Decorating with Vintage Furniture

If you’ve been reading my blog for long, you know that I dearly love to shop secondhand for vintage and older pieces of furniture.  There has been a huge surge in that market in the last 10 years, but I have been shopping that way for much longer than that.  When I first set up house and started shopping for furniture, I had heard about antiques, but always thought they were way out of my price range.  I didn’t think I could afford real antiques.  Well, let me clarify that.  I can’t afford the ones we see on Antiques Roadshow…those priceless heirlooms that were centuries old and worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.  Those kinds of antiques were not in my budget then or now.

But, I quickly found out that I could afford vintage pieces, those mass produced pieces of furniture from the 1930’s, 40’s and 50’s that were plentiful and showing up in antiques stores and thrift stores all over the country.  Solid wood furniture never goes out of style and that’s what I’ve built the bones of my home with.  Good, solid pieces of furniture that have served me well for years.

I can remember hunting down and bringing home every single one of these and the thrill of the hunt was part of the appeal.  Finding a bargain is still in my blood and one of these days, I’ll be able to shop again,I hope.  Since I moved in my house and it is full now, I have had to give up doing much shopping since I have no more room for furniture.  Just going out to look isn’t nearly as much fun as when I was hunting down a special piece for a spot in my house.  Depending on what the future holds, I may end up in another house one day and will probably be shopping again for some key pieces.

I will still buy new sofas and chairs for the most part and I won’t say I’ll never replace any of my pieces, but I am pretty content with the collection I’ve put together and don’t have a desire to constantly make changes around here.  Mixing old and new is the best way to get that eclectic and unique look in your house, not to mention it’s just plain fun to hunt down the bargains.

I thought it would be fun to share some of my favorite pieces with you and how I came to find them. Antiques are considered real antiques when they are 100 years or older and I’m happy to say I have a few of those.

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This over 100 year old mirror came from Chattanooga, TN.  I was up there over 20 years ago with friends and found this in a dusty antique shop.  It’s the first antique I ever bought and I thought it was the coolest thing ever.  The shop owner told me it came from an old bar/saloon in the area and I can see how that could be.

antique french buffet

I love having pieces that are unique and not mass produced and that’s what you get when you shop vintage.  This old French 1880’s cupboard is like nothing I had ever seen and I found it at Scott Antiques year ago.  It’s one of the most expensive pieces I’ve bought, but if I remember correctly it was $1,200.   Not bad when you consider the cost of new furniture and how much more appealing an older piece is for the long haul. That pretty brass armillary was $25 at a yardsale. I still remember finding it and how I loved it so much. Oh, not to mention those heavy iron sconces, $25 for the pair, found at a yardsale in Birmingham.  The treasures are out there waiting and I want to shop like this again!

green wine bottle

This marble topped plant stand came from an estate sale in the last couple of years.  I thought it was so pretty and had to have it and at $35, it was a great deal.  It actually came from a good friend’s dad’s estate, so it’s extra special to me.

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This sold wood Henredon piece came from a yardsale too, at $25.  It was a natural wood when I bought it and it’s gone from black to this vibrant green last year.  Pieces like this can go anywhere and be useful in so many areas.

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When I was yardsaling for years, I found so many great objects that I brought home and have used for years, like this plant stand. It was rickety and a different color and all I did was paint it aqua and have had a plant on it ever since.  Older things like this have such character.

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This piecrust table has been with me for close to 15 years and it came from a yardsale.  I remember seeing the price tag of $75 and almost passed it over, but decided it was worth it.  I’m so glad I did, as it’s a classic piece.

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Family pieces are hard to come by in our family, since neither side of my family had much to pass down.  I cherish this little mass produced side table from my grandma on my dad’s side.  I claimed this one after her death and my dad brought it home. It’s not fancy, but it’s part of my heritage.

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My mahogany buffet in the dining room is another classic piece that I’ve had for year.  I bought it from an antiques store on the Marietta square years ago when there were many more antiques shops than there are now.  I think I paid $550 for it, a bargain by today’s standards for something new of the same quality.  If you try to go out to the furniture stores and buy new pieces that are all wood, you’ll definitely spend a fortune on real wood and they won’t be made as well as these older pieces are, for the most part.

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Before I moved in this house, I spotted this vintage Ethan Allen piece at a thriftstore for $25.  I painted the bottom in an Annie Sloan Duck Egg chalk paint and this solid wood piece works just fine for me in the den.

