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.

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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!  




Have you heard of the Japanese term wabi-sabi?  Wabi-sabi is about finding beauty in the acceptance of imperfection and temporality.  For example, it’s being comfortable with a little peeling paint, worn wood or the wear marks in an old oriental rug.

Some of this comes from the deep-rooted culture of frugality. In Japan there is great virtue in simplicity and economy.  In the west sometimes this idea gets interpreted into a sort of trendy minimalism. While I’m very attracted to the concept of having less ‘stuff,’ the faux-spiritualization of minimalism is off-putting. But wabi sabi is different than minimalism. It encourages repurposing, recycling and taking care of the things you already have.  It can’t be mass produced.


I just got back from a trip to Tokyo.  There I found a perfect example of wabi-sabi at the Tokyo National Museum.  It is a glazed tea bowl that has been named “Bakohan.”  And it’s broken.  What makes this little tea bowl so special to the Japanese, a national treasure even?  In great part, it’s the beauty of the intricate and loving repair made when the bowl cracked centuries ago.  Appropriately, a Japanese word for “beautiful” utsukushii evolved from an original meaning of “being loved.” 

Photo credit – @myrimi

I love the concept of wabi-sabi and find it very freeing, especially when thinking of my home.  There is a commercial version of perfection in the home can feel cold and unwelcoming.  It’s also unattainable or at the least unsustainable.  Living, being loved, and having a purpose — these things leave marks.  Wabi-sabi is about embracing those marks.

This approach isn’t an excuse to not clean your house or see something inadequate through rose-colored glasses. But it is a concept that makes peace with the natural processes of time and age. It’s accepting weather and wear and change. It’s a perspective that finds grace for life’s imperfections. It’s the opposite of what the commercial world is selling us, but I think that’s ok. 

Photo credit @myrimi  for the feature image of handmade Japanese pottery by Babaghuri. One of my favorite people to follow on Instagram.