The Virtues of Vintage

Doing up one's own house is very different from doing up a client's - at least mine is! It is very much a work in progress. I am not sure if this is because I am constantly in contact with such beautiful fabrics, furnishings and design ideas that I find it hard to decide exactly what it is that I want - simply put, I want everything! OR is it the fact that working full time and having a young family and newish house I don't have the time or the financial resources that I would like.


Whatever the reason - I decided after about year 2 into the new house, living in a number of half furnished rooms, that I would embrace the situation and take my time. I would seek out those special pieces that defined both mine and my husband's character, the perfect fabric and furniture that fit perfectly into the environment. I would let the rooms take shape around our family's development, rather than work the family around the room.

My enthusiasm for the project waxes and wanes like the moon - my gravitational force being more to do with sleep, work and children! It has been during periods of good sleep, healthy children and inspiration that I started to notice a pattern of items, blogs and articles that were consistently catching my attention. In one word they all had something to do with 'Vintage'. Now I have always been a fan of things used, second hand, pre-loved, pre-owned ....whatever. This is a relatively new concept in this part of the world. Anything that didn't have a new price tag on it was previously considered 'taboo' in the world of fashionable Interior Designers. However I have recently noticed that if you coin an item 'VINTAGE' it nearly has more kudos than if it were an antique dating back 300 years! But what exactly is Vintage? Is it every old bedside locker harvested when your parent's downsized or is it something more special? I think that we are all guilty - at least I know that I am - of using terms such as vintage, antique, upcycled, secondhand without really paying attention to what the terms mean.

I looked up the definition of the word vintage and laughed. It refers to the 'year or place in which wine, especially wine of high quality, was produced'! It has nothing to do with furnishings, clothes or prohibition (the other en vogue word at the moment). We have clearly remodelled this word to suit the world of interiors and fashion. Ebay had an eight page discussion on this very topic and the general consensus was that a Vintage item is between 50 and 100 years old. An antique is considered 100 years and older. Vintage is not to be confused with Upcycling which is the art of turning the tired old objects you might usually throw away into beautiful - and useful - pieces for the home. The art of upcycling has really gathered pace in this country with workshops popping up everywhere. Vintage, in the interiors sense, is generally considered to be anything dating from the 1950s and before. Some witty seller described vintage as being 'old enough to be back in fashion again'.

So now that I have worked it all out in my head; I upcycled the bookcase / dresser (with all the kid's books and jigsaws) from tired old pine to distressed, heather purple. The beautiful old display cabinet which I inherited from my father who in turn inherited it from his mother (who incidentally bought it second hand) is an antique. But the gorgeous little wingback arm chair that my hubby arrived home with last week is most definitely vintage!

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Written by: Ciarda Barrett (Senior Tutor)

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