A memory of Becoming Addicted to Vintage - And Five Reasons Why to Buy It
When it comes to decorating, sometimes it is easier for some people to go to a store, pick out a few nice new things and have them delivered and placed in situ. It is fun. It is exciting. And I admit it. I have done that too, on occasion. Alas, 99% of those new home furniture and lighting items I bought are now gone and replaced.
The things at these new stores should be in perfect condition and last a long time. Right?
Well, some times the new things are perfect. Yet a lot of times, that perfection is fleeting. For one reason, and this may very well be one of my opinions, (and I have been known to have a few of those,) the new things are not always as well made as the old. They are mass produced out of wood like products, or wood that has been treated and manipulated. The hardware might be cast and have a polish or glaze applied. The workmanship of the joints and the application of the decorative parts, which give a piece it's character, may not be done with a sense of permanence. The factories these days are rushing to ship out bulk on tight time constraints.The shiny beauty falls apart fast. One jump by a kid on the coffee table, and the glued joinery makes a miserable cracking sound.
I worked at a high end product development company and I was in charge of ensuring the case goods, and all the other home decor items falling under furniture, fabric, wallpaper and rugs, were made to the design's product specifications. A lot of the furniture we made were knock off's of beautiful antique pieces. I made sure the wood's worm holes and aged patina were placed exactly where they should be. I had to think like a worm (sounds weird - but why would the worm chew here verses there) and think like the hands of someone who used the piece over generations and time. The tarnish and wear marks on the brasses, as well as the stain colors, had to be accurate (for example, different woods and stain on sides of drawers verses fronts and exteriors - where would a hand touch the drawer a 1000 times or more.)
These pieces were gorgeous and very expensive at retail. They cost a small fortune. I never bought any of them, even with my discount.
When I started to grow up and learn that the things in the homes I lived in were found objects that my parents scavenged for here and there, I was at first a little perplexed. Of course, I was a kid. There was nothing more fun that going into stores and seeing the shiny new thing under bright lights on the showroom floor and jumping on it. I had no concept of money, or lack of really, at that age. I would ask - Why do we spend weekends driving around, visiting barns and auctions and beat up shops, even yard sales?
Why did I have parents pushing a piano down the street on a cart of some kind? Why are there 6 chairs in and on top of our station wagon?
I did know one thing. My parents loved their homes and the things in them. We lived frugally. Of course, there were new sofas and new beds. But it seemed like most everything else around us had a history, whether it was my family's history, or someone else's family history. My parents thought it was cool or interesting. It was affordable. It was fun for them. One memory is the mice nest in the bottom of an antique cabinet. Regardless, my parents would swoon over the wood, the carvings, the houses or barns these things were in and the price (try: sometimes free...)
So here I was in my own first home, back in the 80's, after college. It was an apartment in a small town near the train station that lead to my new little job in NYC. It was a walk up apartment on the third floor of an old house. It had deep, alcoved ceilings and a tiny kitchen. I loved it. It was all mine. I had already been collecting a large stash of smalls and miscellaneous things in my bedroom "at home." And all of those things came with me to my new home. My mom gave me a set of new pots. I had my stereo. And I was on my own.
I was broke! I had enough money to pay my rent and have some fun. But there was no way I was going to be able to decorate, or at the very least, find a table and chairs to sit at from a store that sold those pretty new shiny things. The "rents" weren't giving me my basic furnishings or money. I was independent. So just like my parents did, I did household search and rescue anywhere I could. Those places did not have showrooms with shiny bright lights...
I went around the corner to this little used furniture shop on the main road behind my place. Because we did it as kids, it was easy for me to just walk in and not be "disturbed" by the dust and messy chaos of piles of stuff laying around.
I bought an old chair. I shined it up with Old English and a rag. I bought some faux leopard fabric in the garment industry where I worked and recovered the seat myself with a staple gun.
And I was instantly addicted. It was already in my genetic makeup.
Today I frequent a lot of dusty, far away places to purchase vintage for my shop and galleries. reposedny.com
I get covered with a lot of dust and I meet some really interesting people. I haven't run into any mice nests in years, thank goodness. And MY KIDS and significant other sometimes get dragged around with me - learning the ins and outs of the hunt. I can't count the times I have happened upon a few of those factory retail pieces that I mass produced back in the day. Those pieces that cost thousands of dollars 18 years ago are now selling at a huge depreciation. I'm not sure if those pieces will stand the test of time and be valuable 30 years from now. They might become "vintage" because of their age, but will they become vintage and develop patina and worm holes through their heavy stained finishes and last for years to come?
Maybe...But I would rather buy the real wood with the real worm holes and the real history. It makes me smile to rescue something old and give it new life.
There is a history to old things. You can see it in the wood, the worn finish and the crackled glaze. You can rewire the old lamps. Coax the grain of old wood with a light product. Windex off the dust. Apply a new dress (fabric) to an old frame. Get the rugs cleaned. Reframe the paintings. With that said, heres a few simple reasons I like to buy vintage. And there are so many more:
1. I think many old things are made from better materials than new things.
2. Recycling and Repurposing old things is better for the world. Think Green. Recycle.
3. Much of the time, vintage things are less expensive than some new things.
4. Old design always seems to make it's way back and turn into new design (think mid-century.)
5. And last but not least, the search and rescue (the HUNT, that moment when you find it) is half the fun.
And if you don't have the time or the patience to do "the hunt" yourself, let someone like me do the work for you. It's a job that I love.