SF Interior Designer Tip: How to Shop for Vintage Furniture

The thrill of the hunt comes with shopping for vintage furniture, but it’s vital to keep in mind all of the practical considerations when purchasing a 40 to 50 year-old item. Read on as I walk you through my vintage shopping checklist. Knowing when to walk away and when to snatch up a deal on the spot is half the battle.

Does it have good bones? This is the first thing to look for when a chair, desk, table catches your eye. Test it out. Does it feel wobbly or creaky? Is the wood splitting in any places? Are there obvious alterations made to the original design? If so, walk away. There are a lot of things that are easily fixed, but the inherent structure of a piece is not usually one of them. (Unless you are very handy and have access to lots of tools). If the structure is intact but the wood is a little rough, consider refinishing the wood or rubbing with linseed oil.

Fabric: Re-upholster or leave it? If you find an upholstered piece of furniture that you love, first consider the costs to re-upholster the item. If the fabric is in good condition, you may be able to get away with just a good professional cleaning. If it’s in less than stellar shape, you will want to consider re-upholstering the piece. This can run from about $60 to recover a standard detachable seat to thousands of dollars for reupholstering an entire sofa. Also, consider the cost of quality fabric as well, which ranges from $25 – $150/yard. Generally, dining seats are an easy fix and one that you could even do yourself with a staple gun and a little know-how.

Graceful curves. How does the chair look from the side or back view? Is the overall design cohesive and well executed? Chances are if the manufacturer paid attention to the design details of the piece, the item is also well made.

Price, Rarity. Do your homework on an item before paying top dollar. If the store has information on the designer, then check out similar items on eBay or 1st Dibs to get a sense of how often such items come up for bid. As with anything, the more rare a specific design is the higher premium you will pay. Check for manufacturer’s markings to ensure authenticity. If you see something written on the tag similar to “Eames inspired” just RUN! Anything inspired screams knock-off.

* Need professional help? Interior Designer San Francisco *

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