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How to Buy Vintage and Retro Furniture

Furnish your home in style and on a budget!

Many people are nervous about buying “second hand furniture”, but buying vintage and retro pieces is a fantastic way of  furnishing your home in a style that’s completely your own and which reflects your personality. It’s also a great way of furnishing a home on a budget as this furniture is often a fraction of the cost of similar items found on the high street.  Re-cycling or up-cycling is also great for the environment. Not only that, but vintage homewares have become fashionable, sought-after, designer pieces. We believe that items with history bring individuality and life to a home. It’s also great fun hunting for vintage furniture and nothing beats the thrill of finding a real gem that you’ll treasure forever. So, how do you decide on the right piece, what price you should pay and where do you actually go to buy these pieces?

Vintage & Retro Furniture allows you to create a home with real personality

Where to buy vintage and retro furniture

You can find amazing vintage and retro pieces in any number of places. Auction houses, house clearances, and on-line sites such as Ebay, Freecycle or Gumtree are good places to start… If you have a weekend free, head off to your local car boot sale where there are bargains galore, or visit your local salvage yard. Second hand furniture shops in your area are also a great source for furniture. Get to know the staff and they’ll often keep an eye out for pieces and you get to hear about items before everyone else. Charity shops have also started to stock vintage furniture and they’re also worth scouring for accessories. It also amazes me what people will throw into a skip – as the saying goes, “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure”, but if you see something, always ask permission to take it away. Finally, there are a number of Vintage & Retro Fairs which are held regularly all over the country – here you will find a range of traders offering everything under one roof, plus it’s a great day out!

Top Tips for Buying Vintage & retro Furniture

1. Consider the era..

It’s important to remember that you are not just buying any old furniture, you need to think about the look you want to create and an era that reflects this, be it the 1930’s, 1950’s or 1980’s.. Perhaps you love the psychadelic colours of the 1960’s and pop art or  the soft curves and shapes of art deco pieces. The web can provide lots of inspiration as do homes and interiors magazines. To qualify as real vintage, items should be at least 30-40 years old. Anything later is second-hand and anything older than 100 years is considered antique.

2. Make sure it fits

Before you go shopping for any item, consider the space in which it will sit. The size of rooms and the dimensions of entrance ways or the stairs are extremely important. Always take a tape measure with you – you will be spending hard-earned money for your furniture and there is nothing worse than finding exactly the right piece and then being disappointed because it doesn’t fit.

3. Think about how you will get your furniture home

I have learned this the hard way. I recently bought a beautiful teak sideboard during an on-line auction and then realised I actually had no way of bringing it home! My long suffering partner spent three days organising a roof-rack for his father’s estate car and we had to pray that it wouldn’t be ruined by April showers on the way home. Some sellers will offer delivery for a small fee, but always check first!

Organise transport in advance!

4. Look for quality pieces

Ideally you are looking for furniture with “good bones.” Generally, wooden items such as vintage tables, chairs, cabinets, dressers, chests of drawers and coffee tables last better than upholstered furniture. Just because it is old doesn’t necessarily mean that the quality is great. Try to avoid furniture made with inferior materials and with poor workmanship.

ondition is the most important aspect in determining value. If you want to make sure your furniture is not going to fall apart in the next couple of months don’t buy on impulse. Instead, take your time and inspect each piece thoroughly. If it’s made of quality wood, with good joints and a good bonding glue you’re going to buy the furniture with confidence, not with fear.

Use it first – Since you won’t be able to see the most important parts, you should test the furniture first. Lean on tables and tip back chairs. If it’s a sofa make sure the frame is not altered so go ahead, squeeze the arms and chairs and even extend it to make sure those metallic parts are working fine.

5. Check the condition

Condition is the most important aspect in determining value. If you want to make sure your furniture is not going to fall apart in the next couple of months don’t buy on impulse. Instead, take your time and inspect each piece thoroughly. If it’s made of quality wood, with good joints and a good bonding glue you’re going to buy the furniture with confidence, not with fear. Lean on tables and tip back chairs. If it’s a sofa make sure the frame is not altered and even extend it to make sure those metallic parts are working well. Examine furniture closely to check for live woodworm, damage or repairs. Drawers should run smoothly  and frames should be sturdy. If a piece does have damage, consider whether you have the skills to undertake the repair and obviously any damage should be reflected in the price.

6. Don’t be afraid of stains and scratches

This buy viagra without prescription is especially true of wooden or teak furniture. Wooden furniture can often be sanded down to remove layers of dark wood stain. In terms of teak furniture, there are a number of products on the market which can help – the staff at your local DIY store can be a source of great advice.  And if it’s a truly iconic piece, you can always have it professionally re-finished – especially if you bought at a bargain price to start with..

7. Consider Re-Upholstering

If you find a beautiful Victorian armchair or a set of retro dining chairs that look past their best, don’t be put off.  If you are shopping for vintage furniture which does need re-upholstering, be sure to build in the costs of fabric as it can be expensive. However, often it is still cheaper than buying a new armchair from high street retailers such as Laura Ashley or John Lewis and being able to choose your own fabric will make it a unique piece for your home.

8. Up-Cycle It…

Keep an open mind in terms of how things can be adapted to suit your home and you colour schemes . Wooden furniture can be hand-painted and metal pieces can often be sandblasted and re-sprayed. Old cupoards or chests of drawers can be easily re-vamped. Why not line drawers or old vintage suitcases with your favourite vintage wall paper or fabric to give it a completely new lease of life.. Farrow & Ball or Annie Sloan Paints can be used to create Shabby Chic pieces which you can distress to create that time worn finish in no time at all. Here’s an example of a beautiful shabby chic dining set which we up-cycled transforming a dark oak set with an original French Toile du Jour fabric. Check out your local college or shabby chic retailers, as they often offer courses…

Antique oak dining set up-cycled using Annie Sloan paint & Toile due Jour fabric
Basic upholstery is quite simple…

9. Don’t be afraid to mix and match

You don’t have to stick rigidly to pieces from one particular era or in one particular style. Creating interesting combinations is what adds character to your home. Different items in a similar mood can look better than trying to match everything together. In the photo below I love the mix of softer vintage pieces such as the glass lamps combined with the industrial furniture. Or, why not try an antique kitchen table with mis-matched chairs? This can look fabulous and can save you a small fortune.. Purchasing individual pieces that work well together is the perfect way to create you own style for your home.

 

An industrial Chic Masterclass at www.housetohome.co.uk

10. A tip for the future…

Vintage eiderdowns, crochet blankets and galvanised metal for the garden allow you to create a vintage feel. Ercol furniture is becoming increasingly rare as are names such as G-Plan. Don’t be put off by paying higher prices for such items as they will become investment pieces of the future. Industrial, shop and school furniture  such as lockers are increasingly on trend.

Buying vintage gives you the opportunity to really put your own stamp on things – so go forth and shop!