairs or the sideboard is too big for the recess. To avoid mistakes, carry a sketch of the room you are furnishing with dimensions marked and showing windows and fireplaces and measure the furniture you want to buy to be sure it will fit in your home. Consider access to the house for awkward shaped pieces.
8. Reusing and Up cycling
Maybe you see a piece of furniture you love but do not have a single use for it. Be creative and see how you could use a piece of furniture in an alternative way in an unexpected part of the house or if you could alter the piece to make a new piece of furniture. A little vision can go a long way. A carpenter can alter an oversized vintage table or the wood can be recycled for a new piece of furniture completely.
9. Environment Friendly
Buying vintage furniture gives you the chance to buy good quality for less and to style your home to a theme or time period. You are also helping the environment by buying vintage.
10. Have Fun
Fun is the keyword when buying vintage furniture. The exploration and finding that perfect piece is a wonderful experience that will give you great pleasure.