There are so many ways to shop vintage, whether that means visiting a favorite local store or turning to the internet to browse sites such as Chairish, 1st Dibs, Etsy, or even Facebook Marketplace. And designers love it, too—they're always turning to vintage or secondhand shops to give a space a personal touch.
“Vintage finds are the perfect way to make your home unique and express your personal style,” says Jill Howard, a Charleston-based designer. “Incorporating vintage pieces invites people to ask, ‘Where did you find this fabulous piece?’ And don't forget, buying vintage is green. It gives a piece a new life and keeps it out of the landfill.”
Incorporating vintage pieces invites people to ask, ‘Where did you find this fabulous piece?’
With so many beautiful vintage pieces available, it can be difficult to determine which items to pick up secondhand versus which to purchase new. We turned to 12 designers to find out what they always buy vintage. Let's just say you’ll definitely want to scope out large casegoods, glassware, and decorative accessories the next time you go antiquing.
Cabinets, Credenzas, and Consoles
“Vintage items make for some of the best conversation pieces in a room. I always seek out cabinets, credenzas, or console tables to add soul to a space. Accessories like vintage frames, art, and small wares like taper candlestick holders are also worth the hunt.” —Kīyonda Powell, Creative in Chief of Kīyonda Powell Design Studio in Washington D.C.
A Bit of Brown
“I always love to add at least one element of brown furniture to a room, be it a bone inlay side table, a rattan console, or a flame mahogany chest of drawers. I think adding patina to a room adds a layer, so at least one, if not more pieces of vintage furniture really help accomplish that mix. I also love to use vintage textiles, like repurposing vintage or antique suzani fabric as throws or pillows. Lastly, I love purchasing mismatched sets of vintage china. Hanging plates on a wall is a great way to create visual interest, and it's a relatively inexpensive way to add art.” —Ariel Okin, founder of Ariel Okin Interiors in New York City
“I love to consider vintage lighting for projects. A little glistening age and patina go a long way. Whether it’s a showstopping centerpiece or thoughtful wall sconces, layering in something with provenance or time-worn uniqueness adds a special layer.” —Drew McGukin, founder and lead designer at Drew McGukin Interiors
“Starting small is usually best, and you can build up to bigger items, such as furniture. There are endless art and frame options out there and both add instant character. Other items I love to buy vintage are brass candlesticks, which are lovely styling pieces, and breadboards for the kitchen.” —Emily Starr Alfano, founder and creative director of mStarr Design
Servingware and Small Furniture
“I love buying vintage decorative plates and trays, which are great for styling photoshoots, for serving, and even as wall décor. I also love buying vintage carafes and pitchers, which are great for fresh flowers, for serving beverages when I'm feeling fancy, and for photoshoot props as well. I try to always buy vintage or thrifted small furniture items—like side tables and sometimes stools—that are sturdy, in great condition, and add some patina and a collected feel to any project.” —Leah Alexander, interior designer and founder of Beauty is Abundant
Busts, Bookends, and Bowls
“We are always looking for quirky and sculptural pieces when completing a project to give each space a unique punch. Decorative accessories, such as busts, bookends, bowls, and planters, are a great way to easily add a vintage feel when completing a space or when layering onto an existing room. Vintage rugs are often affordable and can provide a color moment, and they can easily be layered over neutral rugs, such as a jute [rug]. Lately, we have had fun sourcing vintage doors and mantels. We also always love a midcentury modern moment: You can never go wrong with a Platner chair or Mastercraft table.” —Zoë Feldman, founder of Zoë Feldman Design in Washington, D.C.
Ceramics and Rugs
“I definitely prefer vintage decorative accessories. Particularly, I love Scandinavian ceramics from the 1950s and 60s. I also prefer to incorporate at least a few vintage area rugs in a project, particularly in entries and family rooms. These are places that will always get some wear and tear, so if the rug already has some patina, the wear isn't as obvious.” —Wesley Moon, founder of Wesley Moon Inc.
“I love finding vintage crocks, baskets, and vessels—they're functional, utilitarian items, but using something vintage can feel special and more intentionally chosen. I also love to buy quirky figurines and sculptural pieces secondhand—the kinds of things you'd never set out looking for but feel just right when you happen upon them, like a dog-shaped piggy bank or a wooden shoe mold. A little something unexpected goes a long way in making a space feel more collected, without being cluttered." —Katie Holloman, senior designer at W Design Collective
Seating and Lighting
“I love buying pairs of vintage chairs and vintage lighting because I think that adding something vintage to a room where everything is new gives the space a charming edge. When everything in a room is new, it’s not as exciting to me, so I like to add something older to a modern space. It helps give the room a new dimension. I also love a pair of vintage bedside tables.” —Michelle Gerson, founder of Michelle Gerson Interiors
Tableware and Lamps
“I adore vintage tableware, glassware, and silver. I personally have quite a bit, ranging from vintage French snifter glasses to a collection of blue and white willow ware. I also love sourcing antique table lamps. My tip here is to focus on the base of the lamp. It doesn’t matter if the shade isn’t in good shape, since it's so easy to replace. It’s a great way to find something unique!” —Elizabeth Stamos, owner and principal designer of Elizabeth Stamos Design
Dining Chairs and Casegoods
“One item I love to buy vintage is dining chairs. The best custom dining chairs are typically exorbitantly priced, and with vintage, you get a great product that can now be customized with whatever fabric or colors that you like for a reasonable price. I also like to buy any mid-century inspired casegoods vintage because the original is always better, and the construction versus value usually can’t be beat.” —Kelly Finley, founder and principal designer of Joy Street Design in Oakland, California
A Mix of Everything
“I love looking for vintage place settings, furniture, and decorative accessories. A piece that is vintage adds another layer to the interior or tablescape, making it unique and beautiful.” —Clary Bosbyshell, interior designer based in Atlanta, Georgia