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  • Writer's pictureStacy Dackson

The Allure of Vintage and Antique Furniture: Timeless Elegance and Eco-Friendly Choices

When it comes to furnishing your living space, vintage and antique furniture has an undeniably unique charm. While "vintage" typically refers to items around 40 years old or older, "antiques" are usually recognized as pieces that have seen over a century of history. This blog post delves into the world of vintage and antique furniture, exploring why it's a popular choice for modern interior design.

Creating a Unique Look

One of the main draws of vintage furniture is its ability to infuse a room with character and individuality. As time passes, even mass-produced pieces become increasingly rare, giving your décor a distinct and stylish edge. There's a certain "cool" factor that's hard to replicate with entirely new furnishings. Vintage furniture spans several decades, offering you two exciting options. You can go all-in on a single vintage or retro era, like the iconic mid-century modern, recreating the style down to the finest details. Alternatively, you can curate a collection of vintage pieces from different eras, weaving them together into a harmonious and cohesive look. If you choose the latter, ensure the room ties together with a unifying color scheme and a consistent level of formality. This ensures that even with diverse time periods represented, the pieces share common visual elements, creating a visually pleasing space.

Budget-Friendly Elegance

Appreciating high-quality furniture doesn't have to be reserved for those with boundless budgets. Vintage pieces offer a cost-effective way to indulge in the finer things in life. You'll often find that older furniture boasts superior craftsmanship and the use of finer materials compared to new pieces that can cost several times more.

Vintage Is Earth-Friendly

Beyond their aesthetic appeal and budget-friendly nature, vintage and antique furniture is also an eco-conscious choice. Choosing vintage pieces prevents older furniture from ending up in landfills, contributing to a more sustainable approach to home furnishing. Moreover, vintage furniture is often a healthier choice for your home, as it has already off-gassed any formaldehyde or other toxic substances present in the finishes and glues. If refinishing is necessary, non-toxic finishes can be applied, further enhancing the eco-friendliness of these pieces.

Where to Find Vintage Pieces

The thrill of shopping for vintage furniture lies in the unpredictability of what you might discover and where you might stumble upon it. If you decide to embark on a vintage treasure hunt, keep in mind that if you shop online, it's crucial to factor in shipping costs and conduct thorough research before making a purchase. Here are some avenues to explore when hunting for vintage and antique furniture:

  • Handoffs from older family members: Ask your relatives if they have any vintage pieces they're willing to part with.

  • Edgy retail stores: Check out specialty stores that curate unique vintage finds.

  • Online retailers: Many online platforms specialize in vintage and antique furniture.

  • Estate sales: Estate sales are often treasure troves of unique vintage pieces.

  • Live auctions: Attend live auctions to bid on coveted vintage items.

  • Auction websites: Online auction sites are another place to discover hidden gems.

  • Garage and yard sales: Local sales can yield surprising vintage finds at budget-friendly prices.

  • Charity flea markets: Support a good cause while shopping for vintage treasures at charity flea markets.

  • Secondhand stores: Explore thrift stores and secondhand shops for vintage furniture.

Assessing the Value of Old Furniture

Is your furniture valuable or just old? The average person won't know the answer to this question. If you're not an antique collector, your knowledge is probably limited. And that's exactly why you've turned to us. Before you redesign your home and get rid of some old pieces, you need to find out their worth. After all, redecorating can get expensive, and having some disposable income couldn't hurt. Here's how to tell if old furniture is valuable:

Don't Fixate on Style

Style isn't everything when it comes to furniture. The design may seem like the first thing to search for, but it doesn't account for everything. History shows that the styles of distinct pieces were often replicated, and those replicas won't hold the same value. For example, if you find a Queen Anne chair at Goodwill, that doesn't mean you've just hit the jackpot. Manufacturers recreate and resell these designs all the time. You'll need to thoroughly inspect the piece before determining whether it's worth a pretty penny. Some of the most commonly replicated pieces are Queen Anne (1720-1760), William and Mary (1690-1730), Chippendale (1755-1790), and Rocco (1845-1870).

