There’s something special about a piece of furniture, a vase, or a set of dishes made decades ago. They have their own personality. It takes some effort and energy to track them down — they’re not things you’ll find in everyone else’s home.
If you have a love for vintage items and vintage shopping, you are not alone!
Some people love filling their homes with brand-new items, but a lot of us enjoy the thrill of stumbling upon a great vintage find. Vintage items can bring unique style into your space, but shopping for excellent vintage decor takes practice.
Whether you’re in the market for a vintage side table, glassware, or kitschy art print, here’s what you need to know before buying vintage décor.
Consider The Source
For something to be legitimately vintage, it must be at least 20 years old. Before you buy any vintage items, consider the source and know who you’re buying from.
In your search for vintage items, you’ll likely come across décor that’s brand new but made to look vintage. If all you care about is the look, this doesn’t matter. But if you have your heart set on finding something from decades earlier, you’ll need to dig a little deeper.
There’s a massive difference between vintage items and items made to look vintage. Anyone with some basic DIY skills can distress a wood table to make it look salvaged from an old farmhouse. Yet if your goal is to find a wood table that actually came from an old farmhouse, a new item that looks old won’t cut it.
Vintage pieces have a history; they tell a story. No matter how old or vintage something may look, it is not a vintage piece if you find it from an online retailer such as Wayfair and Walmart.
Before you buy any vintage decor, know the source. That way, you can be sure you’re purchasing an authentic vintage piece and not something new made to look old.
Do Your Research First
Whether you plan to shop in person or online, every purchase should start with an online search. This is the best way to gather information about a specific product or a specific time period.
By browsing vintage shops online, you can get a general sense of what items from different eras and different regions cost. As a general rule, older pieces are usually more expensive, but scarcity also determines a vintage item’s worth.
The more you browse vintage items, the more you’ll start to see that similar items from similar eras are for sale. This can give you an overall sense of what the price should be and make it easier to know when you stumble upon something super rare!
Shop The Right Secondhand Stores
Vintage shopping is a treasure hunt of sorts. You never know what you’re going to find, and you never know where you’re going to find it.
So what are the best places to start looking?
Flea markets and yard sales are great places to find authentic vintage items. You can find incredible, rare items just from browsing what people have cleaned out of their garages or basements.
Don’t have the energy to scour every local market in search of a great vintage piece?
If you prefer to do your shopping from the comfort of home, there are plenty of online stores that sell authentic vintage furniture and décor.
Etsy and One Kings Lane Vintage are great places to start. Just be aware that many Etsy sellers are prolific DIYers, so it’s easy to mistake a new piece made to look old for one that actually holds vintage status.
When in doubt, email the seller and ask questions. Most will be happy to give you the history of the piece, tell you exactly where it came from, or let you know if it’s a reproduction rather than the real thing.
Have a penchant for vintage European or Scandinavian design?
There are some incredible online stores overseas where you can find unique vintage décor that you rarely see in the states.
Stores like Pamono and Selency are excellent sources for vintage European décor. If you stumble upon a piece you love, be sure to contact the seller before getting your hopes up. Some sellers on these sites only ship within Europe, while some are happy to ship to the U.S.
Expect Wear & Tear
The beauty of vintage décor is that it’s been around for at least twenty years. The problem with vintage décor is that it’s been around for at least twenty years.
When shopping for vintage items, expect some level of wear and tear. If you shop in person, be sure to inspect the object from all angles so that you can assess any and all damage it may have. If you shop online, ask the seller to provide photos from all angles so that you can get a 360-degree view.
The more you shop vintage stores, the more you’ll realize that most items will need at least a little bit of cleaning. In some cases, items may need a complete restoration. Before you buy, consider what it will cost to clean or restore the piece. The costs to clean or repair it may not be worth the expense.
There’s one other general rule of thumb to vintage shopping that you cannot afford to ignore:
If something feels or smells bad — do not buy it.
Even if it’s a piece you love with all your heart, resist the urge to bring a stinky rug or heavily stained piece of furniture into your home. Vintage finds are everywhere, so with a bit of dedication, you’re likely to find a similar piece with less damage.
Once you get bitten by the vintage bug, it’s a hard habit to break. But it is possible to have too much of a good thing.
The trick to buying vintage décor is to have some restraint. Limit yourself to buying one or two pieces at a time. Resist the urge to scoop up every vintage item you like just because it’s a great deal, or you might find a use for it down the road.
If it doesn’t fit in your home, coordinate with your style, or provide a purpose, let it be. If you love it, chances are that someone else will too, and while you might not be the right owner, the next vintage shopper to come along just might be.
Caitlin Sinclair is the Property Manager at Dixon Place with five years of property management experience and many more in Customer Service. She shares her passion for her community and looks forward to making Dixon Place the place to call home.