How to Shop for Vintage Home Decor Like a Pro
Do you love to shop for vintage home decor? Check out these “do’s and don’ts” to help you shop like a pro and find the best vintage pieces! Keep reading for my favorite tips and tricks!
Okay, so I’m not a vintage junking pro nor can I call myself a pro at how to shop for vintage home decor. But, then again, I guess that depends on your description of a pro! Right?
I do love trying my hand at it and go as often as possible! So if lots of different experiences in many varied places is in the vintage home decor shopper resume, maybe I’d qualify after all!
There is almost nothing that sparks my creativity like strolling through an antique mall or vintage shop. I love good flea markets, thrift stores, and antiques markets.
When they say the thrill is in the hunt…that is absolutely true for me! I have learned a few things over the years that help me have even more fun when I’m shopping for vintage home decor (or junking, as we lovingly refer to it in the industry!).
Here are my DO’s and DON’Ts for junking:
How to Shop for Vintage Home Decor Like a Pro
(and enjoy the whole experience too!)
How to Shop for Vintage Home Decor: Tip #1
DO make a detailed list.
I always try to make a wish list before going on a junking trip. Sometimes I walk away with most of the list checked off. However, sometimes I end the day with a pile of good junk that wasn’t on my list at all!
The point isn’t necessarily that you buy only those items. At the same time, it does help me stay a little more focused. I have left a store or market before, only to realize that I forgot the one thing I really needed most and probably could have found!
Pro Tip: Having a wishlist (+ an open mind) to get me started has always been a plan that works for me.
Here are things that are almost always on my list:
- Architectural salvage
- Old books with good patina
- Brass objects—deer, quail, bunnies…things I could use seasonally
- Chippy, white anything—stools, baskets, trays, salvage, frames, to name a few
- Things I collect, such as mortar and pestles
- Cubbies of any size! (If I don’t use it in my own home, they are great display for our pop-up markets and always sell!)
- Small drawers, such as file drawers or card catalogs
What vintage items are trending?
- Vintage art
- Brass objects, such as candlesticks
- Vintage mirrors
- Unique vessels to hold trees and plants, especially pottery and stoneware
- French antiques—ironstone, books, bottles, baskets, wood pieces
- Wooden bowls of all sizes
How to Shop for Vintage Home Decor: Tip #2
DO know the purpose of your trip.
Are you strolling for the fun of it? Is this a social trip? Maybe you are just gathering ideas to spark creativity? Do you have a vintage booth that you’re shopping for items to resell? Are you purchasing gifts for friends or family? At the same time, are there specific things or a specific “look” you want to find for your own home?
Actually, these are all perfectly valid and reasonable purposes for a vintage junking trip! In fact, I’ll take any excuse or reason to go junking for a day or two…or a week!
Just as having your wishlist can help your time be more productive, so can knowing the purpose for your shopping trip.
For example, if you know you are solely purchasing for resale at your booth or pop-up market, you’ll want to scoot right past the “pretty” booths and roll up your sleeves to dig. This is so much fun and so rewarding!
When I am on a buying trip for our pop-up markets, I try to have some themes or looks in my mind ahead of time. However, if something is a great deal that you can stick away for a different season, GRAB IT!
How to shop for vintage decor? (for your own home)
Pro Tip: Keep these important details in mind.
On the other hand, if you are gathering ideas for your home, whether to purchase or just to start getting creative, it helps to have the following in mind:
- Measurements of the space
- General style and “look” you hope to achieve
Having these things in hand BEFORE you go will help your shopping to be productive, fun, and help keep you on track!
Confession: I am guilty of getting caught up in the moment and realizing that I spent my budget on something that wasn’t the priority. Please say I’m not alone here?!
How to Shop for Vintage Home Decor: Tip #3
DON’T overthink it?
After I just talked about having a wishlist and clear purpose? But it’s true! If you know you need a sofa table and you come across a piece that fits the space, suits the aesthetic of the room, and is within your budget, GO FOR IT!
I have also been guilty of overthinking, even to the point of ruining the fun of it! If you’re looking at inexpensive items that won’t blow your budget, GO FOR IT!
For example, an item that is unique, that you love, and isn’t going to break the bank is almost always a great choice!
If you love it, grab it! It can be so disappointing to love something, walk around to overthink it, only to find that someone else loved it too! (I clearly have experience here! Ha!)
As you spend more time shopping for vintage home decor, or “junking”, you’ll get better and faster at making decisions. At the same time, you will become more familiar with exactly what you’re looking for, too.
How to Shop for Vintage Home Decor: Tip #4
DO take measurements ahead of time.
This matters. A LOT! When you are shopping for furniture and wall décor, especially, make sure you have those measurements written down!
I try to keep lists in the notes app on my phone so it is always handy. You never know when a quick thrift store run could produce the amazing storage piece you’ve been trying to find for months!
It can feel so disappointing to find a piece that you love. Then, you purchase it and get it home…only to find it is two inches too wide. (Obviously, I’ve experienced this first hand too!)
