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Interior Design

Vintage Shopping for Your Design Project

Vintage pieces can elevate your space by adding unique and personal flourishes. If you’re looking to incorporate vintage accessories, antique furniture, or second hand lighting into the design of your home or space, here are a few pointers to help you get started – and stay on track – on your next shopping trip.

August 17, 2023

There is a buzz around vintage, reclaimed, and antique. We think most people interested in design realize it’s something that can bring a lot to their project. But just where to start vintage shopping and how to include vintage, reclaimed, or antique items in a design can seem like a daunting task.

Your vintage shopping adventure begins!

Picture this: you set out on a Saturday, cute canvas tote over your shoulder, some cash money in your pocket, and ready to rummage through an antique market, vintage shop, or even your local garage sale. After booths and booths of cute and cool unique things you’re like, “wow, where do I start?” And while some people are avid collectors, enjoying rifling through bins of (albeit dusty) treasures, the average person might need some easy ways to dip their toe into vintage shopping.

Go In With a Plan

Whenever we are shopping for our projects (or for ourselves 😊), we always go in with a plan. Say you need coffee table accessories, a cute pair of chairs to flank the fireplace, or a lamp on that little entry table. If you have a mental, phone, or good old fashion paper list, it makes the endless booths much easier to shop.

Of course, the idea is that you can be inspired by other things not on the list and that is okay. But going in with a plan is the key to finding at least a few things to activate your space.

A World of Possibility

Everything from the globe to the vases to the candlesticks on this display shelf were purchased second hand from vintage and antique shops!

Additionally, you want to bring a tape measure. (Assuming you’ve measured your space. How tall are those bookshelves? How deep is that mantle?) Antique marts are not retail – they don’t list out dimensions or specs – and there will be some leg work to figure out sizes. Be prepared!

And the two more obvious things are: clear out your car and wear comfy shoes. You may be hauling that steamers trunk home right away!

Start with Accessories

This is by far the easiest way to start on your vintage adventure! Some items we are loving buying vintage are old books, brass figures, fun picture frames, and lamp bases, to name a few.

Shadow boxes as café tables. – Ada’s Technical Books & Café – Retail Design – Board & Vellum
Antique Details

The antique feel of the books, doodads, and stones within these shadow boxes adds to the old-timey atmosphere of this space.

Once you have your game-plan list, look for things that speak to you in a variety of sizes. A big mistake that’s easy to make when you’re selecting accessories is choosing a lot of little things. So go for that big brass footed base vase or the gigantic book of old maps!

Also think about general color palettes. No need for matchy-matchy but are you mostly neutral, mostly organic shapes, or more old wood tones? If you start seeing themes in the pieces you select, you can keep this in mind as you refine. When going vintage for the amateur (or seasoned professional) best to keep the parameters a little narrow until you get your shopping sea legs!

Move On to Art

Art is so personal. If something speaks to you, buy it! You can always reframe or re-mat it. A really old piece famed super modern is a wonderful way to incorporate a bit of vintage. Or vice versa! A modern abstract in a goopy-gold frame is also a winner!

A Retreat for World Travelers – Board & Vellum – Interior Design, Finishes & Furnishings
Art Galore

See that stairway gallery wall? Vintage and second hand frames are easy to find and infinitely customizable. Be on the lookout for what’s inside the frame too and you can get a fantastic piece of art out of the deal!

As with accessories, the easiest way for a beginner to shop is to start with an overall concept. For example, if you’re looking for a gallery wall, pick a bunch of black and whites prints or all brightly colored old movie posters. If you narrow the field of selections, the task becomes simpler. Of course, once you get comfortable you can start venturing out of the general concepts. The all black and white concept would look amazing with one cool full color print.

Old print books are also a great way to find art. You can always cut and professionally frame prints from books or even old magazines!

Explore Lighting

So many vintage lights have amazing patina finishes and fun shapes. Don’t be distracted by ugly, beat-up shades as those can be tossed. And re-wiring a base is no big deal – there are a couple of places in town that do it . And while it adds to the cost of the lamp, it’s well worth something truly unique.

Craftsman Bungalow Restoration – Board & Vellum
One-of-a-Kind Lighting

Keep your eyes peeled for amazing vintage lighting, like this mint green pendant. A quick clean and some updated wiring let vintage and antique lights shine again in new spaces.

We are loving adding lighting in unexpected ways to our designs. A little lamp on your kitchen counter or on a bookshelf, even, are sweet ways to enliven your space with a unique lighting find. In a grey PNW winter, we need all the cozy lighting we can get!

Find Some Furniture

This is the big time, but don’t be intimidated. There are so many opportunities for adding antiques and vintage furniture to your home or space. Side chairs can be mix matched but have all the same seat upholstery to tie them together. A coffee table with cool acid wash can really build a space.

Laurelhurst Storybook Home – Board & Vellum
Hidden Treasures

You never know what you’ll stumble upon when vintage shopping – like this antique bellows table which adds whimsy and interest to this refined sitting room.

Start with just one or two key pieces to stand out. Still keep with the same rules of thumb of for new pieces and check your sizes, clearances, and color tones, but don’t be afraid to add something that really pops in the space.

Be cautious, however, of things you think will need a lot of work. Reupholstering a simple seat on a dining chair can be inexpensive or even DIY, but an entire rework of a sofa is not cheap! Same with refinishing: if something just needs a little touch up TLC, no biggy, but completely re-sanding and refinishing is not as easy as it looks on TV or Instagram. We give all the props for you weekend project-ers, but if it’s out of your comfort zone, likely that piece will sit in the garage!

So, with this we hope you have a few ideas on how to start thinking vintage. Not only is it good for the environment, it’s also a really fun way to add a little personality to your space, no matter the style. And while searching for treasures among bags of sometimes odd objects can feel overwhelming, we hope you have some fun with sourcing unexpected things!

One of our favorite places to search for vintage items is at the Capitol Hill Garage Sale. This once-a-year sale brings vendors together from all over the city to sell their wares in Cal Anderson Park in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood. It’s happening this weekend on August 20 from 10am to 3pm. We hope to see you there!

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Vintage Shopping for Your Design Project

Vintage pieces can elevate your space by adding unique and personal flourishes. If you’re looking to incorporate vintage accessories, antique furniture, or second hand lighting into the design of your home or space, here are a few pointers to help you get started – and stay on track – on your next shopping trip.

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