I’ve always loved eclectic design. Long ago, I read a quote in an interior design book (and I so wish I remember who it was to credit them) but to paraphrase it essentially said: nothing dates a room faster than everything being of the same era. If you think about it, you’ll realise it’s true.
I spoke at length about creating eclectic style in your home in this post a few years ago but I wanted to expand a little on how I have used vintage pieces in my home for years now and why I think its so important to include some vintage pieces from any era when you are decorating.
So let’s start with an example I’ve used before. Let’s say you walked into a Next Home store back in 2012, purchased the entire living room display they had in their store at that point, recreated it in your own living room – from the tables to the sofa and chair, the accessories, wallpaper – the whole lot. It may have looked trendy and on-point back then but today? It would probably look a bit passe. Why? Because everything would have been in the current contemporary look of that time and well, contemporary design is constantly in flux, it’s constantly changing and moving, it’s never stagnant. What looked good 8 years ago is no longer contemporary, it’s old-hat, maybe even a bit naff.
Here’s another example. When mid-century modern became a really big mainstream trend a decade ago, I started to see people completely recreating the look in their homes. Everything contemporary went out the door to be replaced with mid-century pieces. It looked cool at the time to have the Knoll Florence sofa, the Eames lounge chair, the Nelson ball clock. But if you were to choose everything for a room in a mid-century design, it goes from looking cool and retro to looking like a museum or time capsule pretty quickly.
The white cabinet is a vintage piece from 1930’s (I believe!) that I painted and replaced the existing glass with mirror – I’ve had it since 2014 and I still love it although the paint needs a refresh now.
So when we choose a more eclectic look for our homes, it’s important to mix and match – to include some pieces that are more contemporary with those that are from eras long past. You can still have that beautiful Eames lounge chair but you might want to pair it with a Victorian fireplace or a sleek contemporary light fixture and sofa. This mix-and-match approach instills timelessness into a space and whilst contemporary design is what’s most readily available at any given moment, seeking out the odd vintage piece will create layers of interest and give your home a more unique look.
In the dining room, the brass and glass shelving unit is by Pierre Vandel from the 1970’s – I found this one on eBay after probably two years of searching but well worth the wait. I bought it in 2017 and it’s still one of my favourites!
One of the most surprising things I’ve learned in purchasing vintage for my home over the years as that they quickly become favourites in just about any room I place them. I have had some of my vintage furniture for years now and whilst I have the attention span of a 4 year old at times when it comes to wanting to constantly change things up, those vintage pieces have become mainstays, moving from room to room and home to home – I feel a sense of protectiveness over them that I don’t feel for my more contemporary pieces, they are so much more irreplaceable to me.
The vintage chest of drawers in my bedroom is also from the 1930’s and one I get asked about all the time. I’ve had it since 2012 (!) and I can’t see myself ever letting it go.
These are also the pieces that are the most asked about when I share them on social media or on my blog. Of course, when asked, ‘Where’s that [insert piece of furniture here] from? I love it!’, I feel a bit bad saying it’s vintage but at the same time, it also means the pieces I have are totally unique and not seen before. This is another benefit of choosing vintage pieces – they make your home truly your own and completely unique to what every other home out there looks like.
This vintage bar cart was one of the first vintage pieces I bought in 2011. I believe it’s from the 1990’s and was a totally unique find. I’ve never seen another one like it anywhere – check out the swans!
Another benefit? There’s a very good chance that some vintage pieces will cost you less than buying new. I think the bar cart above was something like £30 when I purchased it, far less than the hundreds of pounds that bar carts can go for today. I paid £250 for the vintage glass and brass unit in the dining room and the chest of drawers was £100 – far less than what you might find on West Elm or Heal’s.
One of my most recent vintage purchases was this bamboo shelving unit (I clearly have a thing for vintage shelving units!) found on Facebook Markplace for £25. I love the boho vibe it gives to my guest bedroom.
It takes time to find these pieces – some of them took years of searching until I found the exact thing I was searching for but I find the longer you allow to find an item, the better chance you have of finding a real bargain.
My most asked about vintage furniture piece is this shelving unit in the living room. It’s another Pierre Vandal from the 70s and I’ve told the story before but it was given to me by someone who knew how much I loved it. She was moving house, didn’t have a place for it and insisted I take it (yes, I may have cried). Don’t ask me if I’d ever consider selling it – you’ve got no chance! It’s my most-loved piece in any room in my home.
One last thing in terms of buying vintage rather than new and that’s something that’s on all our minds right now – sustainability. With so many of us trying our best to be more ecologically minded, buying vintage means saving a piece from landfill. Not every piece I’ve purchased has been in perfect condition from the start. Sometimes you might find a diamond in the rough – one which needs a bit of love, care and attention to bring it back to life. The satisfaction of doing this is immense – not only will you be bringing a piece of history into your home but you’ll be saving it from just being dumped and possibly adding years and years to it’s life and usefulness.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of the vintage pieces I have in my home and while I concentrated on vintage furniture in this post, I have many smaller pieces and accessories that are vintage too – the little grouping of elephants you see above, the tiny globe-holding elephants next to the pink pot plant, the small chest on the bottom chest are all vintage finds that I’ve had for years now.
Just about every single room has a touch of vintage in it – from the vintage-style prints in my bathroom to the mid-century sideboard in my office – and it’s something I try to incorporate whenever I design any space. The only room which I feel lacks vintage is our new kitchen and I’m actually toying with the idea of replacing the more contemporary pendant lights with some vintage pendants instead (once I find the right ones!).
There are so many benefits – in terms of both design as well as sustainability – when you include vintage pieces in your home as you can see. I’d love to know what some of your own favourite vintage pieces are that you own yourself. Do you find yourself buying vintage for cost, sustainability or simply because these pieces add timelessness? Or is it a little of all three? Let me know in the comments below.