The word “vintage” can simply mean old. It can refer to a particular time period, or it can just mean used, recycled, or repurposed. If you’re looking to update your home to add a vintage feel, remember the homes of yesteryear. They tended to be a bit smaller, and everything in them needed to have a function.

Look for Multi-Purpose Items

Keep an eye out for things that can have a second purpose. A flat-topped blanket chest can be a terrific storage container. With a cushion, it’s a bench. Simple cotton kitchen towels become decorative items with a bit of embroidery.

Photos on the wall become history. Books on the shelf are decoration, reference, and entertainment. While many decorative items of today are mass-produced and easy to get, in the not-too-distant past, every object in the home was crafted by hand. From cuckoo clocks to ornate mirrors, vintage style means that even decorative items need more than one purpose.

Avoid Matching Sets

There’s nothing more modern than a chair, loveseat, and sofa that all match. With the vintage design, you’re free of this limitation. If you love your wooden rocker, put it beside your grey wing-back armchair and your rose footstool. Add a patchwork quilt to the space to bring the colors together.

To that end, make sure that your decorative choices leave some room to rest the eye. For example, potpourri in a jar with a lace cover will scent the room and look pretty. A jar of seashells beside the potpourri may turn into clutter if the table or shelf is too small. Don’t put out more items than you can keep tidy, and try not to fill up every flat space. Leave some visual rest.

Use Recycled Items

Visit second hand and junk stores for items to put to use in your home. A single antique plate can be a lovely fruit dish on your counter or kitchen table. One pretty casserole dish can make putting dinner on the table a treat.

When shopping for recycled items, make sure you have a location for what you buy. The mindset of “I’ll use it sometime” can turn your home into a cluttered mess. Additionally, the idea that you’ll use the item in a craft project is exciting, but if you don’t have the tools at home for that project, the skills to make it happen, or the time to do the work, you’ve just added a burden to your current workload. Don’t overbuy when shopping second hand.

Add Wainscoting, Shiplap, or Paneling

If you’ve got an older home and want to increase the vintage look of your space, the addition of wood to your walls is a wonderful way to improve the rustic charm of the space. If you’re not a carpenter, invest in a set of bookshelves that you can add trim to and around. Once the bookcase is in place, paint it and all of the trim to match, but paint the back of the case the same color as the walls. On each shelf, add a pretty decorative item that you love in addition to books. Make sure you use bookends or turn several heavy books to lay flat as a temporary measure.

Adding a chair rail is a wonderful way to start adding your own wooden trim. For example, if your dining area is small or your table is tucked in a corner, simply measure down from the ceiling to the height where your dining chairs bump the sheetrock or 1/3 of the height from the floor to the ceiling. Use a level to lightly mark the rail height and cut the piece to fit the wall. Pay special attention to the ends in case you need to wrap the chair rail; you may need a miter box for this project. Trim is cheap, so go ahead and practice on these small projects while you build skills.

Vintage decor doesn’t mean cluttered or fluffy. The decorative pieces of the past were unique in that they generally had a second purpose. Owning something that was both useful and lovely was something to celebrate, so be ready to display your favorite vintage finds. Buy slowly and with care to avoid a cluttered home.

Vintage living room


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