How to... buy vintage homeware

How to... buy vintage homeware
Real vintage not only adds character to your home; by diverting furniture away from landfill, it does the planet a favour too. Here’s how to get stuck in

Tired of the lamp in your living room that always flickers? Rather than go to B&Q for a replacement, hop the Tube to a local market and seek out some vintage lighting with personality and a minimal impact on the planet. Unique finds abound at auction houses, fairs and markets. Whether it’s a poster or a table, retro pieces give your home a shot of quirky chic that IKEA just can’t match. ‘If you buy something vintage, the item doesn’t end up on a landfill,’ says Lena Weber, founder and editor in chief of The Vintage Guide to London. ‘You’re saving it from a landfill and you’re giving it new life.’ 

At the end of 2007, the Environment Agency estimated there was only enough space left in landfill sites in England and Wales for seven more years of waste. That leaves us two more years to clean up our act. With 280 million tonnes of waste produced by the UK each year, according to DEFRA, it’s time to take action. ‘At the end of the day posters were printed to be displayed on the walls and were never meant to survive in a way,’ says Kirill Kalinin, owner of AntikBar, an online shop that specialises in vintage poster art. Most vintage items would be tossed in the rubbish if not for savvy shoppers looking to consume responsibly. ‘I think there’s also sentimental value to it,’ says Weber. ‘You’re reusing and re-evaluating designs that used to be part of a different generation.’ And with a way to shop guilt-free while reducing your carbon footprint, why wouldn’t you?

If walls could talk
They can with a bold vintage lithograph that makes a true statement. Whether it’s an old advertisement for Guinness, or a movie poster promoting Marilyn’s latest flick, these prints are a perfect way to fill white space without breaking the bank. ‘I think they are the most adaptable artwork that you can have because there is such a variety of subject, styles, colours and sizes that they would fit any interior,’ says Kalinin. ‘They really can be very personal. A lot of people are feeling nostalgic about certain things from their childhoods. Very often they can see them in advertising.’

It’s fairly easy to differentiate a reproduction lithograph from an original because of the bold brushes of colour, which look pixelated in reproductions. In originals the colours seep through the paper leaving an outline of the image on the back. Posters are often cheaper than paintings, and can still appreciate in value if cared for properly, Kalinin says. ‘With posters it’s important to have them professionally restored, because very early on they used acid to manufacture paper and with time the paper starts disintegrating.’ A restorer can wash away the acid and fortify the paper with linen. Antikbar will be participating in the Decorative Antiques and Textiles Fair in Battersea Park from January 24th to 29th. Posters start at £15

Let there be light
Thanks to long-lasting LED bulbs, lighting has had an eco-makeover during the last decade but going retro is even greener. Whether it’s a simple shade or a stunning chandelier, vintage lighting is always a conversation starter. Eco Lighting and Design offers drum lamp shades covered in vintage fabric from the 1930s up to the 70s. Made in the UK, these shades are elegant and unique with prices starting at a very affordable £25. And if you want something out of the ordinary, try Historic Lighting for an industrial eco-friendly fixture. The online retailer sells everything from enamel workshop shades to bike lights retro-fitted with LEDs, with prices starting at an ultra reasonable £5.  What’s more, they’re committed to reducing waste not only through durable products but also by using recyclable packaging.

Vintage tea for two
Next time you have the family over for Sunday lunch, serve everything up on vintage crockery. Unlike the £10 pot you bought at IKEA, these sets are one of a kind. ‘One of the things I love is the story behind vintage,’ says Mia Peters, owner of Crimson Heart in Shoreditch. ‘If you went into IKEA there’s absolutely no story.’ Peters’ shop is stocked with vintage homeware and accessories as well as tasty treats, which are served in the downstairs cafe. Head over for a cup of Earl Grey and pick up a tea set to use next time you entertain. ‘You don’t necessarily have to buy a whole tea set with six place settings,’ says Peters, adding that a few cups and saucers on a shelf can add a vintage accent to your kitchen at a reasonable price. ‘To me it just makes perfect sense because not only are you not buying something that’s been mass-produced, but also you’re getting something that’s unique, has a history behind it and can reflect your personality,’ she says. Tea sets from Crimson Heart start at £30 and individual cups and saucers go for around £6.

