The Ultimate Guide To Vintage Decor

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When you think vintage, try to picture more than antique mirrors with intricate embellishments. Close your eyes and imagine floral wallpapers, edgy furniture in wood and black tones, old clocks, and wooden boards. An item does not have to be over 100 years old to be vintage. Popular vintage decor typically dates between the 1920s and 1950s. According to HGTV, the best way to successfully furnish your home in the vintage style is to use post-war era pieces — the period from the Roaring Twenties to World War II.

Not everything has to be old, though. The vintage look is often successfully carried out by decorators who purchase items brand new. You can achieve the ultimate vintage style by mixing authentic vintage items with new decorative pieces that give off an old-world vibe. If you want to create a space with a vintage aesthetic, keep reading for the ultimate guide to vintage decor.

Create texture by layering fabrics

Consider layering multiple patterns and fabric materials to create texture throughout your home. According to Apartment Therapy, vintage textiles are a popular trend in home decor and a clever way to add color, pattern, and texture. Some great decorative items include patterned quilts, floral curtains, or striped accent chairs. You could use unique upholstered chairs and sofas with floral or striped patterns to accent a living room. Budget-conscious decorators can upcycle a vintage find and reupholster it with fabric or use drapery panels stitched from vintage material.

Whether used in a reading nook or a bedroom, blankets are a home essential. You can find blankets in many different fabrics, colors, and styles. Try to add blankets with vintage character to the living room or bedroom. Consider draping a geometric patterned blanket over the edge of a woven basket or layer in a metallic fabric or soft chenille throw. Plush fabrics can soften a look, bring functionality to the space, and highlight a specific era.

Use wallpaper to create a modern vintage vibe

You can tell a lot about an era from its wallpaper. Many floral designs and simple striped patterns mark a specific point in time. According to Old House Online, during the first half of the 20th century, cabbage rose prints were popular patterns found in many homes. Today, these floral designs deliver bold texture and instantly make a grand statement in any room. Decorators use wallpaper in many brilliant ways, such as pasting it on furniture, lining bookcases, or covering a measured section of the wall and framing the edges for an artistic look.

Decorating with vintage wallpaper means putting a modern spin on the execution. Wallpaper has evolved to fit today's decorating standards (via Southern Living ). To make your walls wow, use peel and stick wallpaper as an alternative to conventional wallpaper. Unlike traditional wallpaper, peel and stick wallpaper is an easy, temporary option that requires no pasting and is renter-friendly. This type of wallpaper is removable, ensuring your decor stays transitional and trendy.

Combine antiques and contemporary pieces

According to Homes and Gardens, the key to successfully incorporating vintage decor in your home is mixing antiques with contemporary pieces. If you are lucky enough to own family heirlooms, consider using them for decorative elements in your house. For example, you can achieve vintage style by displaying a piece from your grandma's china cabinet on your bookshelves. By finding ways to incorporate contemporary elements with antiques, you can artfully blend something old with something new.

Keep in mind that cluttering the space with too many pieces from a specific period can sway the aesthetics and age the decor (not in a good way). To prevent your decor from looking dated, start by adding attractive furniture pairings. Place modern picture frames atop an old pedestal table or refinish a set of nightstands and place them beside your bed. You could also consider pairing an antique mirror with a modern dresser. Lean the mirror on top of the dresser for a casual, undone look.

Out with the new, in with the old

A great way to add a little bit of vintage flair to your home is by buying old furniture in good condition instead of brand new pieces. Begin your vintage decor journey by starting small, per Sarah Joy Blog. Try visiting neighborhood antique shops, garage sales, and thrift stores to find unique items to display in your home. Thrift stores are often filled with unique finds and pieces with character to complete your space. While shopping, let your creativity flow. Maybe you can use an expected item like a vintage poster to complete your home bar or a retro vase to decorate your coffee table.

If you are up for the challenge, buy that old piece of furniture and put a modern twist on it. Add new legs, give it a fresh coat of paint, or update the hardware. Making an old piece feel new again is a fantastic way to repurpose items and give them new life in your home.

Pay attention to flooring

Flooring is an important aspect of a home since it acts as the base layer for the rest of the decor. You can bring vintage style into your space by updating your floors. Wood flooring is a common feature in older homes, but if adding original hardwood flooring to your newer home is not an option, opt for retro alternatives. For example, you could install imitation wood vinyl flooring or add unique, patterned tile. Black and white mosaic prints and colorful geometric designs are both trending options. 

For authentic vintage-style flooring, use styles commonly found during a specific period. Parquet flooring dates back to the post-war era and is a staple of older apartments and vintage homes. This flooring type offers old-fashioned charm with a modern edge. According to Floor Coverings International, it's best to choose a herringbone pattern versus the typical square style. Utilize vintage style by livening up your floors with elements used back in the day.

Look for light fixtures with old world charm

If you're yearning for a vintage-inspired atmosphere in your home, consider adding or updating light fixtures. A unique light fixture has the power to change the entire feel of a room. Not only does the mood change with different illumination levels, but the visual texture in the room is altered based on the style of lighting you choose.

Think about your space and determine which type of fixture to purchase. An antique chandelier will make an elegant statement in your dining room or entryway, and brass wall sconces on either side of the television or mirror will create a stately impression. According to So Much Better with Age, hanging pendants, chandeliers, and wall scones add warmth and charm to any space. If you're a fan of a particular era, find lighting inspired by the time. For example, if you love mid-century modern styles, look for lighting with bright colors, sculptural elements, and an industrial feel (via The Spruce). You definitely can't go wrong with an iconic Sputnik chandelier.