I’ve walked away from countless “great deals” on pieces that I dearly loved because I knew they just wouldn’t be the right fit.
How to Shop for Vintage Home Decor: Tip #5
Do be patient!
The right piece….whether furniture, accessories, wall décor, lighting….is worth waiting for. However, you might have to hunt for a long time before you find the perfect thing.
But be patient! It is much more enjoyable to curate your home over time with pieces that have the best look and function for your space and family.
How to Shop for Vintage Home Decor: Tip #6
DON’T walk away from special pieces that you can’t live without.
…unless it is going to really mess up your budget or it’s some massive piece that you 100% know you can’t possibly use. But for those one-of-a-kind finds that you come across, grab them and have fun!
Here’s a fun story for you:
One summer, we were on the 127 World’s Longest Yard Sale (always a favorite junking trip of the year!). It was toward the end of the trip. Actually, we were really tired and it had been a long day. But, we decided to make one last stop at a field in Tennessee with a number of vendor tents.
I walked into this tent and sitting there was the most perfect vintage ice cream sign.
Double sided, great condition, enough patina to show character and wear, and a price that couldn’t be beat. (If you know, you know!) I didn’t know exactly where it was going to go, but I didn’t blink an eye before grabbing it.
In fact, I stood guard over it while my sister-in-law went to find my husband (who had the cash). Those are fun finds and you can guarantee you will be glad you just went for it and didn’t overthink the deal!
How do I find good vintage items?
Pro Tip: If there is a piece that you truly love and makes your heart skip a beat, it will usually be something you can work into your home decor.
Buy what you love and ONLY what you love!
In fact, these are the kinds of pieces that I think create the most well-curated home of any decor style.
Home decor should really be a collection of the things you enjoy and love the most!
How to Shop for Vintage Home Decor: Tip #7
DO go prepared.
- Take cash! Vendors prefer cash and sometimes you can even get a little better price if you offer cash. It is perfectly acceptable to ask if there is a cash price! You’ll want to have a good supply of small bills for those accessory items too!
- Take something to carry your goods around with! When we go to bigger junking spots, we use a collapsible wagon. It’s fun to see it fill up with our finds! You may want to carry a market bag or tote bag to put smaller items in.
- Bring hand sanitizer, wet wipes, and paper towels! A good junking spot is going to get your hands dirty and sometimes doesn’t have great places to wash up!
- Take plenty of water and snacks…and maybe a little caffeine to keep you going too! “Junking ain’t easy,” after all!
- I like to use a cross body bag that is really comfortable. THIS is one of my favorites because it is really comfortable. Also, it zips up completely and is still large enough to fit a bottle of water and other necessities.
How to Shop for Vintage Home Decor: Tip #8
DO, above all else, be kind.
As someone who has been both a vendor and a buyer, I can speak from a little experience from both perspectives:
As a vendor:
I never mind if someone is purchasing several items and wants to bundle it together for a little better deal. However, not all dealers have the same policy. Don’t go expecting a vendor to “make you a deal.”
Sometimes, I don’t have wiggle room on an item and have to honestly express that. But most of the time, I am happy to negotiate a little with someone who is KIND and is purchasing a few items.
As a buyer:
I never ask for a “deal” at a retail shop. If I am at a flea market or picker’s sale, I may ask if there is a little better price for a grouping of items or on large ticket items. I also understand if a vendor isn’t able to deal and respect that! If they are able to deal, I very kindly thank them and if they aren’t able to deal, I still very kindly thank them!
Vendors work very hard to find items to sell. As vintage home decor becomes more and more on trend, the prices for the vendors are going up also. You cannot expect to get the same deal that you did a few years ago.
It’s important for buyers to recognize that this is not because the vendors are pocketing more profit. Hours go into cleaning, sorting, pricing, setting up, staging, selling, and then breaking it all down to pack up, only to unpack and reorganize it all again in their storage. At the same time, that is not even mentioning the increase in expenses for vendors, including gas and hotels.
It’s rough out there for the vendors too.
How to Shop for Vintage Home Decor: Tip #9
DO remember to shop online, too, for vintage home decor and antiques.
Especially in this day of online shopping, vendors are being creative and branching out to online sales. You can get some fantastic pieces from places that you may never be able to travel to.
At the same time, you are also supporting real people with small businesses who depend on your mutual love for vintage!!! That is the best part of all!
Here are a few places that I love to browse online for vintage goods:
- Olde Tyme Marketplace
- Rehab Vintage Market
- Elsie Green
- Dreamy White Lifestyles
- East End Salvage
- The Cotton Shed (Instagram pop up sales)
- Vintage Keepers Shop
- Havenberry Vintage
- Amazon Handmade
How to Shop for Vintage Home Decor: Tip #10
DO remember that there is nothing wrong with a great reproduction piece.
