Vintage style Home & Decor
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For centuries people have found items from the past captivating or at least worth remembering fondly. Who the first people were to decide that something in fashion 50 years before should become fashionable again, we don't know, but it is a practice that has continued until today. Whether it is a replica or a true vintage item, you can recapture a bit of the past with vintage style pieces.
The term vintage originated with wine growers, who use it to identify particular grape harvests or growing seasons. The word later eased into everyday language and came to describe the year something was made. In more recent times, as nostalgia and memorabilia collecting became more popular, vintage style has come to mean not just old or second-hand items, but pieces that call to mind a particular era or period like the 1940s or 50s.
No actual agreement exists on just what makes something (besides wine), "vintage" rather than "retro" or "antique," but a good rule of thumb is that vintage includes items more than 50 years old, but less than 100. A 150-year-old desk is antique; a clock made 20 years ago is retro; a lamp 50 years old is vintage. The terms are often used interchangeably, however, so if you are starting or adding to a collection, it is good practice to research an item.
Wearing vintage-style clothing is increasingly fashionable, and even some costume jewelry pieces from past eras are very desirable and collectible, but vintage style includes more than just apparel. A gingham tablecloth and a few period accessories can bring to your kitchen the comfortable look of the 1950s. A Tiffany-style lamp adds a touch of vintage style to even a modern living area. And car shows all around the country showcase a time-that-was, when bigger was better and no one worried about gas prices or pollution.
Retail stores that cater to people seeking vintage-style clothing, accessories or household articles are ubiquitous, and everything is right there for you to choose from. Antique stores are also an excellent resource, but if you enjoy exploring and seeking out small (or sometimes large) treasures, thrift shops are good places to start. You can also visit estate sales, flea markets, or your own family's attic or storage area to look for vintage keepsakes that appeal to you.
Some vintage items have excellent potential as collectibles, though it is difficult to always judge the market for vintage correctly. Many people just collect what gives them pleasure, what fits into their household, or what perfectly complements a contemporary or vintage style outfit they own. The longing to recapture or commemorate some part of the past is unlikely to abate anytime soon, so remember items new to you today may be thought of as a vintage treasure in years to come. It is unfortunate that there is little way to predict just what will catch the fancy of some future collector.
How to Decorate With Vintage Style
Vintage Style is an eclectic and casual way of decorating. It combines antique fabrics, collectibles and inexpensive flea market treasures to decorate every room in your home. Vintage Style can be adapted to any style of house, from a New York loft to an old country farmhouse. Mix old and new elements to create a vintage style all your own.
1. Living Room
Incorporate the original features of your living room into your decorating style. For example, a beautiful old fireplace can be the inspiration for the rest of your furnishings and decorations.
Pair a comfy new sofa with older styled chairs. Toss on a patchwork quilt as a great throw blanket.
Create a wall mural of old mirrors in various shapes and sizes. This also helps reflect light in small spaces.
Mix and match styles, such as pairing Chinese lanterns with French toile throw pillows.
Swap existing appliances for vintage models from the 1940s and 1950s. Many companies reproduce these styles, however they are much more energy efficient than the original.
Pick up an enamel and chrome table and chair set. Remember the kind your grandmother had in her kitchen?
Hang curtains with a vintage print from the 1930s or 1940s, such as red cherries on a periwinkle blue background.
Display a collection of inexpensive cut glass dishes or old milk bottles on a hutch or shelves.
Pair an old metal or wood bed frame with a new mattress for comfort.
Mix and match bedding from various eras, such as paisley quilts and chenille bedspreads.
Paint old, dark furniture with a wash of white to brighten them up.
Add various boudoir accessories, such as perfume bottles, silver makeup trays, strands of pearls and antique costume jewelry.
Age Defining: Antique vs. Vintage vs. RetroAh, the joys of aging. Those jarring little moments in life when you learn that what (seems like) recent history for you is ancient history for others. When an iTunes "Golden Oldies" playlist includes a song you thought was still relatively hip. Realizing that Do the Right Thing is more than 21 years old (!). Stepping foot into Urban Outfitters. Period.
Everything you buy for the home — furniture, rugs, lighting, artwork — can be plotted on an historical timeline and affixed with labels like "contemporary", "antique", "vintage" or "retro". An item's age is a key determinant of its value, considered alongside its condition, quality, and relative rarity. And the age of an item is evaluated not only in terms of its actual date of origin but also in the context of contemporary fashions and socioeconomic trends. For example, in lean economic times there may be nostalgia for decades associated with comfort and stability.
But not everything for sale has a certified date of origin. Instead, we have to rely on the often dubious claims put forth by a seller. A quick scan of Craigslist or eBay reveals that terms like "antique" and "vintage" are bandied about interchangeably and often illogically. The most egregious abusers of the jargon are sellers who follow this (inaccurate!) "classified" historical classification system:
1) Antique. Something that is, like, really old. Probably musty, dusty and moldy. Probably made of wood. Usually unstylish.
2) Vintage. Something that is too old to be considered "used" but not as old as Grandma. By calling it "vintage" the seller tries to distract the buyer from the item's blatant imperfections. Like many "retro" items, "vintage" items are often either mid-century modern (in style if not in fact) or related to bygone pop culture, junk food or fashion trends.
3) Retro. Something that is basically outdated and out of style. By calling it "retro" the seller hopes to assign sentimental or historical value to something that is simply no longer cool. Or, the "retro" item may actually be quite new but is "preloved" (i.e., pretty beat up)
But if common parlance is unreliable and inaccurate, what are the official definitions of antique, vintage and retro?
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What is antique?
An antique is "a relic or object of ancient times" or "a work of art, piece of furniture, or decorative object made at an earlier period and according to various customs laws at least 100 years ago. An online marketplace of independent antique and collectible shops, offers a similar definition, explaining, "Most authorities consider the actual definition of the term 'antique' to mean an age of at least 100 years. If an item is not definitively datable to 100 or more years in age, it should not be directly referred to as an antique."
What is vintage?
If antiques are things that are 100 years old or older, what are vintage pieces? The defnition of vintage is trickier. According to Merriam Webster, the term vintage relates primarily to wine and is an altered form of the French word vendage, meaning "the grapes picked during a season." One of its secondary definitions is "a period of origin or manufacture" (e.g., a vintage 1960s Mercedes) or "length of existence: age." Ruby Lane provides a much more helpful explanation, noting that "an item described as 'vintage' should speak of the era in which it was produced. Vintage can mean an item is of a certain period of time, as in "vintage 1950's" but it can also mean (and probably always should) that the item exhibits the best of a certain quality, or qualities, associated with or belonging to that specific era. In other words, for the term vintage to accurately apply to it, an item should be somewhat representational and recognizable as belonging to the era in which it was made." Ruby Lane also suggests that 'vintage' should not be used in reference to objects less than 20 years old.
What is retro?
According to Merriam Webster, retro is "relating to, reviving, or being the styles and especially the fashions of the past : fashionably nostalgic or old-fashioned." Retro furniture may not actually be old but it references styles of the recent past. Retro can also mean something that is not very old but is old enough to be more than just "so last season". (i.e., the woman wearing the early 80s high-waisted jeans because she hasn't updated her wardrobe since the Reagan Administration is not retro. She is just outdated.) I am still not entirely clear on the difference between retro and vintage, I must admit. There seems to be some overlap. For whatever reason, "retro" makes me think of mod, geometric shapes and "vintage" conjures up images of faded, floral fabrics. But that's just me!