More and more people are turning their backs on throwaway culture and bringing vintage and antique furnishings into their homes to create an environment that’s unique to them.
The character of an antique sofa, for instance, can help transform a drab dwelling into a sumptuous sanctuary. But if you’re a vintage virgin, where should you begin?
Victoria McDonald, founder of interior design consultancy Quirk & Colour, says a new home is an opportunity to choose decor that reflects your personality. The general rule, she explains, is that anything older than 20 years is considered ‘vintage’, while items over 100 years old are ‘antique’.
“This means that many items and ideas from our childhoods fit into the vintage bracket now, so you can surround yourself with nostalgic mementos and memories that will stimulate happiness,” she says.
“However, I strongly believe that every home and every room should have a mix of both old and new. This creative contrast means pieces stand out against each other and keep your interior decor unique.”
One way to set a vintage or antique theme, suggests McDonald, is through fixtures and fittings, such as picture rails, ceiling roses, elegant mirrors and door handles.
“Antique or vintage furniture is a great addition to your home in a world now flooded with flat-pack,” she adds. “The quality of old wooden furniture is generally superior to today’s offerings. You can make use of free family heirlooms on offer or find people selling off old furniture cheaply.”
Mix it up
Vintage style expert Kate Beavis advocates buying what makes you happy, but stresses that it’s sensible to consider original features and items that can’t be taken when you move house.
Take, for example, the kitchen. “You might want a 1970s orange kitchen, but the next buyer might not. I suggest going for something minimal, such as cream cupboards, and adding vintage kitchenalia. There are also some details that people universally love, such as original doors and door handles, fireplaces and sanded floorboards.”
But should you stick to a theme? McDonald is not a fan because there are myriad styles and eras that can be mixed and matched, or clashed successfully. If you do decide to go for one particular style, ensure you’re passionate about it.
Lisa Mehydene, founder of interiors platform edit58, echoes this: “I always find in interiors that a theme can result in a space that feels too contrived and not authentic. That’s not to say that there can’t be a common thread that runs through your purchases
“For me and my home, the thread is that all the pieces have a story to them. Surrounding yourself with pieces that mean something to you, in whatever form that takes, makes for acquisitions that will live in your home for years to come.”
Mehydene also advocates mixing vintage and newer pieces. “Some of the first vintage pieces I purchased were a set of four Kai Kristiansen chairs from eBay. I put these around a circular table from Ikea as we couldn’t afford the Knoll table that we really wanted.
“People are always surprised to learn where the table came from as the chairs throw them off the scent. The art is in mixing new and old – much like what we do with our wardrobes when we mix vintage, designer and high-street items.”
She adds that accessories and homewares can give a room a stylish boost, with a vintage rug, for instance, changing the feel of a room and adding individualism, cosiness and texture.
“A vintage lamp in a kitchen will help soften the space and create a lovely atmosphere; vintage crockery will make the setting for your first dinner party in your new home much more interesting than a plain white set.”
Layers of style
Sonnaz Nooranvary, upholsterer on BBC One’s the Repair Shop, asks clients looking to restore antique or vintage furnishings where they will be located and what they want to feel when they are in that space.
“It’s a great starting point on which to build your theme and style,” she says. “For example, if you are going for a modern and simple Scandinavian feel, refurbishing some Ercol furniture is the answer. Finding a local upholsterer to re-web and re-cover, or renew, the cushions will breathe new life into the piece while bringing it back in line with your colour scheme. For a bright, fresh room, go for light or pastel colours; for a cosy, snug feel, opt for a thick, textured fabrics and warmer tones.”
Emily and Victoria Ceraudo, co-founders of vintage and contemporary interiors firm, Ceraudo, recommend buying larger items new – such as a comfortable sofa – and adding antique and vintage accessories around these. “If you have the time, it’s safest to have lived in the space for a while in order to know exactly the type of pieces you need for specific areas,” they say.
“This way you can have a really clear idea of the things you need to find that meet your sizing and versatility requirements. Then the more decorative accessories can be layered as and when you can.”
Homeowners who want any vintage buys to increase in value should do their research into what other people are purchasing. Beavis recommends looking at sold listings on eBay and scanning books, such as Miller’s Collectables Handbooks for prices.
She adds: “Another good tip is to read magazines and visit shops to see what pieces are selling. For example, if Habitat or Ikea bring in a tulip-based table inspired by the 1960s version, the originals will be desired more and therefore command a good price.”