Extract from Get it Together - An Interior Designer's Guide to Creating Your Best Life by Orlando Soria. Published by Prestel Publishing.
A space doesn’t seem quite right when it’s filled only with brand-new furnishings. For me a home doesn’t feel done until there are some vintage items present. Why? I think it’s because vintage furniture and accessories bring a history and age with them that is impossible to replicate, even with the best faux finishing on earth.
Objects and furniture have the same type of inexplicable powers of attraction. Vintage pieces, much like vintage homes, give off a historic presence that gives your home a warmth and complexity that new objects cannot. I like to balance vintage pieces with newer items to make sure the space feels full of character but also fresh. But many people find vintage shopping to be totally daunting and overwhelming. Below are my tips for finding the best vintage pieces.
Look Low, Look High (But Mostly Low)
There are a lot of gorgeous showrooms that sell only the best vintage treasures. If I could afford to shop only in those places, I would. But for someone getting started in the vintage game, I’d stick to thrift shops and flea markets. There’s a Goodwill down the street from me that I go in almost every time I pass it. Eight out of ten times I find nothing, but occasionally I find something amazing. It’s a constant search. I still love going into high-end vintage and antique dealers, both for inspiration and on the off chance I can afford something in there. The more you spend on something, the more of a commitment it is. So dipping your feet in the thrift store/flea market pool is an unintimidating way to get started collecting vintage.
Follow Your Instincts
When shopping, sometimes you don’t know if you love something until hours later. But if it’s a flea market that may mean it’s too late. I tend to think that if you find yourself attracted to something, you should follow your instincts. I’ve had so many traumatic experiences at flea markets where I second-guessed myself only to realize later I passed up something awesome I totally should have snatched up. Usually your first impression of something is correct.
Determine Your Quirk Quotient
The tough part about vintage is there’s a thin line between things that are awesome and things that are just tacky and gross. The easiest way to figure out if a vintage object is cool or disgusting is to imagine it styled on a bookcase with a stylish combination of new and old items. If it seems like something that will look great next to a bunch of other pieces, it’s probably awesome. If it looks like it’s gonna stick out like a sore thumb, it’s probably not a good buy. Take, for example, this little wooden duck bowl (above). It’s definitely weird, but when placed on a stack of books, on an elegant dresser, its quirkiness creates the perfect contrast to the sophisticated things surrounding it.
Look for Handmade
While art from galleries and high-end boutiques can be very expensive, sourcing vintage art from thrift stores is a great way to grow your collection. While you might not be buying art by megafamous artists, this is a great way to find beautiful, handmade items that add personality to your home.
If It’s Awesome, It’s Worth Restoring
When I found this wooden bird candelabra (previous spread) at a thrift store, his beak had broken off and he was sad and all alone. So I paid the $4.99 he cost, took him home, and made a new nose for him (by filing a wooden dowel down using a pencil sharpener). If something is amazing and unique, it’s worth a little effort to restore it.
Search for Items that Work Well Together
My ex-boyfriend and I found these two different busts (above) at a flea market and I knew immediately that they were meant to be together. I was so committed to their pairing that I gave them to him when I moved out because I couldn’t bear to see them separated. When planning what pieces you want to pair, think about mixing materials and making sure they are different heights (when grouping things it’s usually a good idea to make sure objects are different heights).
Going Vintage Can Be a Great Way to Save on Foundational Items
Pieces like dressers, side tables, coffee tables, and other non-upholstered items can be found at flea markets and thrift stores at great prices. I exclude upholstered items here because they often need to be reupholstered, which can add significantly to their cost. Most of the dressers I’ve ever bought have been vintage. If they’re made out of quality wood and have been well taken care of, they’ll last forever.
Framing Vintage Art Makes It Look Way Important
Adding a frame to a painting on panel (such as the portrait featured above) is a great way to step it up. Many inexpensive artworks come on flat canvas panels or wood, which can look junky unframed. A frame with some heft adds to their visual presence and makes them look like a million bucks!
Get it Together - An Interior Designer's Guide to Creating Your Best Life
by Orlando Soria.
Photographs by ©️ Zeke Ruelas.
Published by Prestel Publishing.