How to score vintage home decor that looks like new

Story highlights

New to shopping vintage? Start small for decorative accents

Original art from the last two centuries can be found at flea markets

Even if a piece is not perfect, it's far more unique than modern manufacturing

Martha Stewart Living  — 

The creative team behind One Kings Lane knows a thing or two about unique interiors. Discover your own eclectic vintage and flea-market finds with the help of these tips from Andrea Stanford, One Kings Lane Vice President of Designer and Vintage Sales, and General Manager of Hunters Alley, the shopping site’s just-launched vintage- and handmade-home-goods destination.

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Have Fun!

Never be intimidated by shopping for vintage; it should be fun! Start by educating yourself. I love learning from people who are experts in their fields and truly passionate about their collections. Always ask questions about an item’s maker or history. Visit flea markets and antique shows and browse online. As you become more familiar with certain eras or categories of decor, shopping will become so much more fun — and you can truly enjoy the hunt!

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    Start Small

    One of the easiest ways to start collecting vintage is to buy catchalls, vases, and books. They’re inexpensive and easy to find. Starting with smaller accents is a low-risk way to get a sense of what styles and eras you’re most drawn to.

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    Get Art Smart

    Art is another great way to incorporate vintage into your home! Learn the basics about differentiating between an original and a manufactured piece, a limited-edition print, or a great giclee reproduction, so you can begin to understand value and collectability. Browse art from the 19th and 20th centuries and take note of the artists you like. I love finding original works from lesser-known artists, as the prices are much more approachable! And I adore vintage fashion sketches, especially from designers who are still important today.

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    Embrace the Imperfect

    Normal cracking and warping of wood from shrinkage over time is a great indication that you have an original wood piece. Look for maker’s marks, high-quality materials (hand-forged nails and dovetailed joints), and great patina. Buying an original design, even if something is not perfect, is far more interesting than bringing a reproduction home!

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    Sets and Pairs

    Pairs of great-looking vintage lamps are hard to find; if you find the perfect pair, be ready to pounce! Focus on the bases of lamps, as shades are often in poor condition but can be easily replaced. Similarly, full sets of glassware are rare. The great news is that mixing a variety of vintage barware makes cocktail hour even more fun!

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    Measure First

    When ordering online, don’t be fooled by how large (or small) something looks in a picture! I still have a set of vintage French kitchen cabinets in my garage that were too large to even fit through my front door (I’d thought they would be the perfect addition to my daughter’s petite room) and a wicker elephant meant as a toy chest that stands just 10 inches tall.

    Always check the measurements online and bring your measuring tape when hitting the flea markets. Some vintage coffee and side tables are too low when placed alongside contemporary furniture. By contrast, many midcentury lamps are more than three feet tall and can be tricky to incorporate into today’s interiors. But most important of all, buy what you love! Regardless of the provenance, if you have a special place for it and the price works for you, buy it!