I have a shameful interiors secret. It’s taken me a little while to admit it, but I’m just not *whisper it* very good at vintage. Now I know we’re supposed to pretend we rummaged in a jumble sale for six minutes before emerging with a genuine Queen Anne walnut dresser for 50p. But it just hasn’t happened for me (and probably hasn’t happened to anyone else either). There’s been the odd treasure that I’ve stumbled upon, but more often than not the treasure has turned out to be prize junk painted gold.
While I may not love the process of finding it, I can totally get on board with the joys of owning vintage furniture. It’s classic, it’s sustainable and there is no greater smugness than someone asking where your rattan chair is from and being able to reply: ‘It’s vintage.’ So I’ve deferred to the vintage experts at Soho House, The Old Cinema and Vinterior to get their top tips on vintage furniture shopping (spoiler: the biggest tip is to give up that fruitless search for the walnut dresser and just buy directly from them).
Siobhan Farley, Design Director of Soho House
Siobhan leads up a team of aesthetic geniuses at Soho House group. Every Soho House is home to a hand-picked selection of vintage finds, sourced by buyers from around the world, which they also sell through the online furniture platform Soho Home.
“Get to furniture fairs and flea markets early, and if it’s the winter season take a torch with you so you can see in the dark for the first hour or so of opening. The best bits can be hidden away at the very start of the day.
“It can be very easy to buy items that suit your style of décor at the time of purchase but try to keep versatility and investment in mind. You want something that you love, that has longevity and can still suit your home even if the décor changes in the future.
Most fairs have transport companies based on site. Go and see them on arrival and check they have space and let them know you may need their shipping service later in the day before they fill up - they can help pick up larger items off the stands for you and take to their trucks.”
Will Hanness of The Old Cinema
The Old Cinema is London’s antique and vintage department store. Based on Chiswick Road, this former Edwardian picture palace boasts 10,000 square feet of showrooms and is home to a collective of antiques dealers, decorators, designers, and jewellers.
“When buying vintage at fairs, auctions or markets, it is vital to check the condition of an item and ensure it has no missing parts. It can be tempting when you spot something that excites you to act on the adrenaline and go straight to prices/haggling in order to seal a deal ahead of other buyers. But don't shake hands until you've looked an item over carefully, as you are unlikely to get a refund or exchange afterwards.
“Instinct is important when choosing homeware, so once you have enquired about condition, trust your own taste and invest in that unique vintage piece which will bring a bit of personal style to your living space.
“Here at The Old Cinema, customers can spend hours delving through objects, flea market-style, to pick out their own little bargain, or they can dash in for 5 minutes to buy a designer statement piece – it’s the best of both vintage-buying worlds. We make sure all our items have been restored properly so you are buying a finished product, not a DIY project. And if you get it home to find it doesn't work in your space we have a flexible returns policy and will always be right here to help you (no packing up into a van never to be seen again).”
Vinterior is an online marketplace for discovering and buying vintage furniture with character. They are the friendly middleman between you and over a thousand, quality-approved vintage sellers.
“Our top advice when sourcing vintage is always to start with just one piece. It's so easy to create endless beautiful Pinterest boards but it can be quite intimidating to start on your own home! These spaces have often come together over time... give your home the same opportunity to grow as you find pieces one by one.
“The wonderful thing about vintage furniture is that every piece is so individual and also mostly very well made. Don't be afraid to ask the seller about the history and materials of the piece to ensure it's the real deal. This means, for example, that if an item has teak veneers, they should be applied to solid wood underneath.
“Discovering new pieces for your home is immensely satisfying and you'll soon notice how it becomes to take on a completely original shape and feel. With resources like Vinterior, you don't need to trek up and down the country but can find a vast collection of unique vintage designs from trusted dealers at your fingertips!”
Thanks to Siobhan, Will and Vinterior for inspiring us to get up at 5am and go rummaging with a torch in hand. Or, y’know, scrolling through their websites from the sofa at 3pm on a Sunday in our pyjamas. But definitely, definitely one of those things.