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Another vintage piece from my grandma, this old Singer sewing machine is the only other thing passed down to me from my dad.  I’ll have to keep it in the family too and Lauren will probably get it eventually.  The sewing machine is still inside and my dad remembers his mama sewing up a storm on this.

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This is not a really old piece, but you can pick up so many cute items at antiques shops and thrift stores, which can be repurposed and painted to suit your room.  I think this console piece was from Bombay Company originally and I paid $75 for it at an antiques store.

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Not wood, but I couldn’t help but remember finding this heavy iron lamp at a yardsale for a mere $3.  I found the square lampshade later on and it’s a great lamp for my den.

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My bedroom is an eclectic mix of styles and periods and when it came time for me to find a chest of drawers, I hit the antiques stores while still living in Birmingham. I found this vintage Thomasville piece for $400.  You can’t go wrong with these older vintage name brand pieces.  It’s gotten a little beat up from moving a couple of times and one day I may paint it, who knows.

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My vanity and mirror was found years ago as well antiquing and it’s been a fun piece to have around as my makeup vanity.

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This piece was found in Birmingham too and it was a child’s piece of furniture that I repurposed into a TV cabinet with chalk paint.  It’s the perfect height for watching TV from bed.

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Although I don’t buy a lot of used upholstery pieces, this chair was picked up while I was living in Birmingham.  It came from the Salvation Army, the brand is Sherrill and one day, I’ll have it properly reupholstered.  The white slip cover has been fine for a long while, but this is a solid chair that has many good years left in it.  I remember it was $99 for the chair and ottoman.  That little side table was a yardsale find for $5.  I love my bargains!

Mixing old and new has always been fun for me and I just can’t ever see myself going out and buying a whole new room of anything.  That’s not to say that I won’t ever be shopping again, but when I do it will still be a mix of new and vintage.  That way of shopping just has the most appeal for me and will always be something I want to incorporate in my house.  A room just sings when it’s a mix of collected items and not all brand spanking new!

How about you? Are you mixing old and new? 


- Rhoda

Comments

  1. You’ve got a great eye for spotting unique and/or overlooked pieces and seeing the potential in them. That’s a talent.

  2. You do have wonderful pieces, Rhoda. It’s amazing the difference in the quality of old pieces vs. now. We just brought home a couple of chairs from my husband’s grandmother’s old home. Yes they will have to be refinished and recovered but the weight of the furniture is so much more substantial. We are excited to incorporate those pieces.

  3. Rhoda, I have bought and sold many of the pieces you’ve identified as your own and, yes, they are bargains to buyers! It’s a shame more people don’t shop this way, especially when dealers like myself and many of my dealer friends are willing to scour for great pieces, acting as personal shoppers of sorts, bringing them to antique malls for end users. Most people want flea market pricing after all the work is done for them, so it’s becoming less and less desirable for us to do the picking, hauling, cleaning, finishing for such razor thin profit (or even losses, just to clear the rented space).
    I love the bar mirror and the large cupboard from Scotts Market! And the prices for Henredon & Ethan Allen? Incredible. The pieces you’ve painted and added jewelry to are just right – beautiful colors, and just enough scattered to keep things from leaning toward dowdy. Love your style!

    • HI, Rita, I’m sure dealers have had a harder time of it the last few years, as so many people are jumping on the repurposing bandwagon and doing their own thing with hunting pieces down.

  4. Love antiques, as with antique homes, as they have a patina and story to tell that new furniture just can’t. We have a 200+ yr old dining table and it is slightly bowled in the places that people have sat and dined for two centuries. I always think of all the family meals that have been had here and the many more to come. That the two centuries of plates being moved across it in those spots have left a story of how dining together was and still is an important part of human life.

    My motto with mixing old and new is to (usually but not always) mix newer more modern upholstered pieces with antique case goods and tables. As you noted, most were built extremely well, made solidly and would cost the same or more to buy new today. It keeps a home from looking like a furniture store showroom and more like a real home with stories and history.

    • I agree, Megan, I love the mix of vintage and more modern in upholster pieces and lamps too. I don’t want to look like a dusty antique store with all old.

  5. Love this post, Rhoda. Like you, our families didn’t have a lot. That’s what makes the few pieces we have so special. We got a cedar chiffarobe (remember those?) from my husband’s grandmother. They were used back in the day when bedrooms didn’t have closets, or very small ones. Buddy put shelves inside it, and we use it in our study for office supplies.

