The vintage home design style is often confused with antique-collecting. Instead, it's far more about creating a specific, unifying theme and then building a home environment around the concept so that every piece, picture, wall color and furniture item becomes a part of the greater whole, producing a personal synergy.
Vintage style is kind of an enigma. In fact, it’s not really a recognized interior design but on the flip side it’s used in reference to interiors and furnishings all the time so we just had to cover it.
We took a stab at explaining it and finding great photo examples. Hopefully, this helps give you somewhat of a better understanding.
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What is the Vintage Home Style?
Ask one person what vintage home style might be and she might answer it involves a whole lot of antiques, like an old person’s house.
Ask another and he might answer a home centered around a theme of decoration like old bottles or a specific time of ceramic.
Both would be right and wrong.
Vintage style as a design does involve an intentional use of antiques and placement to create a specific type of environment.
However, it’s not your grandparents’ junk collection or memory box, and it is definitely not limited to just ceramic collections.
Instead, Vintage design is an approach towards utilization of antiques to give a lived in feeling to a home or room with the placement of well-recognized items from the past, that give a visitor a sense of history, as well as creating a new space by the combination of all the parts put together a certain way.
Interior Style Features
- One aspect about the vintage style is that it does incorporate a large, significant amount of decoration pieces.
For the minimalists out there, this is not the style to engage it at all. Run in the opposite direction. The vintage style does appeal to the collector and packrat types by nature. However, where people just holding onto stuff turns into a mess, the vintage styles focuses on an overall theme so that every part, whether it be the wallpaper or the chair or the wall hanging, all tie back to the common guiding principle.
- The interior approach does not become an excuse for congestion. Placement is actually very important. Every piece has a location it goes into and stays there, out of the pathway way and access. The interior approach can be based on a specific time period or era, it can be color theme such as everything in a natural light white shade, or it can be a material approach such as all the items have to be made from wood and fabric and no metal. Whatever the overall theme, every piece and placement matches the others.
- All the components included in the interior design have an aged look to them as well.New, shine and clean is not part of the vintage style at all. The framing, picture, furniture or container has to be distressed a bit, showing the effects of time on it. There can be decorations and patterns, but the object cannot appear as if it just came out of the production assembly line with the plastic wrap still attached. Vintage style is not about showing off the latest addition from the furniture store. It’s about taking old pieces and giving them new life in a coordinated fashion.
- Color is often used as a unifying parameter for a vintage style home.One approach could be to work in contrasts, a monochromatic perspective, using light and dark to frame each other. Another approach might be to have everything in a given room made with a deep velvet or red, like Victorian smoking room for example. Because the pieces have to fit a singular parameter set, vintage housing style is not easy to put together fast. It actually takes a lot of time, research and treasure hunting to find the right items, especially for an interior look.
- Many folks change up their approach from room to room.They might choose a colonial approach for the dining room and a Victorian look for the personal library. The kitchen may take on a utilitarian S.S. Titanic food prep room look, complete with vintage brass sink plumbing, and the bedrooms might incorporate a 1950s home look or 1920s art deco. All of these different time periods can easily exist within the same home, but with vintage style it takes a lot of planning to pull it off right. Fortunately, those who engage with this style do it because they already have a strong love for history. The vintage style gives them a tangible connection with times gone, literally being able to recreate their own time capsule at home.
Exterior Style Features
- While one can’t go out and hang every vintage clock from the Elizabethan age on the outside of a home, there are a few approaches one could take with a vintage style design perspective and home exteriors. Home elevations or surface attachment give a homeowner the ability to change the outside look of a home without changing the structure. For example, a two-story home might be built with a typical suburban plan look, but with surface elevations the outside surface could be remade to look more like a Tudor house instead. The design is the key, the materials and paint are the easy part once one has a good idea how to change the outside appearance.
- Wrought iron fixtures are also a big hit for vintage style, whether in adding a walkway railing to a home entrance or attaching decorative window pieces to the outside of the home to add to its look. Wrought iron has an amazing way, depending how it’s crafted, to shift the exterior look of a home into to the past a bit.
Furniture Choices with Vintage Style
- Clearly the furniture style one wants to have for a vintage style home depends a lot on the time period or theme one has to begin with. That’s a key factor that needs to always be designed first. Then, when furniture is chosen, it needs to be able to be the focal aspect of a room, not a bystander piece. So, if you’re looking for a dining room table to a baroque look, then the table needs to be the primarypiece of the room it will be in, not a small coffee table.
- Furniture also, again, needs to show the effects of time. Distressed furniture is often a favorite, from wood tables to wood cabinets and wrought iron side tables with wood or stone platforms. Granted, some folks might want the age of the Baby Boomer birth, and that would in turn mean a lot of plastic and polyester instead, but all of it needs to tie to the specific theme for the entire room. Don’t mix a 70s fake leather couch with French colonial drapes, even if both are white color base. It just looks weird.
