How to Score the Best Vintage Furniture Online
Four vintage sellers share their secrets.
Updated Sep 29, 2021 7:00 AM
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There is no disappointment quite like when you come across the perfect vintage find on Instagram, after searching for it for the past five months, only to discover that it’s been already sold. Vintage furniture and decor, with all its character and history, can dramatically impact your space (and give you some bragging rights), but it’s also tough to get your hands on the things that you really want. So we went straight to the source—the vintage sellers—and asked them what shopping tricks they have up their sleeves.
The gist of it: Scoring good vintage furnishings online is an art form; the more you do it, the better you’ll get at it. With that in mind, it’s important to not allow yourself to get frustrated. When you least expect it, you’ll stumble upon an amazing Memphis-inspired lamp that you didn’t know you needed. Take it from the experts—a bit of patience will go a long way, as will these tips.
If you’re not sure about measurements, material, or even just how a certain item feels, just slide into the DMs of the vintage store. “Don’t be afraid to contact shops. Email or DM—they are there to help you and answer your questions or take requests for specific items,” says Laura Azzalini of Montreal-based Reixue. “Having feedback really helps inform us about what people are into and looking for.”
This is also your chance to ensure you’re really getting what you’re paying for. “If the seller is reluctant to give details, steer clear. Be wary of sellers Photoshopping images, sellers who only post one or two pictures in a listing, and sellers ‘borrowing’ images of items that may be the same design but aren’t the actual piece they are selling,” says Daniel King of New York–based Home Union. “It never hurts to ask for a video in real time.”
Don’t forget to ask about shipping costs, too. “Understand that large pieces require a lot of work to ship—especially if it is over borders,” Azzalini adds.
Do Your Research
There is no one-stop shop for vintage decor, especially if you’re committed to getting a good price. “Look all over the Internet, read books, educate your eye, and pick up some material knowledge,” says Azzalini.
“You find the best deals in the Wild West of online classifieds, Instagram hashtags, estate sale listings, and online auctions—no-man’s land!” adds Cat Snodgrass of New York–based Bi-Rite Studio. “Anything goes when you’re in this territory—and valuable stuff can come up—but you have to be willing to put in the work and go where the average buyer isn’t.”
Play the Long Game
Instead of scrolling through Facebook or Twitter when you’re bored, why not search for vintage home goods? “I literally approach shopping online for vintage like I’m spending an afternoon at a huge flea market—à la Brimfield but from my couch,” says Amber Dubois of Philadelphia-based Mamakea Vintage. “I’ll go to Etsy or eBay with a really broad term in mind, like ‘vintage vase,’ for example, and slowly make my way through the many pages of results. I really enjoy the thrill of discovery that comes with shopping this way—I have no idea what I might find on any given day.”
Follow Lots of Shops
When you find an account on eBay or Etsy that you love, bookmark it—but you should also follow it on Instagram. “Often vintage sellers preview their new items there, and that means you get first crack at purchasing them,” says Dubois. “In fact, just this week I did exactly that! I saw an incredible vintage pottery lamp in my feed from Little Dog Vintage that hadn’t been listed for sale yet. I immediately sprang for it.”
Ultimately, while all of this advice can help you find the vintage piece of your dreams, the key to actually snagging it is not lingering too long. “We want buyers to know that vintage items should be treated as one of a kind,” says King. “There is truly no telling if a similar piece will come up again, or, in some cases, if any still exist out there.” That’s a regret you’ll most certainly want to avoid.
See more vintage inspiration: This Is How a Former IKEA Designer Decorates With Vintage Items Love Vintage Home Decor? Follow These Instagram Accounts The 5 Vintage Pieces This Trendy Instagram Seller Predicts Will Take Off Next