    • Hey, Pam, yes I totally remember those in so many rooms back in the day. My grandma had those in her guest rooms when we would visit growing up.

  6. I feel the same way, Rhoda… so fun to mix in older pieces with character — and they’re budget friendly, too!
    xo Heidi

  7. I still remember my first antique and still have it. I have always loved the mix of old and new. Fortunately my husband came from a family that loved antiques as well and as a result inherited some very nice pieces of furniture along with some very fine first addition antique books, as my father in law was a massive collector. We have paired these thing with new upholstered leather couches and the more modern high leg recliners. Definitely a mix of old and new. Every room in our home is a blend of this style and we have found it to be very comfortable for us. I love how you showcase your things so well. Your home too is very comfortable looking with the older pieces. I loved your blog today. Very nice

  8. Barbara Hunnicutt Moore says:

    After seeing a Rooms to Go commercial, I wondered why anyone would buy an entire room of matching new furniture. The collected look is so much better, in my opinion. I love all your pieces. Keep me in the loop if you find a new place around here to find bargain treasures!!!

    • I know! I can’t imagine doing that either, but some younger folks don’t know any better. Sometimes it takes awhile to figure these things out.

  9. Glenda Niederhofer says:

    Love what you have done/are doing with your decor….mixing old with new. I did a double take when I saw your treadle sewing machine…..the carving on the drawers are identical to the one I have that belonged to my grandmother. The only difference is that mine has 3 drawers on each side. My grandmother died of breast cancer at age 44 in 1947. My grandfather sold her sewing machine to help pay medical bills….I was able to track it down & purchase it back. It means so much to me….I researched the serial number & found that it was manufactured in 1926.

  10. I love the fact that every piece has a story. If a table could talk, it would tell of family dinners around the table, lovingly home-cooked meals, gatherings of friends, joys shared, problems aired and decisions made. In other words, a piece of vintage furniture has seen some life, and that gives it character. A few surface scratches acquired along the way don’t hurt. It is still useful, especially if you’re creative about how to use it. Scratch cover, polish, paint and the simple desire to save it can easily restore the piece to its former beauty!

  11. I love you mix of old and not do old. I have the child’s dresser also. It has been used by babies in my family for over 55 years!!! Each mom has painted it for their child. The door has even gotten a handpainted scene from a fairytale (about 40 years ago).

  12. Our house is also filled with a mix of old, older and new-ish. Sofas and chairs mostly are new (for comfort) but side tables and storage pieces are a mix of family, estate sales and auction finds. And most of the lamps in our house either I or my father made. I’ve made them out of chinese wedding baskets, big soy sauce tins, selzer bottles and asian blue and white ginger jars. The rest I found at antique malls or shops.

    Your Thomasville chest on chest, have you considered Howard Restor-a-finish? It’s a wipe on, wipe off process that cleans and restores a furniture piece without stripping. I’ve used it on many of my pieces. It would make an interesting blog post…

    • Hi, Patricia, I do have some Howards in my closet and have used it many times. The finish on that piece is shiny, so it wouldn’t make a big difference in the little chips and dings along the drawers that have happened with moves. I still love this piece though, so will keep it.

  13. Barbara Thompson says:

    Rhoda, I have two Sherrill armchairs that I bought in 1998. Mine look exactly like yours. Question: Did you have the white slipcover made or did it come with it? I need to re-do my chairs but dread the cost of upholstery and though I have made my own slipcovers in the past, am getting too old for that at 82. If readymade are available, I’d be interested.

    Thanks!

    • HI, Barbara, that slipcover was made by my ex’s grandmother, several years ago. It’s worked fine for awhile, but eventually I’d like to get this chair upholstered properly. Check out Surefit, they have improved their slipcovers and you might find something there.

  14. Colleen Myers says:

    I am totally the same!! Love my Home Goods and Pottery Barn but nothing beats finding an amazing older piece!! Getting it for a bargain is the cherry on top!! I, too, was a bit filled in my home with “things” really needing nothing more. Amazingly we were able to purchase a foreclosed mountain cabin that we are renovating!!! Watch out yard sales, I’m back!!! 😊Btw love your blog!! Not to be weird but I know we’d be friends if we lived in the same area!!

