This week I had my house photographed to go into a magazine. I spent three furiously busy days trying to make it look more like Homes & Gardens and less like The Royle Family. I had the kids gutting their rooms and Joe hoovering as if he were Mrs Overall. Anyway, the point is that whilst totally restyling my house I realised that probably 80 percent of my home is vintage, thrifted or charity shop scored.
I am sure you will be aware that I am obsessed with vintage. There are several reasons for this. One, there's the joy of searching for it. Two, you are buying something with a history. Three, you can bathe in the smug glow of recycling. And four, most of the time it's much cheaper and more economical than shopping on the High Street. I've spent years scouring eBay for the perfect buy, moving on in recent years to charity shops, car boot sales, Gumtree and Freecycle. It never fails to make me happy when I find the perfect vintage item, or something pops up on my eBay alert that I've been waiting for.
So, just in case any of you have not tried buying vintage before or have avoided it because you are worried it will look 'grannyish', knackered or smell like 20 Marlboro Lights, I've listed below my top tips for picking up vintage style in every room of the house.
Danish Is Cool
I have actually always wished I was Danish. They have an underlying, naturally stylish way of just 'being' that us Brits just can't cut. Who can forget Saga in The Bridge? She was mad as a hatter but how cool was she? My best ever compliment was from an Danish friend who saw my Christmas decorations and said I had Scandi style. So it's only natural that Scandinavian design is still going strong 60 years down the line. eBay is the perfect place to start if you are looking for a vintage sofa. It's full of Danish and mid century gems that never fail to make me swoon. I have a real issue with buying chairs in particular and have to be physically stopped from bidding on them. Using search words such as Danish, Midcentury, Retro, Vintage and Ercol will bring up a host of beauties. There are lots of shops on eBay who refurbish and sell vintage sofas and furniture. On first glance, these may look pricier than you would imagine but when compared to the price of a brand new sofa, they are at least 50% less. They have all been totally refurbished and of excellent construction which is why they've survived for so long. We have had vintage sofas for years and they are solid as a rock. Buy quality and it will last. My red leather Natuzzi corner sofa was £400 - it's beautifully made and all the seats and cushions are feather filled and stitched. Likewise, you can pick up classic chairs for far less than you would pay for a High Street brand - I've got a vintage 70's Pieff easy chair which I won for £120. We've bought new sofas for our sitting room for the first time this year but it doesn't stop me looking longingly at eBay and wishing I'd bought a vintage one instead. Seduced by the marketing machine that is DFS. Dammit.
Long Live The Drinks Cupboard
I absolutely LOVE vintage furniture. One of the only furniture item downstairs in my house that is not vintage or vintage inspired is my IKEA Norden dining table. Which, btw, is the best table ever as it extends to 3m and can fit 16 people for dinner. Sideboards, in my opinion, are the best invention of all time. They are the most useful, beautiful and practical pieces of furniture. Why would you not want a drinks cupboard? And a cutlery drawer in your dining room? I cannot understand how they fell out of popularity. Solid purchases on eBay include G Plan and Jentique. It's possible to pick them up cheaply if you go for a non solid teak version - I've got an Avalon glass bureau in my dining room that was £8 in a charity sale as it's veneered. From a side table point of view, my house is full of tea and drinks trolleys which for me are the perfect accompaniment to your sofa. They are the ideal height and look fabulous stacked with books or magazines. Even the study area can be vintaged. I use a Pieff smoked glass dining table picked up for £20 as a desk - it's ideal and brings a bit of edge to the space. I'm obsessed by German and Danish midcentury lamp bases which can be picked up (at a cost) at Antiques Fairs but in my mind are worth every penny. Joe's still to be convinced on that one.
Who Wants Matching Glassware Anyway?
I've had an quite scary addiction to vintage glassware for years. Who can resist the etched beauty of a mini sherry glass or the retro fabulousness of a Babycham glass? Charity shops are the ONLY place to get such items and they are full to the brim of them. My only issue with Babycham glasses is the size but that probably says more about my drinking than the styling. There is nothing I love more than laying the table for dinner with a selection of vintage wine glasses, water glasses and liquor glasses. Nothing matches but that's why I love it. You can pick them up for prices that are quite frankly madness and yet the beauty they add to your table is incomparable. Vintage glass jugs are fabulous for water at the table. And why buy an expensive decanter when your local Sue Ryder can provide you with something far more individual for much less cost? Vintage coloured glass is perfect for displaying and so much fun to collect.
Tea Sets Rock
The vintage tea set. I don't know why everyone doesn't have one of these. I've got three, one of which belonged to Joe's grandmother. I use them every day and mix and match them. Perfect for the breakfast table and ideal for a cup of tea, so much nicer than just whipping out the standard dinner service. Search on Ironstone Pottery, they produced a Beefeater range back in the 60's that now are hugely collectable. Meakin coffee sets are a brilliant buy and look great and useful, always a bonus. Another brilliant buy is the old style cast casserole tins, again picked up for pennies in the charity shops and are of such solid construction they are never going to let you down. Vintage bread bins are always a good buy and look fab. I'm currently trying to collect bone handled vintage cutlery, enough for a dinner service, but I'll probably still be doing that in 2020. If you are thinking of compiling a wall plate collection (this could just be me) then old style souvenir plates and vintage patterns will look amazing grouped together.
Everyone Loves A Tina
Midcentury and retro art divides opinion. I once bought a huge picture of a stampeding elephant (you may know it) in the charity shop for £2.50. My father in law came to dinner, took one look at it and said, "yes, that's the sort of picture that people had in the 60's who didn't know anything about art". But it's exactly that kind of seriously retro, elaborate and slightly mad style of art that I so love. It's kitschness (if that's a word) is the allure. Tretchikoff, J H Lynch, Van Der Syde. Their prints exude beauty. I recently picked up Hunters In The Snow by Bruegel in the charity shop for a fiver and was so excited I almost cried, we'd had it on our living room wall as kids and I remembered every detail. I've scored still life florals in fabulous gold frames for literally pounds at car boot sales. On the other hand, I've googled vintage print on eBay and bought more modern vintage Habitat posters which I've framed. Old movie posters are also a good buy and look fab. Plus retro art looks bloody amazing when mixed with modern. It's a winner all round.
Don't get me wrong, investing in an amazing piece of beautifully designed modern furniture is what we'd all like to do if we could afford it. But I think that vintage has something about it (aside from the aroma of Marlboro Lights) that adds that extra bit of cool to your decor and perpetuates the recycling process which is good for the environment and good for your purse. Vintage rocks.