To be fair, my first and foremost tip for buying vintage would be this: never buy anything that ‘needs work’.
If a vintage item needs work, that means that it’s extremely dirty, or broken, or faded, or has the wrong color/size/finish/whatever. In other words, it’s just not for you.
Now I do realize that this is the lazy person’s (i.e. me) approach to vintage living. Most vintage lovers adore the whole process of sanding, painting and upholstering; they see treasure in other people’s trash and spend all their free time lovingly restoring something awful into something amazing and then proudly post their before-and-after pictures on their blog.
Good for them!
But I just can’t be bothered.
I hate DIY’ing, I hate cleaning beyond the absolutely necessary and I also hated, for example, the ‘traditional’ state our house was in when we bought it (which is why we could afford it in the first place). Spending your evening, after a hard day’s work, sanding down the windowsills of your new home, until, at eleven o’clock, your fingers hurt and you have to go back to your old house to get a short night’s sleep, after which you go to work again before spending another night sanding down the next thing…
I really, really hate DIY.
Enter Mr Maggie.
Mr Maggie can make anything. Whether it’s building or electronics, whether it needs a complete overhaul or a subtle clean, he can do it and -and this is the thing- he enjoys it.
Sometimes this drives me crazy, because our house is filled with unfinished projects.
On the other hand, it means that we have all kinds of wonderful things in our home that otherwise wouldn’t have made it because they ‘needed work’ and I wouldn’t have bothered…
So, here’s this week’s #daytodayvintage advice:
Don’t buy anything that needs work, unless you have someone else tot do it for you…😉
I want it all… and I want it NOW!
But when you want something old, something with a story, and something that’s just right, then you might need to practice a little patience. It takes time, effort and luck to find that certain item that’s perfect – and in the meantime, you’ll just have to make do and mend.
In these difficult times, when you know what you want but still have to wait until you find it, Ikea and the like can be the best thing ever to suit your immediate needs (more on the Swedish blessing and why not to be snobbish about it later in this series).
When we came to live here, about six years ago, we had a tiny little green dining table, which was already purchased second hand when my mother-in-law was a student in the 1960s. Due to our computer being stolen a few years ago, no digital images survive, but suffice to say that it was huge in our 1930s Amsterdam flat, but got completely lost in our new 1960s living room (which was in itself almost as big as the whole flat).
So we started looking, and bought a big, chunky wooden table, almost three meters long and originally used on a French grape farm (or so they said… I’m still not sure about this story).
It was alright… but not perfect, we soon found. It felt too sturdy next to our other furniture, it was a little high and the surface a bit rough. So we started looking for something else…
… which we found four years later. Four years! But it was worth the wait.
This 1960s conference table is perfect, with its chrome designer legs and smooth serface – which was made for daily use in an office, so very durable. We sold on the other table, of course, with a wonderful story about it coming from a French farm…
I still don’t believe that.
Now, some say that this one is obvious, but really it isn’t. One can lead a very happy vintage life without ever setting foot in a thrift store. But, oh, how you are missing out then!
Thrift stores, flea markets, garage sales and the like are the natural habitat of the vintage lover. Buying is only part of the fun; just browsing and never knowing what you’re going to find is the main joy.
Most thrift stores are dependent on charity – they sell what people give them. And sometimes it’s amazing what people give away! Clothes with the price tag still attached, a complete record collection, books with loving dedications…
Of course it’s lovely when you find something good for little money. However, the better thrift stores know what they sell, and they will ask quite a lot for quality vintage items. Sometimes you can work around this by being smarter than they are – in our local, clean, pleasant, good quality thrift store, the fat lava vases are painfully expensive nowadays. But they don’t give any attention to flower pots yet, so you can still pick up a very groovy planter for next to nothing.
So if you want to find good quality vintage for little money, you should head to the obscure shops, the ones that are housed in a big shed somewhere in the country, the ones that are filled with dusty junk and a few gems, the ones that are managed by ladies who lived through the 70s and view the best retro items as ‘just some old stuff’.