In fact, as the price and availability of great vintage pieces becomes more difficult, some quality reproduction pieces may end up working great for you. Even though I love true vintage pieces and often believe that you just can’t beat the “real deal”, sometimes a pretty reproduction piece ends up being the best fit for your home, style, space, or budget.
While I love finding authentic pieces, I also have some reproduction pieces that I enjoy using. Hopefully I don’t get in trouble with any of my vintage-loving home decor friends for saying this, but I think it’s just the honest facts. Again, it’s really more important that YOU love the decor you put in your own home!
Here are 10 of my favorite reproduction pieces online:
- This vintage-inspired wall basket
- This vintage-inspired European wall fountain
- These vintage style chippy corbels
- A large vintage style glass bell jar cloche
- These antique brass colored candlesticks
- This decorative chippy ladder
- This large glass bottle vase
- These gallery wall style vintage art collections
- This vintage-style candle wall sconce
- These large European vintage garden style woven cloches
How can I decorate my home vintage style?
To me, what makes the vintage style feel cozy and amazing is when it feels curated. Each vintage home decor accessory or furniture piece is carefully chose and well-loved. When your home is a collection of what makes you smile and makes your home feel good, the design style will be uniquely yours.
In general, when shopping for vintage home decor for your home, you want to consider the following:
- Consistent style, color, pattern in pieces
- Stick with a neutral color scheme for the investment accessories and furniture
- Keep pieces in scale with your home
- Always go with what you love, not what the “design book” might say
- Invest in pieces you love
- Look for pieces that you can use year round
- Shop for home decor accessories that can be used in multiple ways and in different rooms of your home
- Avoid pieces that are damaged beyond repair (unless you really love a good project challenge!); this includes pieces that have termite damage
- Worry less about the price and more about how much you love the piece and how it can serve your home for the long-term (sometimes, the “deal” isn’t the best purchase)
If you love shopping for vintage home decor, you may also enjoy these five posts:
I hope these DO’s and DON’Ts are helpful to you! Junking can be a fun and creative way to get some great deals, spark creativity, learn about history, and just have a generally wonderful time!!! So….what’s on your junking list?
Thanks Robyn! This is all great information. Your point about kindness resonated with me. My mom and stepdad were antique dealers after they retired and would share stories about the nice people they met while selling and hunting. It really made such a beautiful difference in their lives ☺️
This is a great article and what a great haul! Thank you!
These are all such great tips!!! I’ve used many of them and completely never thought of others!!! Love your haul and can’t wait to see what you’re styling and selling!!!( betcha that chandelier is going in the girls room refresh!!!😉
Such great tips. Always enjoy when you show your junking trips
Thanks for all the great tips Robyn. Such great finds on this trip! Love the cabinet with the drawers!
Great blog. Love the tips. This looks like a great flea market that you went to. Where abouts was that one?
Awesome information! Will apply this the next time husband and I do a junking trip. Love your haul. You will make it all look incredible.
Beautiful! Thank you for sharing your time, talent and treasure with us!
Great tips! Great haul! Love that white table and the signs of course!!❤️❤️
Wow!!! Some great finds!! I really love everything you bought. I sure would love to have those chippy corbels. I’m usually just go look and find but I’m getting into more detail when we go now. Which is every weekend. I love reading every sentence and I LOVE your blog ❤️
Great post! I just wish I had a chance to go “junking!” Maybe someday!
Oh reading this makes me wish I could go. So many flea markets haven’t opened back up. You have great finds!!
This is a brilliant breakdown and the essential steps to take in order to thoroughly make the most of ‘junking’. Great post! Thank you.
i really appreciated your tips…. can’t wait for warm weather in michigan to start digging for treasures again!! LOVED what you found…. is most of it for your home or to resell????
This was quite helpful Robyn, thank you. Cant wait till it warms up here in New Jersey and I can start some serious shopping.
Great post, great tips, awesome finds! Thanks so much! Love it all!
Great tips Robyn!!! I love junking so much, it’s definitely the thrill of the hunt!!!
Thanks Tina! Nothing is guaranteed, so it keeps you coming back for another try at the hunt!
Great tips. I love the card catalogs and old small bottles.
Aren’t they so fun? I’m glad you love them too!
Thank you! I just love them all!
I am so envious of all the cubbies and card catalogs you find! They’re beautiful! I’ve been on the lookout for something similar for a long time but just not finding it.
I love your little thrifting side kick. So cute.
I’m heading out today to a couple of spots. I’ve been on the hunt for frames for a few months for a project but can’t find any!
Frames are so fun to hunt for! Usually great deals, and always beautiful!
Oh my gosh, I recognized a few places and love the photo of you at Sage Farms! Such a New Englander at heart.
That was the best!! We really loved our time there!
You have so many great places in FL to find beautiful and unique pieces.
I have to say my source is Etsy. Since NJ doesn’t have great places to find these pieces.
The start to 2023 gas been a tough one for us. I have been MIA
Oh no! I’m so sorry! I have some spots in the NE that are on my bucket list, but I’m not so sure about NJ. I hope Etsy keeps being a good source for you!