Tables, chairs and shelves

Furniture can be pricey, and you can spend years saving for the sofa of your dreams. So rather than drop a load of cash on a custom-made couch, look for a vintage piece that is equally unique and much more affordable. Homeware shows are a great place to start, according to Weber. This Sunday visit the Pop Up Vintage Fashion and Homeware Event at Islington Assembly Hall (£3 entry fee) where you can find retro mid-century furniture. Weber also recommends Blitz London, which offers a vintage twist on the traditional department store. The East London converted Victorian warehouse is stocked with handpicked retro finds from furniture to vinyl. If you want to splurge, Firefly House in North London has some stunning designer pieces that are sure to impress, but expect to pay more than £1,000. And if you’re still recovering from holiday spending, wait until March and head to the Vintage Home Show at Chiswick Town Hall on the 18th. If you don't live in London, UK charity Oxfam has second-hand shops in England, Wales and Scotland. Committed to helping people in crisis, Oxfam aims to bring awareness to everything from climate change to global health. What's more, you can easily find a shop near you using their shop finder. Alternatively try searching for an auction house near you at

Lena Weber’s top vintage shopping tips

With so many places to browse, your first vintage shopping trip can be intimidating so we asked The Vintage Guide to London’s Lena Weber for her top homeware buying tips

Hit the market
Head to homeware shows and markets such as Portobello and Old Spitalfields, which hosts Judy’s Affordable Vintage Fair on the first Saturday of each month. Don’t be afraid to haggle to get the best deal. As long as you’re nice about it, and realistic, traders won’t mind. ‘Asking "what's your best price" is OK,’ says Weber. ‘Asking for 50 per cent off isn't.’ If you’d rather shop in your pyjamas, Weber recommends

Choose carefully
If you’re keen on investing, look for items that will appreciate in value. ‘Typical or classic mid-century design is definitely worth collecting because it is so in-fashion at the moment,’ says Weber. ‘If you look at the high street shops they all sort of copy that style.’ Also keep an eye out for West German Fat-Lava pottery, which is growing in popularity and increasing in value, according to Weber.

Know your stuff
Do your research. Know how to differentiate originals from reproductions. ‘I think if something is absolutely pristine and looks like it’s never been touched, then it’s a reproduction,’ says Weber, adding that many big name brands have launched heritage lines, which aren’t actually vintage. ‘It’s neither old, nor is it recycled, or in any way representative of an era,’ she says. ‘So it’s a bit misleading to people.’

Mix and match
‘The good thing with vintage is it doesn’t have to look particularly period,’ Weber says. ‘You can get quite neutral pieces if you want to.’ Mix vintage accents with modern decor to achieve a stylish abode. ‘You don’t have to go the full hog and buy all your furniture vintage if you just want to add some vintage touches,’ she says. ‘Soft furnishings, like cushions and curtains, are a great way of adding an instant vintage touch to your house and it’s certainly inexpensive.’

Add to StumbleUpon
Green home appliances: a buyer’s guide
Thinking of trading in your old fridge? We’ve got the lowdown on how to get hold of electricals that are genuinely green
Retrofit revisited: one year on
The salvaged velvet curtains are in and the newly painted walls are good to go but was it all worth it? In the final installment of her ecorefurb diary, Sue Wheat takes a retrospective look at a challenging year
Ten of the best…ways to reuse your rubbish
Whether it’s plastic bottles or old magazines, Valentina Jovanovski has a creative way to turn it into something entirely new
Eco lighting: a buyer’s guide
As the days shorten and electricity prices rise, there’s a lot of potential savings to be made by choosing greener lighting. Gervase Poulden weighs up the options
Wired but tired: is modern life draining your energy?
Could ‘electrical pollution’ and EMFs have consequences for your health? Samantha Swift reports

More from this author