This is number 6 in a series about how to live an easy, practical, #daytodayvintage life! You can find the other posts in this series here.
To be fair, if you like symmetry, straight lines, perfect fits and overall everything being just so… then maybe vintage living is not for you. Because really, there’s always something.
The little plastic pots that come with plants never seem to fit my vintage planters – I know I shouldn’t leave the plants in plastic anyway, but I really can’t be bothered to remove them…
You were looking for three matching items, but only found two, found the perfect table, but it’s 10 cm too long to fit your room, or finally located your dream sofa – but it’s a very distinctive shade of violent yellow.
We use this old printer’s cabinet as a changing table for the little one – even though it’s slightly too high and therefore not very comfortable to use
So vintage living always comes with questions of balance and consideration: is it worth changing our plans, our ideas, our home? Can we use two instead of one? Do we need to change the layout? Should we look further until we find something more suitable? Do we actually love this item or do we just like that it’ll just fit seamlessly for once?
The black chair in which I am sitting this very moment, typing this post. In the background its white twin, for which we don’t really have use or room, so it just… stands there.
So all in all, it never, ever turns out the way you had planned; it’s what I love about building a home with vintage and second hand items. But then I would, because I’m that very rare breed: a non-perfectionist 😉
Vintage photos always seem to be too small…
… or too large to fit modern frames
A few years ago, my mum-in-law gave me a big stack of ‘Ariadne’, textile craft magazines from the 60s, 70s and 80s (I wrote about them earlier). As I was leafing through them yesterday (looking for crochet patterns, if you really want to know), I suddenly noticed the advertisements. They provide such a wonderful picture of daily life at the time!
Here’s some vintage technology back when it was brand new:
Of course, there were also a few that would cause offence nowadays…
I still think there’s nothing wrong with this, but some people obviously see it differently…
And a special shout-out to all the coffee adverts from the late 70s and early 80s – their purpose is to give you a cosy, homely feeling, and they’re still succeeding…!
A bit of a weird side business in a shop that mostly sells telephones, radios and the like, are memory games. I once found a nice vintage one and put it in the shop, just for fun, and was amazed to find that it sold almost immediately. Now I actually look out for them when I’m buying new stock.
Of course I take care to find games with great retro pictures! While playing memory never gets old (children today love it as much as they did 40 years ago), the cards can also very well be used for crafts, like scrapbooking. But a few months ago a lady from Switzerland bought one of our games because she remembered it from her youth, and now she was planning to play it again with her grandson – one of the times that the story behind a sale was worth so much more than the sale itself…!
Sometimes things just work out very well…
Mr Maggie was set to undertake a crazy-but-fun American roadtrip with one of his best friends, starting in Austin, TX and ending in San Jose, CA six days later. A few days before he was about to leave, we received an order for a typewriter – from Austin, TX.
“Haha, you can almost deliver it yourself!” I laughed.
But then we started thinking, and realized that he might indeed deliver it himself. It would be fun of course, but also quicker and even cheaper than sending it through the mail. So I contacted the buyer, Erin, and explained this weird coincidence. We got an enthousiastic and heartwarming response, so a few days later I dropped Mr Maggie and the yellow typewriter on Amsterdam Airport, bound for Texas.
And then finally meeting Erin at her job in an Austin pet store! Of course, they immediately exchanged photos of the dogs in their lives…
Erin is a poet and is already using the typewriter for her work – I love it when a vintage item is used on a day to day basis.
It’s great to meet new people and experience friendship in faraway places – and that, people, is what Etsy and the whole internet actually should be about. So spread the vintage love!
One of the two Danish design chairs that were given to us by friends of my parents
If you like vintage: let people know! When it’s widely known that you have a thing for ‘old stuff’, everyone will think of you when they come accross something that might be interesting.
This way, we have acquired many things that are stylishly vintage or just very usefully second hand: a pair of 60s Scandinavian design chairs, a Pastoe drinks trolley, a washing machine and endless amounts of knitting wool, for example.
Mr Maggie was given a set of eight 1950s cups and saucers by a neighbour when he left home to go to university
On the other hand, you may get things that you don’t really want.
“I know you like old books, so I brought you this 70s encyclopedia.”
“I know you like to fiddle with old electronics, so I brought you this broken CD player.”
“I know you like vintage, so I brought you this shiny little figurine of a shepherdess with just one tiny chip missing.”
So, by all means, spread the word! But be prepared for the consequences…
When one of my best friends saw that het neighbour was cleaning out the attic a few weeks ago, she secured this -huge!- typewriter for us
My parents bought a second home in Germany six years ago, and found this Thonet chair in the attic. It was red originally, before we had it re-upholstered in this lovely teal colored skai leather
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.