Buying Vintage: 6 things you always should consider buying used

Buying Vintage: 6 things you always should consider buying used

“Everything old is new again” goes the adage.  When you search Instagram and Pinterest, you see countless examples of big box retailers recreating vintage pieces. In many cases they are not as interesting or as high quality as the original. It’s almost impossible to recreate the personality and patina that comes with age. Plus, a great vintage piece will usually hold its value, whereas the value of a new replica declines the moment it leaves the store.

These days, finding great vintage home decor is as easy as it’s ever been. I love a great estate sale and struggle to pass one by, but in the past few years most of my vintage finds have been on-line.  I love local community groups like those on Facebook and Craig’s List, but on line auction sites are a game changer. Sites Everything but the House on line auction are such a fun resource.  For many of these sites, you can even search within your local area, so you can drive to pick up items and avoid paying shipping charges.  

Here are some of my recommendations for items well worth seeking out the original.


Photo credit to mi casa revista

New chandeliers really can’t compare with their vintage counterpart. Especially with crystal, the new does not have the heft and luster of the old.  Plus, in most cases, older pieces are a great value in comparison.  If you find a chandelier where the wiring looks suspicious, it’s worth a trip to a lighting store to be rewired.  Even with that additional cost, I’m my experience, it’s still been a great value. 

chandelier 2
For sale on Ebay.

A beautiful chandelier is like a piece of statement jewelry for your home.  Even if crystal is not your style, there are some fabulous vintage light fixtures out there that can be a unique centerpiece in your home.


Loved the vintage rug in this bedroom by Sarah Sherman.

A vintage rug can set the stage for the entire room.  With a bit of patience, it’s not that hard to find.  In most cases, new rugs are not made with as high quality wool or as soft a texture as older rugs. Plus, many new rugs are machine made.  They both shed and wear quickly. 

rugs 2
Photo credit Katie Hodges Design.

I find even the worn spots of vintage rugs very charming.  I’ve found large antique hand-knotted oriental rugs in wonderful condition for a fraction of what a rug that size would cost new, at say, Pottery Barn.  Also, it’s entirely possible that an antique rug could appreciate over time, whereas modern rugs have practically no resale value.


SF Girl is a blog and shop where she sells found pieces, particularly art.

Invest in original art and old portraits.   Estate sales both on-line and local are a great way to find these treasures which are infinitely more interesting than big box store reproductions or trendy quotes on canvas.

art 2
Photo credit from Lulu & Georgia

Sometimes when I see a piece at an estate sale, especially a sale that is very cluttered, I have to stand back and try to think of the piece outside of that setting. Maybe it needs a different frame or just refinishing the current one. Maybe it just needs to be center stage with a white wall behind.


Mid Century Absinthe Green Cocktail Shaker on Etsy

You can curate a very glamorous bar by scouring estate sales.  Vintage cocktail glasses and barware are so much more fun and unique than most anything new and generally at a fraction of the cost.

bar 2
Photos from Architectural Digest

Cocktails served in fabulous glasses taste better — I promise – try it and see.



trays 3
Photo credit Roses & Rust.

I love trays to corral and unify a space. I have a tray by my night stand, on the coffee table, in our bathroom by the sink and a tea station on a tray in our bar.  Trays are organizational superstars and a great place to add a unique touch. 


Moroccan Inlay Tray – see one similar for sale on Everything But the House

I look for a tray that is sturdy and waterproof like this brass and copper Moroccan tray.  I got mine for $20, and you could not get a metal tray that size at Wal-Mart for that price.


This beauty was found on Craig’s List.

If it’s taken care of, leather can age beautifully. If you are in the market for a Chesterfield sofa or leather club chair, these classics are best bought vintage. Some distress to the leather only adds character.  Of course you don’t want heavy cracking or peeling, but a little love with a product like Leather Honey can bring many pieces back to life.  A little tear?  Depending where it is, there are easy answers to that too. Here is a recipe for leather glue with natural ingredients you likely have on hand.    

This chair was so dried out when I picked it up at an estate sale for $75 (including it’s ottoman). Leather Honey was like a miracle for it.

Buying vintage makes a home feel more relaxed and comfortable too. People are not worried about messing things up.  With some scratches and wear, well it’s just broken in for you.  Like glorified recycling, it feels good too.  Happy hunting!  


Cookbook Club Dinner Parties – A Potluck for Foodies

Cookbook Club Dinner Parties – A Potluck for Foodies

Ever heard of a Cookbook Club? It’s basically a book club and a dinner party rolled into one.   It makes for a fun, stress free way to collaboratively entertain. Just pick a cookbook, and each guest prepares a recipe from it to share. Since recipes are all from the same cookbook, they tend to fit a general theme and blend nicely together. With everyone trying unfamiliar recipes, you may find you feel a bit more adventurous. Everyone is trying to make something they’ve not made before.  If you fail at it, you have the feeling – well, we’re all in this together!

Rodman’s Hungarian Pörkölt was amazing!

Last spring was our first Cookbook Club dinner party and we have continued to read, cook, and eat together every few months ever since. These get togethers are the ultimate foodie potluck dinner.  They are decidedly informal with a mix-match of plates, napkins, and platters. The conversation has a natural flow as we share our experience with the cookbook. We leave full, happy, and inspired to cook.

Everyone had a full plate trying to try a bit of everything.

Here are some tips if you’d like to start your own Cookbook Club……..    Invite everyone interested in cooking to Cookbook Club, not just your friends who are amateur chefs.  We invite about 35 people and usually our gatherings have 15-20. Certainly you could have a smaller group, but you want to have enough people to have a nice variety of dishes.

Cotty’s Cherry Jack Pie did not disappoint. It was just as good as it looked!

When picking your cookbook, consider the time of year.  We did Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi this past spring when vegetable were at their peak.  And this month, in the midst of an unseasonably cold winter, we switched to comfort food with Hugh Acheson’s great new cookbook The Chef and the Slowcooker. And because there were few dessert options, we offered the option of also bringing a pie.  This was a great idea btw.

We lined up all the crock pots and dishes like a buffet that wrapped my whole kitchen.

Consider using a shared Google document for a meal sign-up sheet so that two people don’t end up making the same thing and so the offerings are well-balanced.

The Buerger’s Mexican Drinking Chocolate was a huge hit.

Label dishes with what they are and who made them. If you have anyone in your group with food allergies, use this label to help everyone know what’s in the dishes.

The dessert course was epic.

It may seem daunting to host 20, but in this case, it’s really not. In a way it’s like crowdsourcing your dinner party. Everyone takes responsibility for bringing the dishes.  Everyone takes their serving dishes home to wash. It’s actually one of the easiest dinner party I’ve hosted and with possibly the best food. Our group rotates hosting, and that works well. No one person should get all the fun.

I love our Cookbook Club!  Such a jolly crowd.

Be sure to let everyone knows to still come if you don’t have time to cook. Everyone understands. Just bring some wine!

A surprise Texas warm snap made it possible for some guests to eat outside.

The biggest concern most people have is how to seat that many people. But it’s really not a big deal. We set up card table and patio tables and sit on sofas and chair arms and even the floor. Lack of seating won’t keep people from having a good time.

Thank you Elizabeth!

Hope this inspires you!  I want to thank our amazing Cookbook Club coordinator, Elizabeth Buerger.  She’s the consummate chef and host and being around her is always inspiring. This Cookbook Club has been such a fun way to get to know these now dear friends better. Wishing the same for you!