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How to Shop for Killer Vintage Furnishings

Updated: May 12, 2023

I always like to incorporate some vintage into a scheme for a few reasons:

  1. When a room is full of new furnishings, especially after its been freshly renovated, it can feel a little cold and staged. Bringing in a few key vintage pieces adds storied character. For most of my projects, 10% feels like the right mix. Casegoods, accent tables, and rugs are a safe bet. Upholstered furniture and lighting needs more care because most likely rewiring or reupholstering will have to happen so keep that in mind budget wise. In my own home the mix is closer to 20-30% because I have more of my personal free time to search to my heart's content and can take risks with wackier pieces that are outside of my clients' comfort zones. I have found that if a vintage item isn't working for me, its easy enough to sell it for what I bought it for without regrets and move on. Its a cost effective way to play around with decor with low commitment. I can't say the same for new larger furnishings.

  2. Clearly its a planet friendly solution. Finding homes for preloved pieces means less consumption. I hate buying new stuff for the sake of buying new stuff and exploding our carbon footprints in the process. The more furnishings we can reuse, the less new furnishings are mass produced. In an ideal world we shift to a made to order model for new furniture and decor so we only produce as needed.

  3. The quality of older wood furniture and rugs is shockingly higher than today's mass produced machine made junk. These pieces have lasted for decades versus a few years for the new stuff that ends up in the landfill. To piggyback onto the previous note.

  4. Budget friendliness - many times, vintage and antique pieces are a steal compared to the price tag of new. Especially if sourced from estate sales, thrift stores, Facebook Marketplace, and flea markets. Once you get to the more curated dealer level then of course the prices shoot up and the value of the piece is more tied to my first note. But if you have the time and inclination to "treasure hunt" then you can make your house look like a million bucks on a shoestring budget. That's how a lot of designers (including me) started to develop their style and honed their eyes.

But how do you find good vintage you ask? Here are some tips that have worked for me:

  • When I notice cool pieces in interiors I like, I make a note of them mentally and look up the going rate on 1st Dibs, Chairish, and Etsy for similar items. I keep them on my radar for if/when I see them at resale shops, estate sales, flea markets, etc. I know their value and if its a good deal or not.

  • Mix decades to keep things interesting and to keep a vintage laiden interior from feeling too contrived or kitchy. Don't do all 60's American midcentury for example. Mix in 70's Danish, 80s Italian, etc. to create a collected dynamism.

  • I rarely find good furnishings at thrift stores but usually keep an eye out for ceramics and old decorating books for a song to use as styling props.

  • If there is a thrift store, estate sale, or antique market along your route - poke in. The worst that can happen is you wasted 20 minutes but you never know what treasure you may happen upon.

  • Check for preview photos of sales near you to see if its worth the effort. Go early on the last day for your pick of goods at 50% off.

  • Facebook Marketplace is a treasure trove if you have the time to search and search often. Save items you like even if you have no intention of buying them for the algorithm to have a better sense of what to show you. Don't be shy to negotiate if something has been listed for weeks (without being insulting). If it just posted and the price is too good, consider offering more than asking so the seller responds to you first.

  • I am finding more and more furniture flippers on Facebook Marketplace and they will include their Instagram tags in the posting. Start following their IG feeds to get a first look at their finds before they post to FB.

That's my collection of pearls of vintage shopping wisdom for you. Do you have ones to share as well?


Give me the lowdown, please. In your opinion, where can I find more literature on this subject?

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