1. It’s Green
"There’s a good chance that the table you buy from IKEA, cheaply assembled in China, is manufactured from illegally harvested wood. (IKEA, the world’s third largest consumer of wood, has been called 'the least sustainable retailer on the planet.' IKEA—the Walmart of the hipster demographic—has stoked a cut and consume cycle that is destroying the world‘s forests at a rate unprecedented in human history.” (Maureen Stanton, paraphrasing Ellen Ruppel Shell in Stanton’s book, Killer Stuff and Tons of Money). Vintage pieces are the most environmentally responsible choice for home decorating because they’re 100% post-consumer content. Go Green. Buy Vintage.
I wrote a post on Instagram a few months ago, about why it’s much greener to choose vintage over fast/disposable furniture like IKEA, and received a flood of comments. I was struck by how many of the commenters expressed feeling guilty for the IKEA furniture currently in their homes, a complicated reaction that I have experienced first-hand. My home is not completely free of IKEA. In my student/bartender days, I didn’t have the knowledge I do now about the value of antiques, and I certainly didn’t have the time to go hunting for them. I assumed that I couldn’t afford real furniture and I didn’t realize then, what an affordable alternative vintage furniture can be.
Here’s the thing about antiques—they get a bad rap as being incredibly expensive, and of course this can be true if you’re buying rare items sought after by collectors, but if you’re just looking for pieces that spark joy, you can get vintage furniture and decor at Ikea and CB2 prices. Our own vintage shop is proof of that! Plus, when you buy an antique, you’re supporting a small, locally owned business and ensuring your furnishings don’t come from a sweatshop. Doesn’t that feel better than ordering something from a faceless corporation? Here’s to being socially responsible!
My goal isn’t to make you feel guilty about your past IKEA purchases (I’ve been there), it’s to share my passion for vintage with you. Every time we sell an item from our shop, it brings me joy to know that this object which has outlasted its previous owners is getting a new lease on life and will be loved and appreciated anew. You’ll never look at your IKEA furniture and feel the sense of satisfaction, sometimes even affection, that the charm of a vintage chair or rug can bring.
2. It’s Better Quality and a Smart Investment
Unlike today’s mass-produced furniture, vintage pieces offer superior craftsmanship that will last a lifetime. Have you ever noticed how heavy vintage furniture can be? It’s because it's not hiding cheap particle board or plastic guts beneath faux finishes.
Unlike that Ikea futon or Target chair, antiques retain significant resale value. If you buy a vintage piece and you one day decide to part with it, you’ll have a much easier time selling it and making your money back than you will hawking your old futon on Craigslist. Some items, like hand-knotted rugs, even appreciate over time! There’s a reason Manafort was buying all those Persian rugs.
3. It Creates a Sophisticated and Trend-Proof Home
A sophisticated home is a well-curated one. In other words, it’s all about The Mix. Vintage pieces are an essential ingredient to achieving this. They add texture, contrast and personality to any style space and pack the most punch when juxtaposed with modern pieces.
When you pair old and newer pieces, they highlight each other’s differences and the result is a home that’s truly original. Plus, investing in vintage pieces protects you from trend whiplash. There’s nothing worse than spending a bunch of time and money on a room, only to realize a year later that it already looks so dated. That’s the danger of getting too caught up in trends.
An antique piece may or may not ever be super trendy (although some pieces certainly can be very trendy at certain points in time), but it’s also never going to be totally out of style as long as you select pieces with beautiful lines, classic shapes and solid construction. If you do that, you’ll end up with something timeless which beats trendy any day!
4. It Tells a Story
As The Young Collectors put it in Maine Antique Digest, “George Washington did not sit in your La-Z-Boy.” Vintage pieces have soul, a sense of history and gravitas, durability, so you can one day pass them on to others. Antiques are more than furniture; they’re physical pieces of history infusing your home with the stories of our collective past. That old dresser holds more than clothes—it’s a keeper of secret histories.
5. It’s Unique
Vintage furniture allows you to curate a home that’s one-of-a-kind and expresses your personality instead of looking like everyone else’s. Do you really want a home that looks like the page of a Pottery Barn catalogue? I don’t think so.
Once, back when I was teaching high school English, one of my 9th grade students showed up for class wearing the exact same dress I had on and the class had a field day. After that, I avoided buying work clothes from stores where I knew my students liked to shop. I feel the same way about my home. It’s a buzzkill to walk into a friend’s house and realize they have all the same furniture and decor as you do—your home should feel original!
Thankfully, antiques are unique and offer nearly endless variety. I’ll sum it up with another of my favorite quotes from The Young Collectors: “There’s no such thing as a McBlanket Chest.”
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