Investing in vintage furniture can bring style and sophistication into your home, but it’s important to check for the very best in quality
Sometimes, to make your home feel fresh and new, you have to look to the old styles for inspiration. There is a reason vintage furniture and never gone out of style, and that’s because it transcends the coming and going trends of interior design and is, instead, timeless. Whether it’s a 1970s sofa with bold upholstery or a rich, elegant Mid-Century cabinet, vintage furniture can help to fill your home with a sense of luxury that’s truly unique.
But if you do decide to go down the route of vintage furniture when rethinking your home design, you need to know exactly what you’re looking for. The world of vintage furniture is a big one, with styles ranging throughout the twentieth century all ready to bring something different to your interior setting. When you start shopping vintage, you’ll soon realise that no two pieces are the same.
So where do you start? The most important lesson you’ll need to learn when shopping for vintage furniture is how to spot quality. Luckily, we’re here to help. Here are our top tips for how to check for quality when buying vintage furniture.
Pay close attention to how the piece was made
Spotting a great piece of vintage furniture is just about the way the item looks. It’s also about how the piece was put together, as understanding this will give you an idea of how high a quality the furniture is and how long you will get out of it. Generally speaking, vintage furniture is extremely durable, but knowing exactly how an item was pieced together will give you a more definite answer when it comes to seeking out the very best.
If the piece you’re looking at has drawers, pull them out and check how they were constructed. Features like dovetails and kerf marks are tell tale signs that the piece has been crafted by hand.
Do a thorough check of the hardware
As well as checking how the piece was made, you need to look closely and the specific joints and aspects keeping it together. This is another key way to check for the level of quality you’re after. Checking the hardware of a piece also helps you ensure that it is working in the way you want it to. If you’re thinking of purchasing something like a wardrobe or sideboard, check the hinges on the doors to make sure they are fully functional. You should also check the runs on the drawers to make sure they are also working effectively. For vintage items like sofas and armchairs, it’s important to look past the upholstery to the bones of the piece, as this is how you will know whether it’s a high quality piece or not.
Look for a stamp of approval, or signs of an authentic era piece
For older vintage items, you can look for signatures on the back or undersides of drawers which can tell you a lot more about the age, authenticity and creator of the piece. These pencil or chalk marks may also tell where the piece was produced. If there are no drawers, the signature is most likely on the back or the bottom of the furniture.
For more recent items, they may possess a label or stamp which will tell you similar information. This is information you can use to get an idea of the item’s overall quality. You should also keep an eye out for features and finishing touches reminiscent of the era you’re shopping for. What about the piece makes it clear that it is from the 1930s?
Keep an eye out for any damage
A bit of wear and tear is common when it comes to vintage furniture, and for the most part it only adds to the authenticity and history of the item. Delicate marks on the wood of a vintage dining room table can give it an even greater sense of gravitas and elegance, but of course there is a limit to how much damage we are willing to put up with. At some point, wear and tear stops being stylistic and starts being detrimental to the piece’s overall quality.
To weed out any unwanted damage, look in the areas which are most likely to show signs of wear and tear — i.e. the parts of the furniture which are used the most. On heavy wooden items, look at the feet for signs that the piece has been dragged from room to room. On chairs, check the crest and the centre supports where people may have applied pressure by leaning back.
Know the difference between a repair and a replacement
Vintage furniture items have often already lived long and fulfilling lives before meeting you. This, of course, is all part of the charm of older furniture. However, it also means you need to check for both repairs and replacements. Repairs are natural, and only mean that at some point the piece has had to be fixed due to a simple, often minor break. Unless it is extremely noticeable, this isn’t usually a problem for vintage furniture lovers.
Replacements, on the other hand, are usually a sign of more extensive damage. This refers to a once missing part of the furniture being replaced with an entirely new piece. This may not be a problem is the replacement piece is authentic, and matches the rest of the furniture, but if the difference between the two furniture sources is obvious than it can take away from the overall look of the piece.
What is your stance on refinished furniture?
There are two schools of thought when it comes to vintage furniture finishes. Finish purists believe that the original finish is an intrinsic part of the item’s history and should therefore be left alone. Others however, believe that layers of dirt and grime that build up over time may obscure the more important qualities of the furniture.
There is no right way to feel about vintage furniture finishes, but you do need to ensure that the items you’re considering meet your own personal demands and tastes. This is a good general rule to bear in mind throughout your vintage shopping experience – trust your gut. If an item feels like the right choice, chances are it is a great investment for your home. Just be sure to take practical aspects like function and damage into account too.
Go online for a wider selection
Traditionally, seeking out vintage furniture solutions would have involved hunting down local flea markets and second hand shops. For some people, this was all part of the fun, but for others it was a time consuming and stressful way to find the perfect furniture solutions for their home. Thankfully, with the rise of online shopping vintage furniture has now gone digital. This means that online marketplaces like Vinterior allow you to discover an enormous range of styles, eras and pieces from the comfort of your own home. This makes it easier than ever to fill your home with charm, luxury and uniqueness of vintage furniture.