Shopping for unique furniture pieces is always an exciting part of decorating a home. Whether it’s a hunt for the latest sofa designs or more classic pieces like French-style dressers and Louis XV chairs, there’s no doubt you’re looking to get the most bang for your buck especially when it comes to quality. Luckily, buying vintage furniture is now easier than ever, which means there’s a higher chance of scoring quality furniture for less. Not to mention, the chance to bring home one-of-a-kind statement pieces all while doing your part to help save the environment.
That said, buying vintage furniture is much more of a treasure hunt than a trip to a furniture store, so it’s important to know exactly what to look for. From choosing quality pieces to finding places to buy vintage, five experts share their essential tips with us when it comes to buying vintage furniture. Read on for a beginner’s guide you can easily follow.
Do Your Research
There’s a wide variety of choices when it comes to vintage furniture pieces, so it’s important to do a bit of research before you set out on finding the perfect piece.
According to Kelly Juhasz, principal of Fine Arts Appraisal and Services, you should start by learning and studying about the period of furniture that you like. That way, you can understand the unique characteristics of furniture from that period.
And while it’s likely that you’ve already decorated your home with a particular theme, understanding the difference between mid century modern, Art Deco and classical furniture pieces will help you determine what details to pay attention to when you find a piece you like.
Of course, you shouldn’t hesitate to ask for help. “Appraisers, interior designers and antique dealers are always happy to share their knowledge.” says Juhasz. “We want you to learn and make good choices in what you buy.”
Pay Attention to the Details
Carole Marcotte, lead designer of interior practice and vintage store Form and Function, looks at different details depending on the item.
“Casegood items like dressers, sideboards, dining tables or any wood pieces are generally a good investment and are much sounder in construction than many modern versions made of chipboard or pressed wood.” Marcotte adds, “if there is little to no surface wear, it is even better as you won’t have to invest in refinishing – just good cleaning.” She also recommends considering upholstered pieces if they don’t need much structural repair.
If you’ve already found a piece you like, media personality and leading authority on 20th century design Reyne Hirsch suggests doing the following before handing over your hard earned money: check the finish, the hardware and the legs. If the finish is shiny, there’s a high chance that it’s recently been re-varnished. Additionally, you should check to see if the hardware has been replaced or the legs have been repaired. For instance, glue marks or nails holding legs in place can indicate that the legs have either been restored, or replaced.
Being aware of the condition of the piece can give you a better idea of its value, and help you determine the price you’re willing to pay for it.
Focus on Form and Function
“Think function and aesthetics and don’t get caught up in the ‘named’ or collectible items where pricing can skyrocket.” advises Marcotte. “If the piece serves a function you need and is in the style you desire, than it is a good investment.”
But most importantly, Hirsch emphasizes that “the only thing you should consider, beyond condition, is if you love the piece. If so, and it’s in your budget, buy it.”
Treat It Like a Treasure Hunt
Buying vintage furniture requires plenty of effort, but it’s worth the time and energy. Just like the hunt for treasure, shopping for vintage furniture often means heading to less popular places.
Darcy Segura, a buyer and reseller of vintage furniture, explains how she buys exclusively at estate or yard sales, as well as thrift stores. “A great thing about estate sales and secondhand shops is that you can find quality, well-built furniture at reasonable prices compared to today’s replicas, most of which are not 100% wood or built-to-last.”
She continues, “I’ve found pieces that are at least 70 years old that, while they may need to be refurbished a bit, are as good as new, durability-wise. Those are my favorite finds.”
Are you planning to buy vintage furniture? Or do you collect vintage furniture? Share your experience with us in the comments below!