On a quest to find the perfect piece of vintage furniture for your home? Red's interiors columnist Kate Watson-Smyth (AKA Mad About The House) shares her insider tricks for shopping for vintage furniture online and at markets, including the clever website she uses to find a bargain...
Just as fashion is cyclical, furniture trends work their way back around. In the 1990s, no one wanted so-called ‘brown’ or antique furniture, but with current (welcome)moves towards sustainability, vintage is making a comeback.
We may have to content ourselves with window shopping for now, but when life returns to normal, whether you splurge on mid-century antiques or pick up a cheap pine table you can paint, it pays to have a few tricks up your sleeve to secure a good deal.
Vintage furniture shopping: Be specific
If you’re shopping online, be specific about search terms. If you want six chairs, say so, or you’ll have to wade through pages offering two or four. Tick as many boxes relating to period, material and type of furniture as you can. And, on eBay, tick the ‘used’ and ‘original’ boxes if you don’t want to be deluged with ‘vintage-style’ items. Technically, antique means more than 100 years old and vintage is anything over 20, but not everyone abides by that.
Vintage furniture shopping: Talk to the seller
Don’t be afraid to have a chat with the seller. Many own bricks-and-mortar shops as well, and if they don’t have what you’re looking for, they may be able to source it. They may also take a cheeky offer if you show interest and appreciation for their stock.
Vintage furniture shopping: Check this site
You could also try running a search with spelling errors. There’s a website, fatfingers.co.uk, that will show you the most common spelling mistakes. We all make them, and it would be galling to miss out on a really good price for an Eames chair because you didn’t check ‘Eemes’. If you’re looking for something specific, set up eBay and Google alerts. If you aren’t, search by colour to see what turns up.
Vintage furniture shopping: Reupholstery transforms less-than-perfect pieces
Remember, you can always reupholster. You might find a battered armchair for
a tenner, then spend some money getting it remade in a fabric of your choice.
Vintage furniture shopping: Don't be put off by distance
Many pieces are ‘collection only’, but these days, that needn’t be a dealbreaker. Shiply.com and anyvan.com will bid to transport your table from Billericay to Brighton and only set off when they’ve filled their trucks. That way, you get a good price and the knowledge that
you aren’t paying someone to drive the length of the country with a single piece of furniture. Yet another way to make your purchase more sustainable.
Vintage furniture shopping: Show up early and take a tape measure
If you’re offline, get to your chosen market either really early to beat the crowds or late, when sellers might take a lower offer. And always have your measurements to hand. There’s nothing worse than spotting something at an antiques fair or in a shop window and not knowing if it will fit.
Main photo: Furniture and accessories from a selection at Vinterior. This article was first published in the June issue of Red.
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