Examine the Dovetails

Speaking of details, start off by examining the dovetails. These are the joints that hold furniture together. Don't get these areas confused with the screws or bolts that hold the piece together. The dovetails are the wood of the piece. Pay close attention to these because they offer clues about the entire piece of furniture. If it's old, you'll notice a hand-cut dovetail rather than one done by a machine. Look for any sort of irregularities on the dovetails. Human hands have a hard time with perfection, so every joint should differ from the previous one, whereas a machine will get it perfect every time. Irregularities are the first clue you might have a real gem on your hands.

Get an Appraisal

Going to a professional is always a safe bet. They're in the business for a reason. They know all the signs to look for, and even better, they can offer you a price for your piece. However, getting an appraisal is like buying a new pair of shoes. You need to try on a few pairs before you find the perfect fit. Don't stick with one opinion. Take your furniture to a couple of antique collectors to see if the prices vary. Depending on the response, you'll have a better idea of the price range of your furniture. And if it ever gets to the point where you need to negotiate the price, you'll know whether you're still getting a good deal.

Examine the Pieces

After looking over the dovetails, give the entire piece a thorough inspection. What are you looking for? See if any of the pieces match. Finding lumber back in the day wasn't so hard, but finding lumber that matches was a different story. If all pieces of wood and hardware match, the furniture most likely comes from a modern factory. Remember, the more irregularities you can find the better. You may need to brush up on your lumber knowledge for this portion of the inspection. Pick up a book on wood so you can tell the difference between maple and walnut. If you notice one of your pieces uses two different kinds of wood, it's more likely to be an antique.

Search for Dates and Labels

During your inspection, see if you can locate any dates or labels. Most of the antique pieces constructed have an indication on them of the time designed and created or the person who had a hand in the woodwork. Some pieces might even have stamps. Keep in mind this is a rarity, and if you find this on a piece, you absolutely have something valuable on your hands. A label from a current furniture store doesn't count. And an engraved date needs to look warped with the wood. Anything fresh or new is a dead giveaway for a piece that holds no value.

Look for Original Finishes

Original finishes are always a good sign the furniture is antique. Almost nothing is original these days. We live in a world of replicas. You can always tell if the piece is refurbished if the finish drips or runs at the bottom. If the furniture underneath the finish is old, the refurbishment might not make much difference. But it does detract from the value of the piece. Remember, a refurbishment is fine because it still matches the color trends. However, painted furniture is a no. Removing the paint to find and examine the wood will damage the piece and destroy its value. Painted furniture holds no value.

Keep an Eye on the Screws

Believe it or not, the screws and bolts on a furniture piece are a dead giveaway of its value. You just need to know what to look for. Don't overlook this area because handmade single-slot screws can help determine the age of the furniture. Again, irregularities are your friend because no two single-slot screws will be identical. Human hands can't perfectly replicate a piece, even when they try to do forgeries. The edges will be flat, and the tip will be blunt. The overall shape of the screw should look cylindrical. Modern screws have tapered shapes to them.

Find out the Rarity

It's all about the rarity. Finding it won't be easy at first glance. But once you discover the thing that makes a piece unique, you'll know its worth. For example, pieces that were made 100 years ago will be less likely to survive than those made 50 years ago. A piece that old won't have too many companions around, and that means the market value has just gone up. An appraisal can tell you the age of the piece and how many more there might be like it.

Vintage greek key brass chair

1st Dibs website showing vintage chair and $2850 price tag

Here's a little personal story about my own auction finds. I picked up this brass chair from a local auction for $12. It was oxidized and needed a few hours of polishing to bring it back to its original brass finish. While I was polishing the chair, I noticed a sticker that said "Made in Italy" on the under side of the frame. So I did a quick search on 1st Dibs auction website and found it was actually worth quite a bit of money. You can see below the same exact chair was purchased off their website for $2,850. I was truly lucky with this find as the sellers really didn't know what they had.

I always promote the use of vintage and antique pieces when curating a space. It creates an authentic feeling that cannot be accomplished with a room full of newly manufactured furniture. In the end, rooms that unitize vintage furniture have a unique, lived-in, rich layered aesthetic that adds soul into the space.


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