How to: Shop Vintage

DIY + How To

For some, finding a deal on sweet vintage and used furniture is as easy as breathing, for others, the thought of having to navigate the waters of vintage and thrift stores is about as appealing as being lost at sea. If you don’t have the “gift” when it comes to great vintage furniture finds (and even if you do), we came across a number of great posts around the web addressing this very issue. Don’t shy away from starting a great vintage furniture collection; we’ve found a few tips to take away the fear and give you the confidence to march into the wonderful world of vintage furniture shopping.

A post we recently read on the subject of thrifting is by Emily Henderson on the HGTV Design Star blog. Though more specific to tackling that terrifying phenomenon known as the “flea market,” we think many of the tips in the post can apply to vintage and thrift stores of all types. Some of our favorite advice (retold by us):

Start big first Do a quick once over the store for big pieces like furniture and art, looking for items that will fit with your theme or that you just love. After you’ve made your furniture round, then go back again looking at smaller details like accessories. Trying to process it all at once will leave your brain frazzled and leave time for quicker moving patrons to snatch up deals.

Bring a list of needs Unless you are just going for pleasure, bring a list of the things your home actually needs—a breakfast table, a coffee table, seating for the garden—and keep looking at that list as you move through the store. Even better? Take general measurements of the areas you are trying to find furniture pieces for so you know whether the piece you find and love will fit where you’d like to put it.

Know your color palette, but don’t be married to it It’s of course smart to go into a vintage store knowing your color palette—maybe even bringing along paint samples and fabric swatches to match—but don’t get too caught up in only trying to find items that match your palette, you might miss something you didn’t know could work!

Keep an open mind Have you ever been to someone’s house who had something unusual on their wall, like a bundle of frames, board game boards or other items? Ever been flabbergasted as to how they thought to use such items as art? It’s because they probably know the secret: everything can be art. If you like something you find in a vintage store, snatch it up. You could use it on a table top, but you could also potentially hang it on the wall for a brilliant art piece.

For more tips from Emily Henderson, visit the post 10 Shopping Secrets From a Stylist . What is your favorite thrifting and vintage shopping advice you’ve ever received? Have you ever learned a lesson the hard way?

Images: Flickr members pixeljones, Orin Zebest, frenchfinds.co.uk and theopie, licensed for use under Creative Commons license Attribution 2.0 Generic.

By |


  1. Vintage Lady

    Oct 27, 2010 at 6:10 am

    So interesting. Thanks for the tips

  2. Michael Firstman@ Arc Welders

    Nov 11, 2010 at 9:25 am

    I’ve always wanted a touch of vintage/retro in my home but have been afraid of buying mismatching items. So is it better to start with a big piece like you said and work around it? Or buy smaller bits and just weed out the ones that don’t work?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *