Tips on Buying Vintage
Buying vintage furniture enables you to furnish your home in your own unique style and is great value for money, as items are often a fraction of the cost of high street furniture retailers and better quality one-off items.
If, like us, you’re into your recycling then don’t just stop at your bottles and tin cans, a piece of furniture often needs just a coat of wax or paint to bring it back to life. Recycling or ‘upcycling’ vintage furniture and home furnishings is one of the greenest things you can do.
As the saying goes, one person’s trash is another person’s treasure, and vintage homewares have become as fashionable as classic designer pieces. Items with a history bring individuality and real life to a home. Hunting out vintage furniture is a great experience and nothing beats the thrill of finding a real gem that you’ll treasure forever.
Buying vintage furniture is a little different from going to your charity shop or second hand shop, because you are not looking for just any used furniture, but furniture from a specific time frame. To qualify as ‘real vintage furniture‘, it should be at least 30 to 40 years old. Anything later than that is second-hand and anything more than a 100 years old qualifies as ‘antique’.
So how do you buy vintage furniture? We’ve created a few tips to help you on your way, so if you find something in our shop, on our website, or at a local fair/ market, just follow these basic steps.
1. Pay Frequent Visits
2. Check the Condition of the Furniture
Generally, wooden items such as vintage tables, cabinets, dressers and chests or drawers last better than upholstered furniture. Examine furniture closely for live woodworm, damage or alterations. If you’re not sure, ask – obvious repairs or damage should be reflected in the price.
If you are shopping for vintage upholstered furniture, be sure to factor in the cost of re-upholstery including fabric costs as it can be expensive. Saying that, you can buy a beautiful Victorian armchair, re-upholster it in your favourite fabric and it will still be cheaper than buying a new armchair from Laura Ashley, John Lewis etc. We have done this many times to bring new life to old vintage pieces.
3. Look for Quality
Look for good sturdy furniture. Just because it is old doesn’t necessarily mean that the quality is great. For instance, drawers should slide out easily and upholstered pieces should have good sturdy frames.
Try to avoid furniture made with inferior materials and with poor workmanship. We stock lots of old vintage pine pieces because these tend to wear very well. For the garden the vintage galvanised baths and buckets are very hard wearing.
4. Don’t Let Scratches Scare You
Don’t let minor scratches scare you. There are many products on the market that can help, and if a truly remarkable piece warrants it you can get it professionally refinished.
5. Paint it up and rub it down
It’s good to keep an open mind about how things can be adapted. Wooden furniture can be painted by hand and metal pieces sandblasted & sprayed, and why not revamp an old cupboard by lining the inside with your favourite vintage wallpaper? A lot of our vintage furniture is recently repainted to give it a new lease of life. Painting furniture in a distressed or shabby chic style is a very good way of recycling old furniture and you can end up with something that looks completely different from the original piece. We love using Farrow and Ball paint or Annie Sloan’s paint which can give a nice distressed finish in no time at all.
6. Make Sure it Fits
Always consider size before buying, as shops like ours often have a different returns policy compared to major high street stores. We always list the dimensions of all our vintage furniture pieces on the website or if you’re in the shop please just ask and we can measure the items for you.
Also think about how you’re going to get your furniture home – at The Consortium, we offer a delivery service.
See if you can repurpose vintage furniture; for example, use a small table for a bedside table, or a vintage galvanised bath to plant your herbs and plants. Unusual furniture in unexpected places will give your home its own distinct style.
8. Look for Individual Pieces That Go Together
Buying whole sets of vintage furniture can be expensive and sometimes very difficult to source. We think that different items in a similar mood can look better than trying to match everything together – for instance, why not try having an antique kitchen table with mismatched chairs. As well as looking good, this can really reduce the total price. Purchasing individual pieces one at a time that would work well together is a really good way of creating your own style for your home.
9. What’s in Fashion?
Painted and distressed furniture, quirky original pieces, vintage eiderdowns, crochet blankets, galvanised metal for the garden. We could go on and on but buying vintage gives you the opportunity to really put your own stamp on things.
10. Tips for the Future
Dark brown mahogany furniture is still pretty unpopular and it can be picked up quite cheaply. It will inevitably be back in style at some point, so it’s worth considering as a future investment. Ercol and G Plan items, as well as industrial, shop and school furniture and fittings, are very collectible. Also look out for painted furniture with original paintwork.
Collect, customise, recycle and restore, as buying vintage has never been so sought after!