I’m intrigued by the history of each item. What is the back story? Who sat on it? Where did it originate? Why is it distressed? Who was the craftsperson that fabricated this piece? Is there only one, or many out and about? Should I start a collection?
By definition, an antique is a collectible at least 100 years old and a vintage item is a culturally significant item 20-99 years in age, worthy of being collected.
I’m always happy to see what’s out there – whether it’s picking through funky and cutsie mom and pop shops in quaint and historic downtowns or quietly browsing elaborate and refined antique galleries where items rival those found in museums. Who knows: I could find a treasure that has sat on my shopping list for quite some time, or maybe a treasure I didn’t realize was missing from my furniture scheme.
Styles that fit the locale
While shopping antique and vintage collections, you may notice that the furniture, art, light fixtures and selection of décor and baubles are usually appropriate to the location.
For example, stores in coastal towns will have a beachy, driftwood, outdoor feeling. Furniture may be fabricated of naturally blond woods like birch, beech, pine or maple, or painted in an array of pale colors. Cotton and linen cover upholstered items, light fixtures are made up of anything from strung beads and sea glass to soft white, oversized linen drum shades, and artwork captures ocean and sunset landscapes.
Meanwhile, mountain and farming towns offer a more rustic feeling. Furniture has a heavier look, fabricated in traditional woods like oak, walnut, cherry and mahogany that are known for their longevity. Upholstery fabrics are more substantial, like velvet, wool tweed, corduroy and chenille in subdued colors with a more serious tone. You’ll see iron chandeliers, serene landscape or portrait art and European-inspired rugs.
Regardless of where you find yourself for the day or an extended holiday, exploring antique and vintage boutiques is just as interesting as visiting historic sites of interest. And if you happen to find a piece of furniture or a light fixture that belongs in your home, you’ve really hit the jackpot.
The challenge of the hunt
It’s easy to incorporate an antique or vintage piece in your home. For the dining room, you might find an elaborate table, a pair of sconces or even a drop-dead gorgeous, hand-blown glass chandelier. For your kitchen, consider a collection of copper pots to hang above your island or a series of plates for a decorative focus on a wall. In the kids’ bedrooms, metal bins, baskets or any type of container make a great place to store toys or books.
Look for wall tapestries to frame as oversized art, tabletop baubles and doodads for bookcases and entry tables, or a pair of beautifully carved armchairs that you could reupholster and use in your bedroom or nestle in a bay window in your living room.
An antique or vintage item can add a special touch to a living space that you just can’t duplicate with something new. Of course, knockoffs made to look antique are just about everywhere, but it’s more about having that one-of-a-kind piece that you found during your near or far travels.
There’s a story behind every piece and, even better, a story on how you discovered your diamond in the rough.
Jennifer Leischer is the owner of J. Designs Interior Design based in Clayton, CA. Combining a public relations degree from California State University, Chico, with further studies in design and interior architecture at the University of California, Berkeley, Jennifer began her career as an interior designer in 1998, working for various firms in San Francisco and Orinda, and Denver, Colorado. She describes every designing moment, throughout her career, as a wonderful tutorial about the importance of relationships, open communication, and getting down to the basics of functional, yet stylish, living spaces.