- Vintage furniture for the 1700s and 1800s actually tends to be the easiest to find, even if the furniture is actually brand new. Many people like the carved wood frame of chairs with inlaid arm padding and embroidered materials for the backrest and seating. These also go well with marble or solid wood tables and similar carving styles on the support legs.
- Old storage chests and mid-level multi-unit cabinets are a favorite of the vintage style.Often built in American early period times as well as British 1800s, these pieces provide an easy place to put lots of small things regularly used in a common room or living room without looking cluttered.
- Distressed furniture in all colors and shades are common with vintage style, but they need to match the overall theme of a room to work properly.
- Furniture can be easily recovered and repaired with new fabrics, but the vintage style does expect the chairs or tables to show their age in the wood itself.
Materials Frequently Used in Vintage Style
- Look for authenticity in antiques and wall fixtures.The heavier the item, the more likely it was made with real wood and steel versus artificial materials so common today. Folks will notice it right away and authentic furniture tends to be great conversation pieces because they are so hard to find in regular furniture stores.
- Sturdy assembly is a must. You want materials and antiques that were put together to last, not fall apart under the least amount of pressure. To understand what this means, if you were to hit vintage cabinet with the flat of your hand, it would probably hurt. If you did the same to an IKEA cabinet, you would have mess of broken fiber board and cardboard all over the floor. That’s the difference.
- Vintage items and décor also need to be in good shape. Avoid corrosion or things just plain falling apart. Yes, an old gas station sign might be old, but if it’s as flimsy as swiss cheese, that doesn’t make it a good piece for your vintage auto repair theme room.
Decor in Vintage Style
- The walls in many vintage-style rooms and homes can be left plain and blank. That’s because they are frequently going to provide a canvas for the placement of antiques hung and displayed on them, or various furniture like cabinets placed up against them. So, don’t worry so much about the texture of the walls aside from steering towards lighter pastel colors. By using this approach, it draws greater attention to the antiques themselves and not the features of the room walls.
- If you go the wallpaper path instead, consider using it strategically. Use the wall paper on one wall that might be void of a lot of items, such as where the TV panel might be placed, and leave the other walls bare because your collect will take up the room and space naturally. The only thing to be sure of is that when done, all the walls are covered one way or another in a symmetrical way.
- Accessories should be considered a final touch to a room, not the critical piece to tie it all together.Many metal and wood pieces work very well for this approach, and the weigh scale is an old favorite for table or desk pieces.
Styles that Mix Well with Vintage Style
- Again, one of the most effective ways to mix a vintage style is to use different themes in different rooms, allowing one to play around a bit versus the entire home being just one approach.
- If a vintage room will engage with other styles, again place it within a theme. For example, if you want to have both British vintage as well as Asian elements, a vintage-style might take the approach of creating a British explorer’s library study, with key placement of Asian antique and artifacts brought back as souvenirs. Background placement of world maps or a globe or telescope reinforces this presentation easily and allows you to blend two different styles together effectively.
- A museum approach might allow a blending of certain styles as well. You may want a minimalist approach for the room, but the center display piece needs to incorporate your vintage style. So, set up the vintage components similar to a display approach, like what one would see in a museum showing a time period setting. You get both worlds in one. This works extremely well for folks who like a minimal overall setting but what to show off something like an old style kitchen work table or a knight’s armor set.
- Alcoves provide wonderful pockets where to create vintage displays as well. You may need to keep a main room generally clear but you still want to display antiques to a specific theme. The alcove design intentionally builds a pocket within a wall to give a placement that is clearly visible but out of the way of the main room traffic. This approach could easily work to show off a collection of mariner timepiece artifacts while the main room might be subtle yellow and dark furniture Spanish style for eating and dining.
A Brief Historic Overview of the Vintage Style
Despite common belief, Americans were not the creators of the vintage style, and it was not the British either with all their world-hopping and traveling. Instead, the French can lay claim to it, creating the vintage style in Paris and similar as a shift and change from aristocratic theme that had been established in its fine homes for so long. And, the vintage style is not that old either. Mainland Europe is rich with history and plenty of it comes up regularly in estate sales. That triggered a trend of looking back and finding key pieces to complete room themes in homes. The rest is literally history remaking itself in home after home.
Why the Vintage Style Looks Great
The style isn’t for everyone. Some people run away from the vintage style altogether. However, many others feel the approach appeals to their sense of history and collecting and putting together timepiece replicas of a moment or environment. In that regard, the vintage style has being fans, especially those who like to be fixated on a particular era, style of product, phase or even just a color combined with old things. There is a place for lots of folks with the vintage style, and it is probably one of the most broad-based home styles out there that can incorporate so many different interests within its design category.
Images courtesy of and used with permission by Toptenrealestatedeals.com.