Top tips on getting the vintage look right at home

PUBLISHED: 10:20 19 June 2014

Wooden Pew from Rustix at The Curiosity Centre, Dorchester

Wooden Pew from Rustix at The Curiosity Centre, Dorchester


Interior designer, Charlotte Starling shares her tips on getting the vintage look right

Busts and figurines are a great way to add interest to a dull corner. Ceramic Busts from £28 from velvet-dash.comBusts and figurines are a great way to add interest to a dull corner. Ceramic Busts from £28 from

Many people think of vintage style as being rather twee, but used carefully it needn’t be. To turn a house into a happy home you need stuff in it that reflects your personality. Books on tables, paintings you love, candlesticks or ornaments which have special meaning and so on. Who wants a room full of off-the-peg items? It’s the accessories that give a room soul, make it intriguing. Sourcing vintage finds that appeal to you is the ideal way to inject originality and interest.

Of course I don’t want my whole home to be wall-to-wall vintage. I mix it up - with contemporary pieces, family hand-me-downs, things I’ve collected on my travels - and that’s when the magic happens. In the same way that a Zara jacket can look fabulous with a vintage scarf, you’ll find that a pair of antique candlesticks on top of an Ikea table will completely animate a space.

Sifting the treasure from the tat takes time, but that’s all part of the fun. The internet is a great source, but to be honest my idea of heaven is a good rummage at a flea market. From Pokesdown in Bournemouth to St Michael’s Trading Estate in Bridport, Dorset boasts a plethora of vintage shops and markets. At the Curiosity Centre in Dorchester, Rachael Shepherd’s Rustix is a brilliantly curated mix of stylish furniture, wooden fish trugs, right down to tiny curios like Victorian thimbles. At Old Albion in Bridport, Sharon Bradley caters for the cool crowd. She has a talented eye for what’s in vogue – fairground salvage, giant letters and wood paneling for walls.

If you’re interested in up-cycling, the secret is to go for a piece with an attractive structure and then get creative – revamp, reupholster, rethink! I love to transform something small like a vase or an urn with some Plastikote spray paint which comes in all sorts of fantastic finishes from faux stone to metallic. I take larger pieces of furniture to the garage for a cheap spray job with car paint to give them a tantalising lacquered finish. Most recently I came away with a bright red shiny chest of drawers for a child’s bedroom – try it, it’s addictive!

However, if DIY is really not your bag then ask an expert. Nicola Loud who runs Forage in Mells Somerset, cleverly updates dull flea market finds with her beautiful patterned paint rollers. Lucie Milner at Fresh Face Furniture near Bridport can transform a tired and dated pine cupboard into an elegant, eye-catching armoire.

It’s not imperative to paint every stick of old furniture though. Brown furniture is one of the cheapest, easiest things to pick up second hand because it’s deeply unfashionable. To turn it into something glamorous and avoid it looking grannyish, you simply need some clever styling. Try arranging a collection of objects on top, varying the height but keeping the colour palette restricted and you’ve just added an interesting visual layer to your room.

When it comes to vintage, you don’t need much to get started – a collection of patterned crockery displayed against a dark backdrop, a pretty lamp, a leather trunk. Just a little decrepitude will go a long way to adding patina and texture to a room. Avoid reproduction vintage clichés like bunting, union jacks and too much Cath Kidston. Look for something unusual. Remember what you are looking for is personality not perfection. Mass-market furniture is fine, it’s what you put with it that makes your home unique.

Vintage Colour with Farrow & Ball

Recently, we’ve seen a real trend start to emerge of people giving pieces of furniture a new lease of life by transforming them into beautiful items with a fresh coat of paint. When it comes to creating beautiful interiors, it pays to get creative with paint. By custom painting furniture pieces and introducing colour to your interior trim: skirting boards, chairs, dado rails, banisters, wardrobes, dressing tables, bookcases, doors and door frames, you can inject personality and interest to your decor.

Whether your style is bold and bright of soft and subtle, a freshly painted dresser, chair or table will revive your interiors and introduce a splash of your favourite hues to your home.

I have embraced this trend myself by painting some of my kitchen chairs in our brighter colours - Arsenic, Cooks Blue and Charleston Gray. And, while I wouldn’t necessarily want my whole kitchen painted in these shades, having them as pops of colour against neutral Cornforth White, really works and has definitely become a talking point amongst my friends and family!

So, whether you want to reawaken your tired but much loved furniture, transform your second-hand furniture finds or revive your interior trim, this subtle form of decorating is really easy and more importantly, a whole lot of fun!

Sarah Cole (

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