  15. Rhoda, this may be one of my favorite posts! I loved the tour and stories of your furniture. The thrill of the hunt is so much fun along with imagining the stories a piece of furniture could tell. My best find…a beautifully carved arm chair in pristine condition for less than $50; when I turned it over to recover the seat, I found a brass plate Baker Historic Charleston Furniture. My research showed it originally sold for over $2000!! By the way, I also LOVE all of your drapery fabric. Your home is both beautiful and welcoming.

  16. That same Sherrill chair and ottoman I bought new in 1993 and the chair alone cost me more than $800 and the ottoman was like $250 – and it was great. Loved both pieces. Wished I still had them. They disappeared to my daughter’s house – they are still classic which I see in stores but now made in China. I have also covered my couch with white and have had that Sherrill couch since 1993 – and it’s still going (many kids sleepovers have happened on that couch so it was not just a looker).

    • Joelle, that is good to know. Had no idea how old that chair and ottoman was, but they are in great condition still. The original upholstery is in really good condition, but the colors are not what I use anymore, it’s the golds/moss/rusty red color.

  17. What a fun post to see the different pieces and hear about where you purchased them!

    Did you have the white curtains with the blue ikat design made? Also, was the slipcover purchased with the Sherrill chair?

    • Kellie, those curtains are one of my thriftiest projects ever! They are Ikea drapes ($25 for the pair) that I stencilled using regular craft paint and stencils. Here’s the post I did:
      http://southernhospitalityblog.com/how-to-stencil-drapes/

      I thought I’d replace them one day, but still like them and they look more expensive than they are. $75 to do all 3 windows.

      That slipcover was done by my ex’s grandmother. She helped me with that several years ago and it’s worked well for years.

  18. Furniture finds are so much more interesting to share with friends. When we got married we just didn’t have the funds for new furniture and found that we could buy amazing pieces for $25. Now after 36 years of marriage, I have never owned a formal dining room set. We bought dining room sets that intrigued us at auctions and they came with the buffets and the china cabinets. The cabinets are mini and unusual, so these pieces are spread all over my home. I can’t paint or refinish them, I am in love with their worn would. I cherish these pieces far above my expensive new ones still.

  19. rhoda, your home is so well-crafted but not stuffy. its very inviting, like a viewer could sit down and have a cup of tea with you and chat for hours. my mother used to drag me to musty-smelling thrift shops as a child. she also worked at an antiques auction house, so i developed an eclectic hunter’s eye without realizing it. over the years ive snared some splendid pieces. my philosophy is that everything will go together if they are things that you love. your love for your home is apparent. please keep sharing!

  20. Loved this post! I started collecting “old stuff” out of necessity years ago and learned, like you, it was better made and more my taste. I have found many pieces at estate sales (My fave in ATL are one’s put on by Vintage Girls). My home is a reflection of many Saturday’s rummaging through other’s old treasures. You will see traditional mixed with primitives mixed with pieces that are just too comfortable to pass by. So many were culled from the Lakewood days. Sure miss that place and the fun times there!

    Thanks for sharing your pieces with us today.

    Susan from GA

    • Oh Lakewood, how I miss Lakewood! I was lamenting that with someone the other day. That was such a great place to browse on a weekend.

  21. Rhoda, love your style in decor and fashion and love your blog. Yours was the very first one that I followed and opened me up to discovering the world of blogs out there. I see you have have a mix of painted and original wood pieces. In a future post perhaps you could talk about how you decide what to paint and what to leave original. You have such good style sense and suggestions. I am afraid to lessen the value of some old furniture pieces. And I wonder when and if this painted furniture craze will come to an end and I will be sorry I painted all my old furniture LOL.

    • HI, Marcie, thanks so much! I’ll definitely try to remember to do a post about that. I would never paint my old antique pieces. I just posted this French buffet from this post on my Instagram account and someone tagged it for someone else to see, saying your paint would look great on this. I said NOOOOOO, this piece will never be painted, it’s French from the 1880’s. No way!! Anyway, I’m not a complete purist and like painted pieces, but I agree, this painted craze will end some day and then the paint stripping will begin! I try to keep it balanced out and only paint pieces that aren’t worth much or have seen better days.

  22. Hi, Rhoda!
    It’s Cat from Cumming. I still remember visiting you during your open house, and marveling over the beautiful condition your Singer sewing machine table is in. When you told me it had come down through your family, I felt so thrilled for you. To have a treasure like that! Wow!

    I’m like you – nearly everything I own has been collected over the years from every conceivable place (even cast-offs on curbs!). I love thinking about all of the hands, souls, and memories, that have touched them. It’s an honor and a joy to be the “steward” of these old treasures. I really enjoyed your post!

