We may earn revenue from the products available on this page and participate in affiliate programs.

It’s no secret why designers love vintage finds—they infuse a space with character; they’re sustainable; and by virtue of being already manufactured, you don’t have to wait four-plus months for them to arrive at your doorstep. What you might find surprising, though, is that nearly half of a decorator‘s budget goes toward these unique furnishings, according to the annual Interior Designers Survey from online marketplace Chairish. Gathered from more than 2,000 responses, industry pros revealed that 45 percent of their residential project budgets (which average around $270,000 in scope, by the way) is allocated for vintage furnishings and decor. 

With no signs of delivery hiccups and manufacturing holdups slowing down in the near future, we’re turning more of our attention to sourcing a good steal from yesteryear, and here we’re sharing some of the best vintage shopping tips we’ve collected over time. 

Start With a Name 

If you’re shopping for thrifted gems on the Internet, take note of the designers you like and go from there, says photographer Caroline Lee. “For example, searching ‘Milo Baughman’ will bring up a specific era of design that might be close to what I’m looking for,” she shares.   

Deconstruct Your Vision

It’s unlikely you’ll find the perfect manifestation of your vintage dreams on every treasure hunt, but you can start with the elements of your idea to bring your mental image to life. During Lee’s bedroom makeover process, she fell in love with a burnt orange velvet fabric that she knew she wanted to incorporate in a chair, so she found an old frame for free on Craigslist and had an upholsterer make her concept a reality. 

Beware of Sketchy Snapshots

Obvious Photoshop jobs, listings with only one or two pictures, or “borrowed” photos from other sites are all instant red flags, according to Daniel King of New York–based Home Union. “If the seller is reluctant to give details, steer clear,” he advises about shopping online. “It never hurts to ask for a video in real time.”

Know That Size Matters

Looking for something specific? Antiques expert and interior stylist Leah Ashley always recommends knowing the measurements of the space you’re trying to fill. She also brings along her own measuring tape to double-check dimensions, since most sales are final.

Keep It Real 

Don’t be fooled into paying high prices on items that have only loosely attributed authenticity, warns NYC-based designer Charlie Ferrer. The seasoned shopper also says that “if a dealer is explicitly representing something as attributed, there should be documentation to reference. It’s especially crucial to put on your investigator’s hat when you’re investing as much in these pieces as a designer would.”