If you’re looking to infuse character and collected charm into a space, the obvious answer is to shop vintage. But in our e-commerce, instant gratification world, slowing down to scour for historical pieces is an increasingly foreign concept. What items should you search for? Where can you find them? And how do you blend old and new in your home?
To answer all of these hard-hitting questions (and prove that investing time can save you money!), we gave $300 each to three Havenly lead designers and followed their vintage-hunting journeys. Through their shopping trips and styling endeavors, we learned everything you need to know about sourcing vintage treasures on a budget and incorporating them into a cohesive aesthetic. Here’s how they pulled it off.
Finding a Vision
For a successful vintage shopping spree, you need to have goals in mind. Melissa Wagner set out to find dark wood accent furniture to contrast the sleek, modern finishes in her home. Specifically, she needed a chair for her daughter’s bedroom, a side table to accompany her sofa, and a small bench for putting on shoes in her entryway.
Brady Burke was seeking a single statement piece, like an antique ottoman, a retro side table, or a show-stopping Persian rug. “Vintage shopping is funny because, like life, you hope and expect it to turn out one way and it almost always goes in a different direction,” he admits, leaving his options open to a change of heart while in the store.
Meanwhile, Kelsey Fischer wanted finishing touches to create console and tabletop vignettes. “I particularly love the little vintage brass elements that have tarnished or aged, because you can find them for a steal and bring them back to life!” she exclaims.
Choosing Where to Go
Yes, there are incredible vintage gems to be found by scrolling through the endless internet inventories of Facebook Marketplace, OfferUp, and Chairish, but nothing compares to recognizing the potential of a piece when you pick it up with your hands. That’s why all three of our designers headed to thrift stores and antique shops for IRL hunting.
From large indoor flea markets, to more curated vintage shops and local consignment stores, and of course the tried-and-true haunts like Goodwill and Salvation Army. For Melissa, the hunt is half the fun. “With a larger flea with multiple vendors, it takes half of a day to get through the building,” she describes, “but it’s a blast.” Brady echoes the sentiment of making scouting into an entertaining outing: “I spent a few hours wandering through every ‘avenue,’ picking and choosing things from all over,” he recounts.
So go ahead and map out local vintage shops near you, and make a day of it. Pro tip from Kelsey: “Plan brunch or lunch along the way to really get in the shopping groove.”
Scouring the Selection
As Brady predicted, vintage shopping didn’t go exactly as planned for any of the designers. Melissa intended to purchase accent furniture, but she was drawn to vessels like bowls, vases, and containers instead. Eventually, she found a chair that hit all the right notes, but she struck out when it came to a bench and a side table.
“I found a few things that worked from a size standpoint, but were too farmhouse or mid-century — both of which my home is not,” she remembers. “I pivoted to decor that I could sprinkle throughout. I love the juxtaposition of modern next to vintage, so I wanted to incorporate a few more vintage decor items to make the look feel purposeful throughout each room.”
Though he wanted a statement piece, Brady gravitated towards smaller decor items, too — which gave him an epiphany. “It dawned on me that I could use this project as an opportunity to re-style my fireplace mantle,” he recalls. “I recently shattered a large framed print that sat over my mantle and I couldn’t help but take that as a sign that this area in my home needed a refresh.”
So Brady started his search with artwork, keeping in mind the color scheme of his sitting room, and then moved on to candlesticks, books, and light decor he could style easily. He made sure to pick up a few tall items to add height and dimension to his vignette.
Kelsey, on the other hand, was seeking decor all along. However, the consignment stores she visited only had large furniture and big items she didn’t need. “I was considering a few wall mirrors, as I need decor for my son’s nursery, but all of them seemed to either be too large or not quite the elegant style I was looking for,” she reasons. Luckily, a few worthy pieces did catch her eye.
In the end, it’s the haul that counts and our designers got the goods. Melissa scooped up a classic spindle-back child’s chair, a small spice cabinet for her daughter’s own treasures, and two wide-eyed bear figurines for her daughter’s bookshelf. She also bought a small chocolate-colored crock, a terracotta scalloped bowl, a versatile black stool, and an old stoneware mixing bowl to match a beloved crock gifted to her by her mother. “I found so many great things that I love and add so much sweetness to my home, enhancing the stories it presently tells, and the ones I envision for my family down the road,” she muses.
At MEEK Modern Vintage, Brady grabbed black candlesticks, blue mid-century taper candles, and black candle snuffer. His purchase from Colorado Antiques Mall featured landscape artwork, two glass cologne bottles, a small black hexagonal box, and a set of vintage New Orleans jazz line drawings. “They are beautifully drawn in white ink on black paper,” he illustrates. “The high contrast color scheme matches my space well. I love how they seamlessly blend vintage and modern and am so happy I found them!”
Kelsey walked away with an ornate brass and mirror tray and a small brass bowl that’s equally ideal for serving and displaying. “I always carry a magnet with me to test if an item is really brass,” she reveals. “If it magnetizes, it’s plated. If it doesn’t, you know you’re good to go. Tarnished pieces don’t deter me, though, since I know ol’ Barkeepers Friend is so great at bringing brass back to life.”
A plaster lamp made Kelsey do a 360-degree spin and when she saw another savvy shopper eying it, she knew she had to move quickly. She was swift enough to snatch it along with a vintage Hull pottery piece glazed with a drip effect in a rich brown hue. It was missing its lid, but she thought it would make a fine vase anyway. “A lot of vintage pottery will have a finish mark and sometimes a date,” she shares. “Hull has been around a long time, but part of the fun of vintage shopping is getting to research your finds.”
For Melissa, styling is the best part. She topped the spindle-back chair with a favorite stuffed animal and placed it beside her daughter’s bookshelves and the “treasure keeper” spice cabinet, while the terracotta scalloped bowl is a corner table companion that may hold a plant one day.
The chocolate crock and mixing bowl are now partnered with the cutting boards and salt cellar in an empty corner of her kitchen. “I was planning to use the crock for my wisk collection, or for cocktailing tools, but for now, I’m enjoying the added color with greenery or florals,” she says. “And the mixing bowl will be key for keeping our weekly Whole Foods fruit haul — and apples from the tree in our backyard!”
Melissa already envisions a long, exciting life for her small black stool. “I love the idea of layering it with one of our many potted plants or treating it as a side table next to the sofa for morning coffee or a cocktail at night,” she dreams. “It can sit next to the tub in our master bathroom for washcloths, soaps, or a glass of wine, and I can’t imagine this stool’s life not including a stint in my daughter’s bathroom for hand washing and brushing teeth.”
Brady wanted a layered feel with some pops of color on his mantel, so he had to DIY. He spray painted the frame of his landscape oil painting in metallic gold to match some of the gold details existing in the room, lined up some books he owned, and popped some greenery in the vintage cologne bottles. Classic white tapers perfectly balance the height of the mounted artwork.
Since marriage is about compromise, Kelsey styled her haul twice and let her husband choose. On top of a salvaged chest of drawers, she preferred a polished, textured look with the lamp, some layered artwork, books, candles, and the Hull pottery filled with florals. Her husband, however, opted for the glamorous bar vignette with the brass mirrored tray and salty snack bowl. She swapped her layered artwork for a black-and-white print and added some drinkware and small florals. “A girl has to choose her battles,” she admits. “I am taking no losses on the amount of pillows I want on my bed, okay?” At the end of the day, it seems like everyone won.
As you can see, our designers love taking your existing pieces and vintage heirlooms and weaving them in alongside newer purchases for that “discovered over time” charm. Unlock the perfect balance in your own space by booking your Havenly partner-in-style today, beginning with our style quiz.