  23. You have some really lovely pieces Rhoda, I especially love the green painted table which looks a bit like it could be used as a desk too. I am always looking on line for bargain pieces to paint, currently looking for something for my hallway/entrance but the size is a problem. Thanks for sharing,

    Lee

  24. I loved this post, and especially a discovery I made! The table that you said you got from your grandma is exactly like mine. Many years ago, when we first moved into our house, we needed a table for the living room. There was an ad in a local paper, and my husband and I drove to the other side of town to look at the furniture the buyer was selling. She had that table and another smaller table. Both were in dire need of refinishing. At the time, we had a local business nearby that did nothing but refinish wood furniture. I liked the table so much and wanted it to be perfect for the room, so I paid to have it refinished. That was the one and only time I have ever had a piece professionally refinished. It looks exactly like yours! I did not realize it until now, but I guess it was refinished to it’s original state. Oh, the lady who sold the table said it was from her grandmother, and she remembered that the grandmother always had fresh cut flowers in a vase placed on that table.

    • HI, Melanie, that’s a great story. The only thing I’ve done to that table is add a poly on top for protection over the years. I’m sure it was not an expensive table, but it’s part of my family.

  25. I love, love, love older furniture and have been a nervous wreck with the trend to paint it all. Some of it begs for paint, but some of it is so beautiful as-is. Your collection is wonderful and I love it mixed with newer things.

  26. I enjoy mixing old and new also. Your pieces all look beautiful. Especially like your makeup vanity.

  27. Great work, Rhoda. Oh how I love “saving” old pieces, usually with a lick of paint, they still have a lot to give and it gives them a new lease of life … shame I can’t work the same magic on me!
    Most are successes but 30 years ago I (naively) chemically stripped the “wood” off the Jones treadle I was gifted and quickly discovered it was veneer, which of course lifted. Your pretty Singer reminded me of that lesson learned. I still have the iron base but it is topped by a piece of limestone these days.
    Lmx.

  28. Absolutely buying old and used pieces. You can find such neat pieces that way. I will buy a new sofa, one day. Antiques just aren’t that comfy.

  29. Patricia Lightner says:

    You have some beautiful pieces there. I love the ones you have painted. Our family did not have pieces to inherit either. However, I have my piano (a birthday gift when I was 9) and my bedroom suit (a gift when I was 14). Since I’m in my 60’s, they now qualify as antiques. Also, I have my mom’s treadle Singer machine. I keep it open with a piece of glass over the opening for the machine so I can use it as my crafting table.

  30. Oh Rhoda — it’s your yardsaling expertise that first drew me to you! 🙂 What a wonderful round-up. I actually scooped up some great deals this past fall…it was slim picking for a while but I seem to be on a thrifty upswing! I’ve been doing a bit of purging since the December holidays to make room for my new-old treasures. I will never tire of collecting, and of combining old and new for a unique look that I feel makes our house a home (My friend lovingly calls our thrifty style grandmama chic and I think he’s nailed it!)

  31. VintageBeachgirl says:

    Finally have my email to functioning properly here in Dubai, fortunately just in time to see this latest posting! I’m happy I didn’t miss it as I love the look your antique and repurposed pieces mixed in with your other furnishings gives. An eclectic style has always been my favorite and you’ve accomplished it so well. The pieces you have in your home give it that ‘collected’ look many designers advocate and attempt to accomplish, (occasionally by spending inordinate amounts of money, hahaha…). You’ve made it yours by being patient, thrifty and resourceful, not afraid of working with what you’ve found to make it suit your lifestyle and make it ‘a fit’ for your home, for my part that’s quite an accomplishment!!
    Although over the years of following your blog I’ve seen you lovingly pamper and restore your cherished family pieces, purchase those antiques you loved, as well as gleefully find and repurpose many of your cherished bargains, it was great to see it all come together. Great post, I enjoyed it very much!!

  32. Beautiful pieces telling sweet stories of history! Love your grandmother’s sewing machine and the tassel on the French cupboard!

  33. Hello Rhoda, I enjoyed this post. My favorite one so far! I enjoyed seeing your antique furniture and vintage pieces. You are so talented knowing how and what to display with. It gives me a few new ideas. Have a great (rest of the week.)

  34. Thanks for sharing all you beautiful “finds” you are great at putting pieces together that I would have never thought of doing. Look forward to all your post.

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