Lisa Dawson is an award winning writer, blogger & creator.
I’ve always been addicted to upcycling and repurposing. The joy of giving an unloved item a new lease of life is truly exciting.
Nowadays, we live in a consumer-led society and we are constantly bombarded with options for purchasing a new piece of furniture, but in reality, buying vintage can be a fabulous investment.
It’s easy to forget that the reason that these pieces are still around today is that they were made to last and the quality is often unrivalled. Whether you give your vintage furniture a complete paint job or simply get out the polish, it’s hugely satisfying to know that you’re repurposing something and perpetuating the recycling process.
As the saying goes, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure and I’m ALL about the treasure.
Previously discarded as uncool and boring, brown furniture is back with a vengeance and one of the reasons for this is that it’s brilliantly made. Look for the dovetailed joints in the drawers which are a dead give-away that it is good quality – some of these pieces have been around for over seventy years. Check for marks and labels – you never know what you’re going to find.
My first piece of vintage furniture came from a charity sale and I’ve been a devotee ever since.
It was a teak Jentique sideboard from the 1960s that was in such pristine condition that it still had the original label inside the felt-lined drawer. I paid the princely sum of £10 after physically throwing myself onto it at a local charity sale. In order to be able to carry my finds home, I had to drag my husband Joe with me. The only way I could entice him was to bribe him with the promise of the pulled pork sandwich van that was alongside the queue.
So why buy vintage? Well, firstly and most importantly, you are perpetuating the recycling process and furnishing your home sustainably by helping the environment by choosing second-hand furniture, you are stopping these items from being landfilled.
You’re also often making your money go further. Vintage furniture can be far better made than something you would buy from a High Street store for twice the price.
Buying second, third, or even fourth-hand will make your own home stand out in a crowd by encouraging you to create your own, individual style. It’s easy to be trend-led and matchy-matchy when it comes to decorating your space. Combining older furniture alongside newer pieces adds a cool and eclectic feel to your home.
And finally, you’re giving back. Not only do you take home a piece of furniture that will add to the happiness of your home, but you are making an effective and worthy contribution to a charitable cause.
There is nothing more satisfying than bringing an old, unloved piece of furniture back to life and incorporating it successfully into your space. The best way to create a beautiful home that works for you is to juxtapose older pieces filled with history and memories alongside well-thought-out investment purchases. Winning.
Yes, I get it. For some, trawling through musty shelves and fighting their way through the crowds for the best thrift finds isn’t their bag. If you fall into this category yet have a passion for recycling and repurposing, online thrifting is the answer to your prayers. The pages of the online auction sites are the Thelma to my Louise, an enabler to achieve my decor goals.
Their pages taunt me regularly with mid-century furniture bargains that start at 99p and go up to £800 within about three seconds.
One minute it’s yours and you’re home free; next minute somebody hunched over their iPad in Birmingham is going in with three seconds to go and outbidding you. It’s a dasher of dreams but gosh, it’s addictive.
From tubular 1960’s brown leather Pieff loungers to vintage tea trolleys, from boho Peacock chairs to G Plan coffee tables, my home has been filled with countless fabulous auction wins and purchases and, let’s face it, some absolute rubbish. I’ll never forget the cocktail cabinet, picked up on Gumtree selling site for a fiver, only to open the doors to be accosted by cigarette fumes strong enough to knock me out.
Undeterred, I bleached, disinfectant sprayed, and painted in oil eggshell but still the aura of Eau de Marlboro remained. I admitted defeat and listed it on a Freecycle site with full details of its scented detractions. But as I’ve said before, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure – it was collected within two hours and went off to its new home in the sun. Well, North Yorkshire.
It’s impossible not to find something to bid or purchase on when scouring the online havens of the second hand.
Know what you are looking for, use clear search words and set yourself a budget – it’s easy to get carried away. My favourite searches are retro and vintage furniture – many a time I’ve gone down a rabbit hole of 1970s sofas and coffee tables and come out with no idea of how I’m going to get them from Mid Glamorgan to York.
Be wary of location – I always set the distance to within thirty miles, unless I am intent on a purchase in which case I’ll get quotes from a courier company prior to bidding.
Think outside of the box when it comes to search terms. I once won a vintage red leather Natuzzi corner sofa in perfect condition (original price around £5,000) for £400, which had no one bidding on it but me, simply because they’d taken a shocking photo and listed it simply as a red sofa. Hours and hours of fun. Oh, and an absolute money pit.
Look for local selling sites which have no selling fees. Facebook Marketplace and Gumtree are perfect for this purpose and you’ll often find pieces where the buyer wants a quick sale and collection. If you’re eBay bound, make sure you check out sellers’ ratings and feedback so that you can buy safely and in confidence that they’re a respected user.
This is my favourite topic and I’ve written a book about it, packed with all my insider secrets on living sustainably and resourcefully. You can order it directly right here.
*Photo credit, Brent Darby
This is an excerpt from Lisa’s book, Resourceful Living.
Taken from: Resourceful Living by Lisa Dawson. Published by Kyle Books, priced £20. Photography by Brent Darby