I love vintage. I share this obsession with urbaneer's Steve Fudge, who recently revamped the kitchen in his Tennis Crescent property using mid-century pieces as the base and inspiration for the redesign. You can follow his journey as he takes a 1960's duplex from demo to dazzling, in Tales of Tennis Crescent.
Whether you are inspired to begin mixing large vintage finds into your décor, or start small, we've gathered a few tips to help get you started! These are the 'Vintage Basics'. When hunting for the perfect piece to complement your space, keep a few key characteristics in mind:
Construction: Quality materials and construction are key. Was the piece constructed using quality methods and materials? This can effect not only the life of the piece itself, but how long it will last in your collection. Be sure to look at what it is made of - is it solid wood? This term can be used loosely, so be sure to determine whether you are looking at solid-wood construction versus particle board or plywood with a veneer. Check the inside and back of the piece to help determine its quality and materials. For example, if the joints of a dresser are dovetailed, you've found a higher quality piece than one with nailed or stapled drawers. If the piece uses veneer instead of solid wood, keep a few things in mind: veneer gets a bad rap because of the cheap Formica-covered furniture from the mid-twentieth century. Don't be too quick to write it off; for centuries wood veneer was a perfectly acceptable way to finish a piece. However, when inspecting a veneer piece, look for chips or peeling as this is a sure sign of age/mistreatment that could end up looking worse for wear over time.
Style/Silhouette: Shape and size matters. Will the overall shape fit in with the space in mind? For example, an industrial cabinet’s sharp lines and steel construction will fit very differently than the rounded teak edges of a mid-century piece. Pay attention to other aspects of design like hardware - is it original? Does it fit with the timeline of the piece or was it added/changed? Real vintage hardware usually has some weight to it, so be sure to open and close drawers to get a feel for the hardware. One key for mixing styles is: contrast. Be clear about the overall look you want to achieve in the space; are you looking for a large impact vintage piece or subtle vintage touches via accessories? Pair a large vintage dresser with modern vases. Place pillows with modern fabrics on a vintage sofa, or use an antique lamp on a lacquer side table. Tip: pick the focal piece and identify its style; use contrast for accessory items.
Finish & Fabric: When refinishing, reupholstering, rethinking, an important thing to remember is these elements can be changed. Once you have chosen a piece that is well constructed, and fits your space, a coat of paint or new fabric can transform the piece in order to blend in with your room or act as a focal-point. Tip: take a photo of it in its place in the room before making changes as this can help you step back and see exactly what needs to be done. Always sample paint and fabric; small paint testers and fabric swatches are available for a reason - use them! Bring them home, try them out, invite opinions, look at them in the space where the piece will ultimately live to get a real sense of the colour and tone of the paint and/or fabric. Your upholsterer can be an invaluable resource here.
Quirk Factor: A key question to ask is: do you want a conversation piece or a functional element that blends in with the room. I generally choose to go in the direction of a conversation piece by choosing something with an interesting story behind it! This can work for both small and large pieces, so depending on your comfort level go with your gut and try something different - even if it's a small set of vintage trophies on the sideboard versus an ornate floor-to-ceiling gilded mirror. Have fun! And if you feel you've gone a little too far on the side of quirk, pull back by mixing in some modern/contemporary pieces to help re-gain balance in the room.
Size Doesn't Matter: Afraid to use a large piece? Dip your toes in the water by starting a vintage collection! A grouping of vintage tins on the sideboard, used as herb planters lined up on the window ledge, or even as kitchen utensil holders add a fun twist that can easily be changed. How about a stack of vintage board games in the living room console or a collection of felt pennants mixed in with your art collection?
Using vintage in your space is fun, so enjoy the process! Mix hard with soft, square with round, blocky with leggy. Contrasting modern and vintage can create fun and interesting stories in each room. Want to read a few interesting stories and see vintage touches that have been curated in a fun and fantastic way? Check out The Black House, a vacation rental in Charlottetown renovated and operated by urbaneer's own Steven & James! The best part: you can stay there and enjoy it yourself!