Reclaimed furniture is really popular right now. From designer Matilda Goad’s treasure trove in her Notting Hill home – a recovered Conran sofa from eBay and self-made reclaimed wood dining table, among a range of other eclectic and fascinating finds – to interior designer Joanna Plant’s flea market finds. These days you can’t visit a hotel or restaurant without clocking a few refashioned pieces in the mix. But how do you translate this in to your home?
Know Exactly What You’re Buying
To the untrained eye, knowing what to buy can be a nerve-wracking experience. “I think when buying antiques, it is important to understand what you are getting,” says Archie Mackie, owner of furniture dealers Original House. “Be careful not to jump in for a purchase from a lovely photo without getting a full condition report. Ask the seller if the drawers run smoothly, is there any woodworm, is the interior clean enough to take your white linen?”
It goes without saying that wear and tear is part of the appeal of reclaimed furniture. “Vintage furniture is full of character, so we encourage buyers to seek out and enjoy its weathered quality and quirks,” says Sandrine Zhang Ferron, co-founder and CEO of Vinterior (vinterior.co), an online vintage and antiques marketplace. “This furniture is also incredibly well manufactured and has already withstood the test of time.” Designer Birdie Fortescue (birdiefortescue.co.uk) advises: “It is important to check whether a piece is genuine and is in good, stable condition.”
Think About Its Use
It’s also worth considering how you’re going to use it. People think they can change furniture into something else, that it will be a fun project, but it’s important to be realistic about your abilities and your time. Could you end up with a half-finished chest of drawers’ restoration project cluttering up your sitting room for six months because you haven’t had time to learn the stripping techniques it needs or chosen the new knobs? Be clear on your interior goal.
Consider Its Position In Your Home
Industrial furniture doesn’t always lend itself to domestic settings due to the scale – be aware of how things will translate from a commercial to a home environment. Is that laboratory counter really going to work in your side return kitchen? “The key thing is that you love a piece and that it will suit the space it is intended for and has the right proportions,” says Birdie.
Know Where And Who You Are Buying From
Who you’re buying from is as important as what you’re buying. “If you’re buying from a market, there’s no caveat or comeback – you take it as it is,” say Adam Hills, founder of Retrouvius (retrouvius.com), a design salvage company. “From a retailer you can expect provenance. For example, you need an understanding of any toxicity in any product. If you’re buying furniture that was used in a museum, it may have been treated with napthelene. Now, this is fine if you’re filling it with clothes (moths balls contain naphthalene) but you mustn’t use it to store food as that would be dangerous.”
“If you buy from a respected dealer, you have confidence that you’re buying a piece that’s been checked over and either restored as necessary, or any imperfections are explained thoroughly,” says Victoria Ceraudo, co-founder of Ceraudo.com, a vintage website. “It’s also good to buy from a respected dealer if you’re new to buying vintage and antiques so you can buy from their pre-selected and curated pieces and not go too off-piste with something you might regret later on.”
Embrace The Trend
Call it the sustainability movement or a general sense of social responsibility, but we’re all more aware of our carbon footprint and how our shopping habits are affecting our environment. From vintage clothes to eco cleaning products, how we treat our home is part of this. “The underlying ethos and ideology of reclaimed furniture is getting stronger, not weaker, and it’s set to continue,” explains Adam. “People are looking for more decorative, sculptural items and our customers love the story behind an object or piece of furniture and understanding its provenance. Recently, an Oxford College residency was stripped out and we had people who had attended that college coming to buy back a piece of its – and their – history.”
Celebrate Its Uniqueness
It’s the soul of furniture that appeals to so many of us. “We love reclaimed furniture as it usually produced in an era when quality of craftsmanship and materials were used with pride and planned obsolescence hadn’t been invented,” says Archie. “These pieces were often one offs and built to last. That is which they have survived and will continue to last another 100 years. Over those years they have been used and abused picking up masses of character and patina that cannot be faked and adds a huge sense of history into any interior space - a real talking piece with a story.”
Research What To Buy
Storage is definitely a growing area, especially sideboards which offer spacious cupboards as well as a stylish place to display accessories. Vintage drinks trolleys are also in demand: “Think beautiful weathered brass bar carts and sleek 1950s teak models. They are fabulous for showcasing drinkware for cocktail parties with friends or even as another place to style books, trinkets and photo frames,” suggests Sandrine.
“We find that seating is always very popular,” says Birdie. “Anything from dining chairs to sofas. The piece not only has to look great and stylish but must also be comfortable. There are some interesting items about: we recently sold a fabulous set of industrial shelves from a disused warehouse made from old metalwork wheels and distressed scaffold boards. We also love using old French bottle dryers as decorative stands for mugs and cups in a kitchen.”
Where To Buy:
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