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Mansfield Magazine

Past Perfect: Vintage Décor and Style is Hot Right Now and You Can Do It

Mar 16, 2015 12:42PM ● By Laurie Fox

Photos compliments of The Vintage Vibe in Mansfield

Along with the buds and the birds, you’re probably shaking off that winter chill and itching to get on with spring. Cleaning and de-cluttering your house likely is high on your to-do list. And while it’s a good idea to unload things that aren’t working for your home anymore, don’t be too hasty when tossing out furniture and home décor.

Slow down and take a second look at what you’re hauling to the curb. Do the items that you’re discarding still have life left in them? 

A few may not be goners just yet. If you’re ditching a beloved or meaningful item just because it looks out of date or doesn’t match your décor, that doesn’t mean that it can’t still be useful. Examine it in a new light. Would a new coat of paint, a little elbow grease and some love and imagination restore it? If so, you could save it and also spruce up your home by jumping on the “old-as-new” bandwagon. 

Old School Style

Painters, interior designers and retailers are making the most of this vintage trend that incorporates up-cycling with elements of the rustic, weathered, lived-in “shabby chic” look to bring back pieces of the past in a fashionable new way.

“We can take something that’s old and make it new again,” says Jennifer Warn, an owner of Mansfield’s Vintage Vibe store. “It’s about making things unusual and different with familiar pieces.”

The store sells unique items from artists and designers, from jewelry to furniture, along with those that the three owners personally refurbish themselves. “We get things from garage sales, estate sales, along the side of the road and re-make them,” says Warn. “People are looking for conversation pieces. We don’t look for new, shiny things. A lot of things at market now are handmade and re-purposed. That’s a direction that design is heading.”

Warn says rustic materials like tin, wood pallets, chicken wire, glass, metal, wood, copper, silver, iron or brass are popular. Tile and fabrics also are ideal for the vintage treatment.

Small, subtle vintage items such as old vases, pitchers, milk glass, colanders, apothecary or Mason jars, light fixtures or chandeliers, switch plates, door knobs and drawer pulls can create an inviting environment and sense of nostalgia that adds warmth to even the most modern home designs.

On a larger scale, reclaimed wood - shiplap, pieces of fence, shutters and doors - can be used for shelving, tables, plant racks, wall storage or as accent walls. Popular vintage items for restoration also include mirrors and frames. Dressers, vanities, chests and buffets are reincarnated as media cabinets and provide storage for items like dishes and linens to children’s art supplies to toys.

“We sell a little bit of everything and people come from all over to see what we have,” says Randall Holley, the manager of Fort Worth’s Old Home Supply. The business just south of downtown has long been a destination for those restoring historic homes. But Holley says it’s also a hit with vintage shoppers who are hunting for unusual pieces.

He says light fixtures, claw foot tubs, furniture hardware, windows, frames and doors are among the most sought-after items. Holley credits the rise of home restoration shows on HGTV and the History Channel’s “American Pickers” with helping to catapult vintage into the spotlight.

“People’s attitudes have changed over the years,” says Holley of items like barn doors, bird feeders and clunky padlocks the store features. “Twenty-five, thirty years ago, you couldn’t give this stuff away. But people like to see what they can find.”

Holley and other vintage store owners say the timeless craftsmanship of older pieces adds authenticity that buyers are looking for. If those items can be given a new texture, a unique look or brought back to life with a cool, funky twist, that makes them even more coveted.

Unexpected re-workings like chicken wire chandeliers, restored sewing machine tables and children’s tricycles as a base for a new glass-top table show how older items can come back with new functionality.

Antique Design

Tabitha Mahaffey, who runs the Fort Worth interior design firm Honeysuckle and Bulldog with partner Deirdre Goodman, offers the following advice for working vintage and antique pieces into your design scheme.

“It’s important to showcase your antique properly,” says Mahaffey. “You want your eye to be drawn toward the piece so we suggest limiting your antiques to one per room. For example, place an antique chest in your entry but pair it with a modern mirror.”

Mahaffey says clients are open to using vintage pieces in their homes because they’re distinctive.

“We find that most people are looking for a piece of furniture that sets their home apart from their friends or neighbors,” she says. “You might see your Pottery Barn sofa in your neighbor’s home but you’re not going to see that amazing antique table.”

Be open to updating an older piece, says Mahaffey, by reupholstering a vintage chair in an unexpected fabric like a bold animal print or velvet. Add tufting and small nail heads to really update the piece, she says. 

Oldies Online and Beyond

Vintage Vibe’s owners stay busy showcasing refurbished items on the store’s Facebook page and quickly sell out of those they post. The power of social media allows stores to advertise unique wares but also draw shoppers into their retail stores or booths at local antique malls.

Websites like Craigslist also feature hot vintage and antique commodities that shoppers can buy one-to-one. Antique thermometers to teacups, bedroom sets to steamer chests were featured recently on local lists.

Furniture crafters say they noticed the vintage trend heating up a few years ago when they restored a piece or two and sold the items the same day, with buyers asking for more. Part of the allure, they say, is the process they use to repaint or re-stain the furniture that they sell.

Helped along by the “shabby chic” movement, which is generally considered to be gently white-washed colors like white and ivory and some pastels like blue and pink, also includes, for some, more rustic colors like beiges and soft browns. Turquoise also is a popular color in Texas for those who favor the vintage look, say designers.

Custom painting that restores old pieces but gives them a distressed, weathered look is big business, says Ryan Tennyson, a Fort Worth furniture restorer. 

Tennyson started working with older furniture a few years ago using wood pieces that he purchased off Craigslist, restored and quickly re-sold. He has honed his technique using a paint sprayer and now does custom orders and larger pieces like beds and headboards. He features his work and communicates with customers through his Facebook page, That Shabby Guy.

“A lot of people who have these dark, wood floors don’t want those dark, stained antique pieces,” he says. “They want to keep grandma’s dresser but they want it to have a different look that goes with their décor. It’s a memory for them but now it’s useful.”

Tennyson says his most popular colors are white or cream with a dirty brown glaze, turquoise or black. Customers are realizing that they can have a good quality custom-painted piece for their homes that features furniture that often is better quality than current furniture, he says.

“Instead of getting a dresser from a furniture store, you can get a vintage, Thomasville provincial dresser, refinished and painted,” says Tennyson.

Katie Wesson, who sells restored vintage furniture and operates her “Katie Bug’s” booth in The Mercantile on Fort Worth’s Camp Bowie Boulevard, says there is an interest in furniture that can be matching or functional, such as nightstands and pieces that can be used for storage. She says she favors furniture from the past herself and uses a retro metal and wood cabinet to store her painting supplies.

She says she has noticed that mid-century modern furniture has returned in popularity, with some customers favoring high-gloss paint on the sleek, straight lines of those pieces.

“We’re really seeing things from the 1950’s and 60’s and some from the 1940’s returning in popularity,” she says. “Restoring vintage really opens people’s eyes. It looks great in their homes and it’s useful.”

Now, she says, her customers hug her as she delivers their newly refurbished items.

“They’ll say ‘Thank you so much for repurposing this so I could keep it,’” she says. “Just seeing their faces… they’re elated.”

“Because sometimes you have that furniture that you keep for sentimental value but it sits in the corner and no one uses it. This gives them a reason to keep it,” Wesson says. “It’s great to give these pieces new life.”

So look at the items in your home as part of your collective family history. They may have more potential than you give them credit for.

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