From an ethical point of view, reusing vintage furniture is up there with adopting a rescue dog. It's offering a new home to something that needs a second chance. But there's one significant difference. While your old dog is unlikely to be learning new tricks anytime soon, vintage furniture responds well to reinvention.
Sometimes it needs work done on it, sometimes it needs to be updated with new fabrics, but it's often just a matter of styling it in a contemporary way. Like all these things, it's easier said than done.
There are some people who like to live in a vintage-themed home, but they are few and far between. Many of these are serious design aficionados who prioritise furniture in a way that most of us just wouldn't. The rest are unfortunates who purchased a few vintage pieces and then, feeling that they were stuck with the look, lost the confidence to make it their own.
If you have a 1950s couch and need a coffee table, its easiest to match it with something from the same era. You know it's going to work, in a pedestrian sort of way. But what if you put the same vintage couch with a contemporary Italian coffee table and placed them both on a Persian rug? That could look truly spectacular… But Modern Vintage - if we can call it that - is a hard one to pull off. The Irish queen of Modern Vintage, to my mind, is Suzie McAdam. Her own dining space features a vintage Willy Rizzo sideboard, sourced in Spain; a dining table by Knoll; chairs are from the (now-closed) Buckley's auction house; wall sconces by Areti; and Wagasa pendant lamp by GTV.
Once life gets back to normal, her Monkstown showroom, The Design Seeker, is a great source of inspiration. She's got a talent for sourcing remarkable pieces, and also for showing how to use vintage and new elements together. The Design Seeker is not cheap, though. If you like the Modern Vintage look, but want to keep an eye on the budget, Oriana B is an online shop that combines vintage furniture (up to €1,500) with contemporary accessories (from €13).
"I love seeing old and unloved pieces come back to life," says Katharine Deas, owner of Oriana B. "But it's impractical to furnish your entire home with vintage furniture. It wasn't designed for modern living."
Good to note. We can't turn back the clock and even the most slavishly vintage interiors will probably have a flat screen TV somewhere in the mix. And it's unlikely its inhabitants will be doing their laundry in a twin-tub. Anyway, nobody wants to feel that their home is stuck in the past.
"The danger with old furniture is that it can look a bit, well … old," Deas says. "You don't want your home to look old. You want it to look new!" A few vintage classics will add weight and depth to a decorative ensemble. Think of these as your 'forever pieces' and combine them, according to your tastes, with contemporary accessories. "I'm a big fan of keeping visual interest contained in an area," Deas explains. "You might have an elegant Swedish sideboard or a shelving unit with a few quirky characterful accessories." She recommends you keep these contained and curated. Left unsupervised, these oddments will multiply and expand throughout the house. There's a narrow margin between Bohemian chic and a mess.
While people often choose to reupholster vintage furniture in vintage fabric, Deas is a big fan of updating older pieces with contemporary upholstery. She has recently had a 1953 classic Alf Svensson Teve chair, a simple, elegantly-executed accent chair, reupholstered in a Kitty McCall fabric. "It's a really modern pattern, very botanical with lots of activity, and it sits very well on a vintage chair," she says.
See thedesignseeker.com, orianab.com, kirkmodern.com, acquired.ie, thevintagehub.com, and deveres.ie.