I’m pretty sure, if you have eyeballs, you have probably noticed how vintage has been having its trend moment in the home decor market. I am happy to see the masses are loving it, as I have always been a fan and believe it to be a wonderful option in making your rooms feel cozy and lived in! However, it does make it a bit more competitive to find the good stuff at decent prices, but I’m here to share my 5 tips for collecting vintage and curating items you’ll use and love.
Tip 1: Buy what you love.
I realize this may seem obvious, but I see many people buying what they see that is trendy or what the magazine experts are saying is the ‘hot item’ of the moment, rather than what they are truly drawn to. For me, vintage is very personal and I know that many of us have reactions to certain items based on precious memories from our past. If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it 47 million times…”my grandmother had those glasses and I always drank juice out of them when I would spend the night” or “we grew up in the country with our cousins and played with this or that item as kids” or “my mom had that and I always loved it, but my sister inherited it”. Now you can have it too.
I began collecting milk glass back in the late 70s when I was a teenager. I received my first piece from my maternal grandmother, and I was hooked. My collection is quite extensive and consists of items we use on a daily basis as our everyday dishes, along with a variety of pieces that are used throughout the year, especially around the holidays. I have many patterns that I like, but I tend to stay pretty specific to certain collections so they blend well when creating a tablescape.
There are emotions that are tied to vintage items because they are, well, old. We had things as kids and many items are only a part of that bygone era (I’m looking at you, 8 track tape). And frankly, they just don’t make things the way they used to, and collecting vintage just rocks. So whatever you are drawn to, whichever piece makes you swoon and think of simpler days, go with that. Buy what you love and you will always have a place for it in your home. And the thrill of the hunt will be enjoyable and adventurous.
While we’re at it, buying what we love, buy what is useful as well. I see antique malls full of figurines no one is collecting anymore because they’re only things to collect dust and not touch. Vintage these days gets used, it’s out of the closet. So go for what speaks to you, will enhance your quest for living beautifully and/or simply, and it will be a joy to incorporate those items in a useful way into your everyday life.
Tip 2: Buy the highest quality you can afford.
This tip, also known as ‘start small’, is an important step. If you are a vintage virgin, going out and spending $1,200 on your first piece of fabulous history may not be the best course of action. It is easy to get caught up, my dude, I have been there! But start with those first items you know you will use, what truly speaks to you, then build as you go. Remember, once you have 3 items, you have the start of a collection and an excuse to go shopping again.
DO NOT waste your money for anything that is broken, or stained in a way that you will not use it. And trust me when I say, I have ended up with a million things I said I would fix (and I have fixed items on occasion, but they were things like furniture that got reupholstered, or something simple that I could paint or glue.) Usually if you wait, another item will come around that is not chipped, that you will be proud to put into use in your home.
Tip 3: Learn to focus and train your eye.
The best part of this tip is, this takes practice. Which means, oh darn, you’ll have to go on a treasure hunt! But the more you get out and see, the more you will train your eye to find what you want. You will become a blood hound for those items you love and it will surprise you at how easily they show up in your path. This will allow you to start to be a bit picky, and find the things that will fill your home with personal style.
A gentle warning, you don’t want to be too “dog with a bone” and only look for one or two specific items. If you do, that is precisely the time you will miss out on something wonderful that could have been yours but is now in someone else’s hands because you walked right by it being only focused on one item. So train your eye to be discerning for what you love, but keep an open mind for that fabulous one-of-a-kind magic that may find you.
Tip 4: Research and ask questions.
There is a reason Google lens was invented; so you can find cool vintage and actually know what it is and what era it is from along with pricing clues. If you find something that’s a bargain, just grab it and ask questions later. But if you are shopping, find something you love that seems like a good price, it is only smart of you to check the internet. But don’t be picky for a few dollars. If it’s there and in front of you, then buy it now if you can take it right home and enjoy it. Most of the time, I find that when I check the internet for pricing, it is much higher than what I am seeing locally.
If you are shopping where you can speak to the vendor, like at a flea market, ask questions about the piece’s history. Sometimes they know the back story of where it came from, and it makes it extra special to know that bit of history if it’s available. As a dealer, I love to have this extra knowledge that I can pass on to its next owner. It is always a big bonus when you find an item that someone has thoughtfully written the history on the back. Having that knowledge gives me all the feels of goodness, and is just fun to know.
Tip 5: Don’t be a snob.
The best deals are found when you are willing to get a little dirty, get out of your comfort zone, and go on the hunt. Great items can still be found at garage sales, barn sales, flea markets, side of the road, thrift stores and more. If you want to have a high end experience shopping in a fancy antique shop, go at it. The prices will match your experience, which is fine if you want something very specific and have the budget for it.
I will say I have had the most fun when I was digging through a pile of crap (not literal crap, but one man’s trash sort of crap) and discovered that diamond in the rough.
Let me share a quick story (one of many like it) to inspire you to be ready at anytime for your next treasure:
Years ago, when my kids were at home, I was driving my teenage daughter to a friends house. We were cruising through the neighborhood when I spotted a pair of AWESOME concrete planters that had the perfect patina that someone had put out at the curb (I love trash day). Apparently these people weren’t seeing it. So of course I slowed down to get a better look and my daughter knew exactly what was happening. She shrieked, “OMG Mom! You cannot trash pick right in front of my friends house! And we’re driving a Mercedes, how embarrassing!” To which I responded, “You know I’m getting out to get these, so you can either help me and make this quick, or you can hide yourself while I struggle for several minutes to heave these concrete things into the back of my car!” Precious and obedient little thing that she was, she got out and (very quickly, I might add) helped me to stash those in the back of my vehicle! Later I realized she was right, it was embarrassing and so as much as I enjoyed that car the few years we had it, I sold it and went back to something that was more ‘me’ that I could feel less guilty about getting dirty and filling with vintage finds! Apparently my hubby doesn’t love when I scratch the car up while retrieving vintage (and neither does the leasing manager at the dealership when I’ve returned my vehicle.)
So, let me give a shout out to all you vintage lovers, and future junk dealers…get out there, wear clothes you can get dirty in, and dive into the wonderful world of vintage. There is something special waiting for you and it might just be sitting on the side of the road!
I’d love to hear your favorite ‘thrill of the hunt’ story. Drop me a note in the comments section and tell me what you collect and how you find it.