A Designer’s Guide to Incorporating Vintage at Home

Time Several Hours

Budget $ $$$

Skill Level

WORDS BY Gillian Grefe

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Published on May 24, 2021

Thrifting and antiquing has always been a beloved pastime for folks who see the true beauty in vintage pieces. But within the last few years especially, treasure-hunting for vintage furniture and decor has exploded in popularity. Whether you’ve discovered a set of enchanting gilded mirrors that are perfect as they are or if you plan to fix-up a dresser with great bones, it can be a little tricky finding the right spot for your vintage finds. Havenly designer Melissa Wagner gives us a few tips on artfully incorporating any and all thrifted gems.

Sometimes the best approach is to create a very stark juxtaposition between a very modern home and one statement vintage piece.” Think: a chic, minimalist, and relatively monochromatic space with a totally contrasting vintage wooden table, dresser, or armoire, or an intricately patterned statement mirror. “It can be big, bold, ornamental, and a color (or stain finish) contrast from everything else in your home. If it’s a piece you love and are willing to invest, this is definitely a splurge-worthy approach.”

If you’re a seasoned thrifter, you probably know that it can take some perceptive searching to find a perfect vintage piece; on the contrary, if you’re new to thrifting, maybe you haven’t discovered this truth just yet. If you need some helpful tips, check out our ultimate thrifting guide. But whatever your thrift level, just be prepared to take your time and try to see things for their potential. “Shopping for vintage items sometimes requires an open mind. Did you find something that is falling apart and in a sad, cherry maple finish, but has a beautiful shape or the perfect dimensions you’ve been looking for for over a year? Imagine it refinished in a high-gloss black or navy lacquer, or painted to match your kitchen cabinets. Come at it with an open mind and an idea of what you’d be willing to change to make it your own.” And, as always, follow your heart: if you love it, go for it!

Moreover, sometimes a little sanding, fresh coat of paint, or new details can totally transform a piece to be exactly what you envisioned. “If you don’t want to change the integrity of the piece too much, consider getting a vintage find repaired so that it is safe (and doors/drawers open well), and then just make small updates that can give it a facelift without changing the original creation. Replacing parts like knobs, pulls, or the legs can make a big change for a small commitment (and budget).” 

Feeling a little bit of the extra-DIY vibes? “You can also change out the top surface of a piece. Whether you decide to paint it, refinish it, or leave it, try removing the top of a vintage dresser and fit a surface to it that matches your countertops for an extra piece of storage in your kitchen. You’ll want to connect with a slab contractor for a proper template and fit if you go this direction.”

You also aren’t restricted to the standard, dresser-or-dining-table vintage pieces. Go big (and outside) or small and detailed! “One of my favorite vintage incorporations: swap a door or two out. Sometimes, vintage yards will have beautiful, ornamental doors available, and often, they come one or two at a time. So snag your favorite, strip it down to its original wood finish, finish it with a clear coat to keep the original wood species intact, and hang it as a door to your favorite room in the house. It’s a great way to add just a touch of personality and beauty to your space.”

Or, if you’re starting with baby steps and easing into your thrifting comfort zone, selecting small photographs, art prints, or decor pieces is a good way to add some pop, color, and contrast to your space.


For help on incorporating your vintage and heirloom pieces into a new design for your home, work with one of our designers. Gets started today! 

Words by Erica Buehler