Cook up vintage looks in the kitchen

To create a sense of cohesion in your home, scatter vintage elements throughout every room, including the kitchen. According to Homes and Gardens, vintage kitchens are all the rage at the moment because they are unique and personal. You can create a vintage look by installing reclaimed furnishings, displaying vintage dishware on open shelving, hanging up floral curtains, or adding art your grandma would love. Decorate your backsplash with time-worn tiles, or install a traditional walk-in pantry if you have the space.

For a vintage-style kitchen that is practical and visually appealing, decorate with items that are functional and stylish. For example, if your kitchen has an empty wall, consider adding a vintage wire or wooden plate rack to display dishes. These pieces were a popular kitchen design choice in the '80s (via Decoist). Hang stainless steel or copper pots overhead or display teacups with matching saucers for extra flair.

Look for distressed, wooden furniture

If you want the vintage look, opt for wood furnishings. According to The Spruce, wooden stools and benches are versatile and small enough to add to any space. Consider using your wooden stool as more than a stepping tool and decorate it with a cute basket full of hand towels. Or, use it as a plant holder in the living room or as a nightstand next to your bed. The wood material ages well and is perfect for adding a rustic, time-worn aesthetic to your room.

If you're looking for more ways to warm up a space with wood furnishings, place a distressed wooden bench at the end of the bed or in front of an entryway or foyer. Benches are an ideal place to layer blankets or store throw pillows. Antique credenzas will also turn heads in your home. These timeless pieces offer storage space and eye-catching elegance.

Design a unique gallery wall

While gallery walls typically feature picture frames of the same size, think outside the box and layer other elements on your wall. If you want to nail vintage style, hang up mismatched frames in different sizes and shapes on your gallery wall. Add an ornate mirror, antique china dishes, vintage paintings, and old-fashioned black-and-white photographs. Let your personality shine by selecting decorative pieces that speak to your unique sense of style.

When it comes to colors, opt for a basic color palette with rich, muted shades commonly seen in vintage art. According to The Quick Journey, it's best to add pieces in contrasting colors to prevent the gallery from looking too matchy-matchy. For an authentic vintage feel, mix and match wall art pieces and photos that complement each other. Silhouettes, floral prints, and natural landscapes from different eras are beautiful subjects to display on your wall.

Incorporate embellished mirrors

Antique mirrors are an effortless way to add vintage character to your living space. Whether the mirror is a flea market find or brand new, an elegant looking glass looks great on a mantle or hung above drawers. The size of the mirror you choose will depend upon how much space you have and where you wish to place it. If you have a floor-length mirror, lean it against a large, open wall in a living room, bedroom, or hallway. Placing furniture in front of the mirror accentuates the room's style.

According to SFGate, you can strategically arrange antique mirrors to brighten up dark corners or areas that need extra light. Just place them opposite a window. To add to the antique feel, hang an ornate mirror over a piano or vintage furniture item. Alternatively, you can create contrast by setting an old-fashioned mirror beside modern elements like a television or minimalist kitchen.

Bring in muted tones for a soft look

Soft, muted colors instantly inspire a comfortable and time-worn aesthetic in the home. Robin egg blues, dusty pinks, pale yellows, and mellow greens are ideal colors for creating a calm and relaxed vibe. These subtle colors are characteristic of vintage styles and can spice up your living space. Whether you paint an entire room in subtle blue or add a touch of soft purple, the options are endless.

When decorating with muted colors, try to create movement by adding textural elements in similar shades. For example, you can pair colored wallpaper with seat cushions or pillow appliqués. According to Better Homes & Gardens, adding one muted color to your neutral color palette is a fun way to let your creativity run wild. If this is the route you take, find design elements to add to your space with the muted color. An accent rug, woven chair, candle rack, vase, or lamp base will help add a subtle pop of color.

Repurpose old furniture

While accent decor items such as vases, blankets, and wallpaper can pull a room together, furniture can make or break a space. Consider an armoire, for instance. In the 16th century, this transportable storage closet once was used for storing weapons. Over the years it found a new purpose and people began using it to store linen and clothes. If you can source an antique armoire or vanity, consider adding it to your house for a versatile and vintage look. According to Houzz, the imposing presence of these French-inspired furniture pieces instantly sets a dramatic mood.

Creating a vintage vibe in your home is not just about finding the oldest item in a store. Ideally, you should also repurpose your existing items. Consider transforming old suitcases or trunks into nightstands and end tables. These items can be used for stacking in front of fireplaces and at the end of beds, creating a unique arrangement.

Roll out the rug

Summon vintage style in your home by rolling out a colorful rug. While selecting the rug style is the fun part, you'll first need to consider the size. A properly sized rug can anchor a room and provide balance. According to Ballard Designs, rugs are typically consistent in size. To help determine which style you need for your room, use painter's tape to create an outline and measure the space. Then you can start looking for rugs in a corresponding size.

You may find the perfect rug from a local secondhand shop or buy one brand new online. If you stumble across a floor covering at a local market, remember that faded colors and frayed edges add immense character (via Better Homes & Gardens). However, achieving a vintage look does not always mean the items are secondhand. A new Persian or trellis rug will fill your space with elegant charm.

Accessorize with trinkets and tea sets

Sometimes large furniture items are not what you need to make a room come alive. Perhaps you are missing small decorative items such as trinkets, statues, and knickknacks. Displaying these items on a shelf, desk, or tabletop can help create an effortless vintage vibe.

According to The Spruce, the accessories you choose for your vintage decor should ideally convey meaning and personality. Search through dusty boxes for grandma's old tea set, matching sugar bowls, or mom's wedding china to add nostalgic items to your space. Decorating with meaningful elements like these keeps memories alive and adds a special touch. If treasures in the attic are in short supply, consider searching local thrift shops and marketplaces for unique pieces that express your style. Small items like antique jugs, vases, globes, or glass jars all hold decorative value. Finding the right accessories will complete your home's vintage aesthetic.