Kendall here today, talking about an obsession of mine that has only grown exponentially after more time spent at home in 2020: scoring secondhand vintage furniture.
I love filling my home with vintage pieces for so many reasons! 1.) they are usually wayyy better made than today’s furniture, 2.) they are much more rare and unique than the furniture you’ll find in stores (and you won’t have the same pieces as your friends), 3.) secondhand furniture come with a story and quirks that make your home feel more lived-in and cozy, 4.) there is something about the search, story, and character of a vintage piece that is incredibly fulfilling, and 5.) it’s more environmentally friendly and is often a more affordable way to furnish your home with high-end pieces!
(Am I Doing This Right?!) 5 Hacks for Scoring the Best Vintage Furniture
The whole process from sourcing to procurement can be such a rush and the end result provides a great story and piece with a varied past. For example, my latest search led me to find a midcentury modern dresser to use as a dresser/changing table for a nursery. I ended up finding a piece an hour away and the seller was also pregnant (which felt meant to be) – she was selling her grandfather’s dresser and wanted to make sure it went to a good home. It’s so cool to breathe new life into things, mix old in with new, and know the story behind some of your furniture!
I’m partial to midcentury modern (MCM) pieces, a style while rooted in the 30s through the mid-1960s, has also remained incredibly classic and popular for the last two decades as many retailers still specialize in the aesthetic — sleek lines, low-to-the-ground silhouettes and clean, simple designs. Over the past few years, I’ve filled my place with several original MCM pieces, which opened my eyes to the world of vintage searching. After many, many lessons along the way, ????here are my top 5 hacks for scoring the best vintage furniture at the best price!
5 Hacks to Score the Best Vintage Furniture
1. Get Creative with repurposing
Obviously, vintage furniture pieces were created to reflect the society from that era, which might make their initial intended use obsolete today (think more formal, entertaining pieces). While searching for vintage pieces, you’ll find certain furniture categories that aren’t as commonly used now. Before discounting these old-school pieces that tend to be more formal, consider how they can be repurposed for your needs. For example, a two-tiered side table can be a bar cart, a buffet can be a bookshelf, and a credenza can be a TV stand. Because credenzas and buffets aren’t as popular today, especially in smaller homes and apartments, you can furnish your place with unique items at a great price point!
2. Look Beyond Antique Stores
While estate sales and antique stores are great places to search for vintage furniture, they can turn into time-consuming excursions. Websites and apps with alert features can help you curate everything you’re interested in, which can save you a lot of time. Facebook Marketplace, OfferUp, eBay, and Craigslist are my favorite sites to set up alerts, because you can often get a much better deal than places like Charish and Ebay (which are great too, especially if you’re looking to invest in a piece that is in nearly perfect condition!). Don’t be afraid to expand your location search to unlock more treasures. Here are my tips for online vintage searches:
Try a slew of keyword searches.
Try starting with the most specific descriptors (brand, line, era) and broaden your search from there.
Save pieces that interest you.
Sites like Facebook Marketplace will then push similar pieces that are more curated to your taste!
Research the style you’re searching for.
A lot of sellers don’t know what they have, so you won’t be able to find those pieces using keywords. However, if you’re savvy about the style elements you’re looking for, you might get lucky searching for a broad “desk” search and stumble upon the dream piece you’ve been holding out for!
3. Determine Authenticity
While most authentic vintage pieces will feature a stamp of the brand name and maybe even the decade it was made inside a drawer or on the back, there are many items that don’t. Before discounting a piece’s authenticity, check around to see if anyone can help identify the piece. Reddit’s midcentury modern thread is an incredible resource to determine a piece’s origin. Simply upload your unidentified piece and ask if anyone can help narrow down the brand or era.
While there is nothing wrong with MCM-inspired furniture, it’s important to know if you’re buying an authentic piece or not, because it will affect the price you’re willing to pay. As well as your potential return on investment should you sell it in the future. Once you’ve determined the brand and era, you can research its worth and evaluate if the price is at market value or a steal.
4. Don’t Be Afraid to Haggle
Find a credenza without the original hardware or a dresser with a chipped drawer? Ask for a lower price! While negotiating can be uncomfortable, remember that sellers expect offers, and you have nothing to lose in asking. These four haggling tips have helped me score discounts over the years:
- Citing damage as my reason for a lower price is always better received then simply asking for a discount.
- Always see a potential purchase in-person before haggling. Sellers are more willing to close the sale. Even at a lower price, if they’ve already put in the time to meet with you.
- Downplay your excitement. As unnatural as it may feel to not tell the seller how much you love their piece, try to refrain. In fact, point out any features you’re unsure about, such as wear and tear, so the seller doesn’t know that this is the dream piece that you’ve been waiting years to score.
- Always offer cash and a quick turnaround pickup. The more difficult you make it for the seller to turn you down, the better. I always end my final offer with, “I have cash with me and can pick up today.”
5. Be Prepared and Patient
A drawback to buying vintage pieces? You can’t always get what you want when you want it, but that’s also part of the fun! Expect your search to take time and don’t get frustrated or settle for something that isn’t exactly what you want. The more you educate yourself on vintage brands, eras, and designers, as well as how much certain pieces are currently going for, the more equipped you’ll be when you see a killer sale pop up on your alerts or when you uncover a gem at an estate sale.