Five Ways To Add Vintage To Your Home
This week, I was asked a question in an interview about how I plan out my rooms. Three years ago, I'd have said that I literally chuck it all together (some may say it still looks like that), but I have realised recently that there is a method to my madness. After spending way too much time on Pinterest, I'll plan it all out on a Canva mood board - I wrote a blog about how to do this here. I'll add, takeaway, move around until I get the perfect blend that I'm looking for. Tbh, sometimes I'm not even SURE what I'm looking for until I've laid it all out. My hallway is a prime example of this - I had half an idea in my head but bringing it all together made me realise what elements I was missing. In fact, my hallway mood board is virtually exactly the same as the finished product. By only adding what I really loved to the mood board, I was able to create a space that made me seriously happy.
Making you happy should be the main aim of any room that you pull together. I want to walk into my home and relax, breathe out and enjoy the space. Oh, and pour a glass of wine and open a packet of Walkers Chicken & Thyme Sensations (yes, I know I'm supposed to be vegetarian but these don't really count). Here's a good way of enabling this. One, make sure the fridge is stacked with Sauvignon Blanc. Secondly, think about which is your favourite item to include in your room. Decide where you'll place it. This could be a favourite painting, a chair, an accessory, a bookshelf. Whatever it is, you want it in first. Then add around it, layering, texturing, lighting, until you feel that it's complete. Again, by only adding in items that you really love, you'll create a space that will bring you joy whenever you enter it.
When I was asked the question, I realised that the key pieces in my rooms are almost ALWAYS vintage. I've been obsessed with vintage for a very long time. I've always loved mixing old and new - a style which is the backbone of my house decor - and it never fails to make me happy. I'd restricted myself to charity shop trawling until about nine years ago when I decided we needed a new sofa but were pretty low on cash. All the ones in my price bracket were small, barely deep enough for the kids to sit on without falling off and all were contemporary styled. I wanted something a bit different so I took to eBay. My first yearning was for a low backed little Danish number but Joe wasn't having it - he'd been scarred for life by my sister's Robin Day which he'd always compared to sitting on a park bench.
Then fate struck - a huge, red leather corner sofa popped up. It was about eight years old and was a Natuzzi, a hugely expensive brand when new, with a starting price of £400. The seller was small and obviously had no idea about how to use eBay as the auction was finishing at 3.00 pm in the afternoon, certain suicide for a listing. Anyway, I sat outside school at pick up waiting patiently. There were no bidders so I jumped in at two minutes to go and won it. I sent Joe in a van to get it from a super smart third floor flat in the City where he met the owner, a very posh guy in his early twenties whose parents had given it to him when he bought his first home. It was in perfect condition, feather filled and an absolute steal. I still have it now, although after three children, a dog and cats and plenty of sun bleaching it's not in quite as mint condition as it was.
Anyway, my addiction to pre owned furniture was set in stone and since then, I'm incapable of styling a room without a bit of vintage. For me, it adds that extra interest, that touch of individuality which, in a world of trends, is so important when designing your home. Here's how to incorporate into your home (and without breaking the bank, I might add).
1. Hit The Internet
Let's start with the basics. So eBay, Gumtree and Freecycle are my homeboys and I can literally waste an entire evening searching on 'retro furniture'. I've had some absolute gems from eBay, including a 1970's Pieff chair which I NEVER get bored of. It's a haven of Danish designed furniture and I'm constantly having to stop my finger pressing the bid button for fear of divorce. I've had sideboards for £20, Persian rugs the size of my kitchen for £120, coffee tables galore. I usually try to go for sellers who are within a short distance of my home, although you can use Shiply to get shipping quotes before you've even placed the bid.
I'm not going to lie, I don't always get it right. I once bought a 1930's cocktail cabinet that was a massive failure. The lights didn't work and it smelt like the fog in a men only sawdust floor pub I was once forced to enter to use the loo in Shawlands, just outside Glasgow, many years ago. The smell didn't shift, even after two bottles of Flash Bleach, and it was back on Freecycle quicker than you could say 'chauvinist hell hole'.
Gumtree is also a treasure trove of goodies. It's fab for two reasons - one, it's free of charge to use, and two, it's set price (although you can negotiate a bit sometimes). My friend Karen (AKA my partner in vintage crime) swears by it and has picked up many a bargain, from floor tiles to fully working 1960's gramophone cabinets. You can also easy tailor it to your area so that everything is within distance. Freecycle is absolutely brilliant if you're willing to do a bit of work - you can pick up upcycling pieces and larger items that people struggle to dispose of. All of these online sites are hotbeds of vintage loveliness. Plus of course, you're saving from landfill and thus helping the environment by recycling.
