Paste 101: What to Look for When Buying Vintage Furniture

Design Lists Furniture
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I don’t know about you, but I find myself drooling over interior design instagram accounts contstantly. “One day…” I say to myself as I scroll through sun drenched mid-century living rooms and exquisite, colorful kitchen sets. It’s torture.

Over the years, I’ve figured out what I like and what I love. However, what is most important in vintage furniture shopping is making sure the piece is in great shape before you purchase. You don’t want to get something home only to realize you have to spend twice as much to repair, reupholster or just plain dump the piece you thought was perfect. Take a look at these tips and pretty soon your living room is going to finally be the Pinterest-worthy masterpiece you’ve always wanted.

1. Figure out Your Style (and Stick to It)

This may be obvious, but you’ve got to have a little style. If you’re spending your weekends scouring vintage stores for the perfect coffee table, you probably have a specific one in mind. Stick to it. You are going to see some real beauties out there, but try not to get sidetracked. Unlike your closet, these vintage pieces have to look good all together in a single room, try not to lose sight of that. If Mid-century is your thing go for it. Into shabby chic? Get your raw wood and chipped paint on. Industrial vibes feel like home? Get all the metal you can find. The key to shopping for furniture is passing up the good stuff because it doesn’t fit your overall vision.

2. Google it!

Design greats like Herman Miller, Corbusier and Knoll knew what they were doing. Every piece of furniture should have a label or brand on it and finding a piece with a great name attached to it guarantees you are getting a quality product. When shopping, look for names on the furniture—you can usually find all the info on the undersides. Even if you don’t know the name off the top of your head, take the time to look it up. You never know when a treasure is right under your nose.

3. Is It Worth Fixing?

There are two kinds of damages to furniture: structural and cosmetic. Most structural issues, such as a broken leg or a blown-out underside are going to be difficult to fix and really not worth your time. If you can’t immediately use the piece, don’t buy it. It is up to you what cosmetic issues are deal-breakers. ProTip: Don’t be afraid of scratches, there are a ton of surface fixers that can make a cosmetic issue disappear.

4. Check Out (and Smell!) The Insides

Inspect inside cushions carefully. Back in the day, they didn’t use the best materials. Though something may look fabulous on the outside the inside could be crumbling, which can lead to a big mess if you ever want to clean the cushion covers. Also, you can wash a couch cover to mask 20 years of cigarette smoke, but the smell will linger in the cushions and eventually get out. Always unzip cushions and smell the stuffing. Sometimes, you can find some really foul odors in there, and you don’t want a piece of furniture’s beauty to be wasted because nobody wants to sit on the “smelly couch”.