Who knows what you’ll find… And if you think it’s dirty: don’t be squeamish, that’s what soap was invented for…!
A little radio from a thrift store near Sydney, Australia. The Agatha Christie books were almost all thrifted, as well.
So, you’ve seen something on TV, read an article in a magazine or have been following some inspiring blogs, and you decide that from now on, everything will be different.
You’re going for the vintage lifestyle! Yeah!
As of today, you’ll throw out your whole wardrobe and replace it with petticoats and pencil skirts, swap your sensible SUV for a Volkswagen campervan, get rid of all the Frozen junk your kids love so much and buy them new old Fisher Price and non-pink Lego, and refuse to listen to any digital music.
But we all know that’s not how it works. Your Ikea couch is too comfortable, your jeans are truly the best loved item of clothing you possess and you really can’t afford to buy something old and useless anyway.
So everything stays the same…
But it doesn’t have to! Just start small…
Don’t put too much thought in it, and certainly don’t spend a lot of money, and see how much change a small item can already bring…:
- Putting your flowers in a 70s vase.
- Placing some old books on a prime spot in your bookcase.
- Hanging an old (and maybe just slightly tacky) little painting from the thrift store in your hallway.
- Displaying your dad’s old Zippo lighter as an art piece.
Even these little touches can already transform your living room. It doesn’t cost much, and you don’t have to say goodbye to all the lovely stuff you already own – and, given time, that will all become vintage as well…
Until we looked around us. Looked around our living room, with the 1920s clock from the thrift store, granny’s 1960s black leather chair, the 1950s wall cabinet from the flea market, and our second hand dachshund (born in 2015, so not very vintage yet, but still).
“Well,” I said, “We know about old stuff…”
So there we are, we’re going to tell you about old stuff -pardon, vintage. Where to get it, how to use it and, also very important, when not to use it (a used, vintage toilet brush is never a good idea).
We’re a normal, practical family with a very ordinary daily life, so we won’t tell you that you should get up at four in the morning to go to the flea market every week (we have a toddler, we need all the sleep we can get), that you should hold on to that ugly inherited painting even though you hate it (you shouldn’t) or that form goes over function (it doesn’t).
What will we tell you, then? Well, amongst other things, that you should forget perfection, embrace Ikea and shouldn’t mind death… These are all essential parts of the vintage lifestyle! To start with, here’s a sneak peek at the coming month’s posts:
- Start small
- Go thrifting
- Be prepared to wait
- Get handy (or marry someone who is)
Every week, a new tip will be posted here on the blog, and on our Instagram account (follow us! We’re fun!), using the hashtag #daytodayvintage .
Please let us know what you think, what your own vintage adventures are, and of course what your vintage top tip is!
Well, this first picture here isn’t actually a typewriter, but a storage box that Mr Maggie encountered in the local hardware store. It now houses our shop’s supply of vintage flash cubes!
I love typewriters. I already spent hours behind my mum’s old blue one as a kid – I didn’t know what to write, so instead I copied the lyrics of my favourite Abba songs… Time well spent, I’d say.
As a writer, I love working on a typewriter, instead of using a computer. There’s no distraction, and the sound and the heavy keys make for a lovely rythm and a very true sense of actual achievement. Sadly, it also means a lot more work (in the end, the work still has to be digitalized), so I use it much less than I would like.
We also sell typewriters in the Maggie Again Etsy shop, so if you’re looking for one, come and pay us a visit! All typewriters are thoroughly cleaned and mechanically checked, and work like a dream. Come on and finally write that book!
They all end up in exotic places, too:
As you know, we don’t believe in having vintage items in our house ‘just for show’. Is has to be practical, and you should use it as often as you can! That’s what the item was made for and how the maker intended it to be.
So our home is of full of practical, old stuff that is part of our daily lives. We often share these little gems on our Instagram account, using the hashtags #usevintagedaily and #maggieagainathome – come and say hi!