If you're not a trawler and you've got a bit of a budget, then there are plenty of fabulous small online stores who can source the perfect piece for your room. I recently worked with Wendy from Homeplace to find a vintage chandelier for my landing and she found me an absolute gem at a third of the price that I would have paid for something new. It's always worth looking if you're investing in something to last.
2. Beg, Borrow (Basically Steal)
So this is a good one. I've got a fair few pieces in my home that I've *inherited (*basically stolen) from my Mum. My style is constantly evolving and so is my Mum's - in fact, I got my transient decor issues from her - and as a result, she's often sending items off into her garage. We lived in Hong Kong as children and I've got a couple of fab Chinese embroidered prints on my wall that I've purloined. A chest that belonged to my Great Grandmother is in my bedroom, as is a green glass decanter that belonged to my Great Uncle. I love the fact that these items can continue to be loved in my home.
Although it has to be said that my sister Annabel has definitely got the best results from our parental cast offs, most annoyingly an amazing round 1970's smoked glass circular coffee table with tubular waved chrome base. Always jell. Oh, and a 1960's wood slice coffee table. I seriously missed out on that one.
When I posted a picture of a tea trolley that I use as a side table in my living room, countless people messaged to say that they'd seen similar in their grandparents homes and were now going to whip them for their own use. Handing items down such as these means that not only does your home look unique, but also means that you have pieces that hold memories.
My brother, sister and I are all in debate about who will take my Mum's vintage Nigerian lady lamp base which is a hugely sought after item. She's always very put out that we're even discussing it.
3. Hunt For The Treasure
Every year on my birthday, my friend Karen and I trawl the charity shops for treasure. Yes, this is our idea of fun. Karen books the day off, we have lunch. Honestly, it's one of the best days of my year. Charity shops, or thrift stores as they call them elsewhere, are an absolute hotbed of fabulousness. I never tire of seeing what's new in stock, finding bits to add to collections. I'm an absolute sucker for glassware - I collect coloured glass and I never fail to pick up a new piece to add to the rainbow.
Plates are another weakness - in our previous home, I had a kitchen wall decorated with retro tourist momento finds. I've purchased retro wicker plant pots (perfect for that 1970's stylie monstera) and even a Persian runner for the hall on our birthday outings. I still yearn for the one that got away this year - the marble stand ashtray with flip box that I debated about and didn't buy. Plus you're donating to the chosen charity at the same time so it's a winner all round.
4. Juxtapose Your Gallery
If I were to be asked what my favourite feature of my home was, I would always say the gallery walls. I've got a real penchant for sticking things on walls and it's evident from my Insta feed that it's verging on obsessional. Anyway, one of the reasons why I love this particular home feature so much is the opportunity to juxtapose. I know, I'm quite boring with this whole juxtaposing thing but for me, it's a happiness bringer. Last year, I visited my local charity shop and managed to find the exact picture that my parents had on their wall in the 1970's - Bruegels The Hunters In The Snow. Adding this to my walls gave me the greatest pleasure - not only does it remind me of my childhood and thus good memories but it also only cost a fiver. Winning.
Charity shops are a great place to pick up small vintage prints that can be mixed in with modern for great effect. Or why not create your own from vintage photographs? I've had a print of my brother and myself with our grandmothers printed on to canvas. It's on my wall in between a photo of a young David Bowie and some Anthony Burrill typography. It's unexpected, but that's why it works. Mix it up, baby.
5. Bring It Everyday
Vintage isn't just for furniture and accessories. My mother in law gave me an entire twelve set of bone china vintage teaware that she didn't have room for and it's wonderful to be able to make use of this, especially knowing it's history. The kids eat their toast from the plates, I use the cups and saucers for tea. The majority of our wine glasses are vintage - when I lay a table for a dinner party, that mixture of old and new always looks so effective. Charity shops are full of bakeware - Pyrex, enamelware, all brilliant for the kitchen. They look good but also serve a purpose.
My sister used to collect vintage tablecloths. She didn't keep them for 'best', she used them everyday. I'm always searching out bone china handled cutlery - cheese and butter knives are a favourite and it's always so cool to bring them out when we have people over for a meal. And don't even start me on liquor glasses - I have enough of these to service an entire Royal Wedding. Oh, and my Great Grandmothers blanket box is full of colourful vintage crochet blankets. Think outside the box when it comes to everyday items.
So that's my Top Five ways to bring a touch of vintage to your home. In a world where we are bombarded by home imagery and it's easy to follow the crowd, adding your own stamp to your home is, in my mind, an absolute essential and vintage is an excellent way to set your decor apart. Just stick to what you love and you can't go wrong. And remember that one man's trash is another man's treasure - individuality is what makes the world go around, it doesn't have to suit the masses. If you love it, then it's perfect for you. Get shopping vintage!