How to Buy Vintage

Add some story to your home without overdoing it.

By Darren Davis May 31, 2016 Published in the June 2016 issue of Seattle Met

P1280456 jfghod

Mix eclectic pieces with foundational furniture for a balanced space.

When it comes to integrating collectibles into a space, there’s a fine line between tasteful accent and urban farmhouse with a tree stump motif. Three interiors experts share insight on how to bring vintage into the home while staying authentic.

Be Practical

Don’t toss out every piece of useful furniture and replace it with something old and expensive. Instead “start with something you interact with the most,” says Ryan Tansey. But don’t sacrifice organization for the sake of a story, either. Keep the normcore shelving for now. You may find a handsome art deco bookcase one day, and in the meantime you won’t look like a hoarder.

But Not Too Practical 

“Major pieces of furniture like dining tables, chairs, and sofas want to be simple with as little visual noise as possible,” says George Suyama. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t add a little whimsy—collectibles or other things with more personality.

Don’t Bank on Happy Accidents

Sure, discovering the most perfect little teak side table during a pit stop in some one-street mountain town sounds dreamy, but the antiquing fates will not alone furnish your living room. “Etsy and eBay are great places to look simply because you can refine your search,” says Michele Tansey. “And we meet so many nice people through individual sales on Craigslist.” 

A Theme Room Is a Bad Room

It’s a good idea to consider how vintage furniture and accents might interact with one another in a room. Suyama’s various collectible items, like his antique maneki neko cat figurines, occupy their own separate area in the house “and become quite powerful that way.” But take the organizing principle too far—a cat room, for instance—and the space becomes contrived. 

Know Your Vocab

Really leaning on driftwoody to describe your vision of a perfect coat hanger? Speak the word bohemian at a collectible shop and see what happens. If you find yourself using minimalist a lot lately, try the always reliable midcentury modern, clean lined, or geometric—“That’s a fun one,” says Ryan Tansey. And it’s time to ease up on terms like rustic and farmhouse. Say them enough and watch your kitchen transform into a Cracker Barrel gift shop.

The Experts
Show Comments