5 Common Mistakes to Avoid When Shopping for Vintage Furniture

While it might be easier to visit your local shopping centre and pick out a new table from a chain store, there's a certain feeling of accomplishment that comes from rummaging (or scrolling) through an antique market and stumbling across the one

After touring over 100 homes as part of our The Makers series, it’s evident a home styled with beautiful vintage furniture give it a more interesting and charming feel - something co-founder of online curated homewares and accessories shop Merci Maison, Jade Yarbrough, agrees with, too.

“Vintage pieces always inject so much personality and character into a space,” Yarbrough tells Bed Threads Journal. “They bring a sense of history and worldliness, they tell a story, they are beautifully unique. There is nothing like that feeling of sourcing a truly unique or even one-off piece that no one else will ever have.”

With the rise of Instagram and online boutiques that do the hard work for you to bring weekly collections of beautiful wares to covet, purchasing teak sideboards, statement velvet couches, gilded mirrors or even the ever-so-popular Danish Caprani lamps, has never been easier. However, that’s also part of the problem - it may be too easy to hit the ‘Purchase’ button whenever you come across a piece that jumps out at you. The process of purchasing the perfect vintage piece for you and your home involves careful consideration. 

Here, Yarbrough reveals the five biggest mistakes she sees too often when it comes to sourcing and buying vintage furniture. 

5 Biggest Mistakes When Buying Vintage Furniture

1. Not purchasing for long-term investment

“There’s nothing quite like the aged patina of a vintage piece, but make sure you are playing the long game when it comes to vintage shopping,” Yarbrough says. Ask yourself questions like:

  • Is it a piece you will treasure forever? 
  • Have you done your research on that specific piece?
  • Where did the piece originate? 
  • What condition is it in?

“Simply put, know what you’re buying and know its condition.”

2. Not researching into the dealer

There are a wealth of online vintage dealers, especially on Instagram, but how reputable is the dealer you’re looking to purchase from? Where are they sourcing their products from? Do they have good reviews? 

“It’s crucial you get to know the dealer and your product. If I am buying through an online marketplace, know the seller or chose a reputable marketplace like 1stdibs,” Yarbrough advises. Other reputable marketplaces we love include Curated Spaces, Good Space and CCSS. (Here is a list of more vintage furniture shops on Instagram.)

“Similarly, it’s just as important to know the product you’re after, too. If you’re looking for a French wrought iron piece of furniture, look for dealers in France. If you’re looking for Italian Murano wall sconces, look for dealers in Italy.”

3. Overlooking fine print terms

Have you ever stumbled upon vintage furniture that is surprisingly cheap? Before handing over your hard-earned money, you might want to double-check if it’s original or a dupe. 

“Be careful of pieces that say ‘in the style of’ or “attributed to’”, Yarbrough warns. “These are not the original pieces and are usually a reproduction of the original. There is quite a difference in price between the two, so you need to be aware of this.”

To spot if a piece is authentic, “look for natural wear and tear and genuine signs of ageing” and to reiterate Yarbrough’s earlier points, ask questions and do your research. 

4. Forgetting to test the product beforehand

This one isn’t possible if you’re purchasing online, but if you’re lucky enough to be able to inspect the piece before purchasing it, ensure everything functions properly. “If you can, try to sit on the pieces and test if they’re stable or not. Test the drawers, check the legs,” Yarbrough recommends.

“You’ll usually be able to determine pretty quickly if there’s any damage that can’t be repaired or restored, at least not without a hefty price tag anyways.” How much will it cost you to repair the item? Is the repair cost worth it?

“Always evaluate the cost to restore a vintage piece before buying.”

Another red flag you must look out for: “Be mindful of water damage as this causes the wood to swell and shrink, which is not good for longevity.”

5. Being blinded by imperfections

Yes, water damage is a fault that should deter you from purchasing an item, but have you come across the perfect chair that you’d buy instantly if it didn’t have a few tears? Minor imperfections here and there are what gives vintage furniture personality. “Don’t let that ripped seat or town lampshade deter you from buying a beauty. 

All these faults can easily be fixed by “giving your vintage pieces some new life”. For example, give your chair an update with a newly upholstered cushion or pair a new shade with your vintage lamp base. The combination of old and new will actually elevate your space further.  

And remember, don’t just purchase a piece of furniture because it’s trendy. Make sure every decor item you spend your money on brings you joy and is a reflection of your personality.

For more from Jade, follow her on Instagram @mercimaison.

Liked this? Here are the 11 decor items you should be buying vintage.

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