Decorating Ideas

How to Style Vintage Decor Without Creating a Dated Look for Your Home

Zoe Weiner

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Photo: Foxfire Mountain House
Unlike, say, turmeric latte and golden milk, "vintage" and "old looking" aren't actually synonyms. In fact, it's totally possible to deck out your space in retro goods and still make it feel brand new.

Avoiding an interior design that looks dated doesn't come down to one piece in particular, but rather how all of the pieces work together. "Simplicity is really the key, not combining too many patterns or colors, and not too much stuff overall," says Eliza Clark, founder of Foxfire Mountain House and a newly minted second property La Colina in upstate New York, which give off the perfect "new vintage" look in every corner.

Mixing and matching your modern pieces with vintage treasures will add depth to your interior design.

Aside from taking a minimalist approach, mixing and matching your modern pieces with vintage treasures will add depth to your interior design. "To me, modern pieces are often smooth so I use vintage to add texture and patina—even chippy paint and rust count as texture and give a room more interest," she says. "Natural materials like wood, leather, linen, rattan, and metals like zinc all age beautifully."

Got your attention Goodwill hunters? Great, keep reading for pro tips for how to create a vintage vibe in any space that's still feel cool and modern.

How to buy vintage decor without creating a dated look for your home
Photo: Foxfire Mountain House

Get your story straight first. "Whatever you’re adding to your space needs to tell somewhat of a design story,” says Havenly Design Expert Gillian Grefé. "Make sure you know what that ‘story’ is before you start adding to the space—this can help you avoid over designing and overdoing it with combining vintage and modern pieces.” She suggests deciding whether you want your space to give off a vintage-dominating vibe with a few contemporary pieces, or vice versa, then using that to influence your design direction.

Buy pieces that are already in good condition. This may seem like a no-brainer, but there are a few things to look out for when trying to track down old furniture that doesn’t actually *look* old. "Pay close attention to the scratches or chipped paint. If you don’t want to put a lot of work into something, don’t get something that needs fabric replaced,” says Grefé. "Always try furniture out before buying it. If it’s a wooden rocking chair, it’s probably been outside for a very long time and is quite warped. Give it a go and make sure it’s not too wobbly.”

How to get a vintage vibe
Photo: Foxfire Mountain House

Lean in with some elbow grease. For pieces that pass the quality test above, but could use some surface-levl TLC, here's where a certain go-to, cure-all wellness product can come in a handy: "Coconut oil is a great tool to polish up a wooden frame for a chair that is looking rugged from age—it gives the wood a natural, but polished tone, fills in scratches, and is something you likely already have in your pantry,” says Grefé. "If paint is chipping, embrace it a bit by sanding the piece down over the chipped paint. This will smoothe out the surface and round out the ‘worn’ look, making things look a bit less shabby and more chic.” Clark also keep wood-stain markers, which you can get at a hardware store, and magic markers on hand for teeny-tiny touchups.

Accessorize with the old. Instead of relying on furniture to give your space a vintage vibe, why not start out with accessories? “Finding smaller pieces is easy and adds great personality,” says Grefé. She loves old clocks, framed artwork, ‘60s-style ashtrays, and vintage suitcases or chests to use throughout a room. "I also love a vintage globe—it makes a great statement—and old art or travel coffee table books are also a great touch,” she says. "I collect small to medium blue glass medicine bottles and I add them to vignettes throughout my house in threes or fives. Curating little collections is a great way to think about adding vintage throughout your space.”

How to buy vintage decor without creating a dated look for your home
Photo: Foxfire Mountain House

Break out that green thumb. Plant parents, rejoice: There’s now yet another benefit to amping up your indoor jungle. "The biggest game changer is to have greenery in the room—something alive and a little wild,” says Clark. "A gorgeous vase of branches from the garden or a jar of wildflowers. The greenery energizes everything.”

How to buy vintage decor without creating a dated look for your home
Photo: Foxfire Mountain House

Embrace minimalist decor. "Let the structure and shape of the pieces stand out,” says Clark, who’s a big fan of keeping it simple with a few statement-making pieces. "Rooms look dated and lack a modern vibe when say, an old velvet sofa is piled with equally old pillows, and the entire space is cluttered with layers of stuff. But if a vintage chair, even tattered and worn, or a 1960's ceramic lamp on a simple table has space around it, the item becomes beautiful in its own right, like a sculpture and has an intention that is charming. To me, it's not the individual pieces that date the room but the number of pieces that don't feel current or stylish.”

Edit, edit, edit. It may be tempting to deck out your entire space, but too much stuff will ultimately make it look dated…and potentially kind of dirty. "Keeping it clean and avoiding clutter will help balance the vintage and modern elements of a space,” says Grefé. "If your space is starting to look like an episode of Hoarders, then you’ve gone too far. Combining vintage and modern requires curation—put your stylist hat on and make sure you’re editing objects and furniture and not overcrowding the space.”

To compliment your old with a little bit of new, check out one of these ultra-modern planters, or shop the virtual shelves of this unexpected home accessories destination.

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