Vintage furniture can be broken down into numerous categories with various meanings. In one respect it may simply be older, antique furniture pieces found at second-hand and thrift stores, or at estate and yard sales. In another respect it could be considered the style of the piece, speaking of a vintage age or era.
Vintage furniture may also be referred to as reclaimed furniture which adds a bit more ambiguity to the meaning. Reclaimed furniture could be considered items composed of reclaimed or recycled wood and timber. For instance, using a demolished barn's wooden beams or plank flooring for the purpose of creating new furniture, typically rustic in nature. On the other hand, old furniture pieces rescued and saved from the scrap yard are "reclaimed".
Similar to reclaimed furniture are many, trendy catch-phrases
recycled furniture, upcycling and repurposed furniture.
Recycled furniture could be vintage pieces found and reused, as-is, in a modern home (not to be confused with a modern-styled home). It could mean furniture that contains a certain percentage of recycled, post-consumer products. It could also be a way of taking a used item and transforming it. One of the simplest ways to explain this would be picking up a roadside chest of drawers and repainting it gloss white and adding some new contemporary hardware. This is somewhat synonymous with upcycling on the simplest level.
Upcycling can be a simple transformation to update an old item or can be more involved to include a reinterpretation or new use of the original item. I'm slightly fascinated with the upcycling of wooden pallets or shipping skids. Many people have delved into the process of upcycling them in very clever ways. Using them as futon bases, headboards, magazine racks, wall dish racks, wine bottle shelving and side tables to name a few I've seen. Who knew a simple, shipping pallet could have so many creative uses? This is the main crux of upcycling.
Repurposed furniture can also have some mixed meanings. In one instance a piece of furniture may be repurposed as something else. A simple idea would be taking an old vintage stool and using it as a plant stand. On the other hand, repurposed furniture could mean reusing an unconventional item and repurposing it as a piece of furniture for which it was not originally intended. I'm slightly obsessed with chests and trunks and enjoy seeing them repurposed as coffeetables. A more unconvential idea would be stacking vintage suitcases upon each other to create end tables for your sofa. The upcycled shipping pallet example could also be considered a "repurposed" item so there is some overlap among these terms and their interpretations.
Photo courtesy Restoration Hardware
Shabby Chic is a design and decorating style that is often associated with reclaimed or vintage furniture and many of the examples explained above. It is a means of incorporating or creating items with an aged, weathered-finish and patina. Think of a layer of peeling paint on a rustic shutter with the older paint layer peeking through. This style often incorporates soft, muted colors and is frequently used with cottage and beach-house themes due to its light, airy, carefree nature. Shabby Chic is also a great way to unify different items by giving them a similar, distressed finish.
Although Shabby Chic is not for everyone, introducing some vintage furniture and reclaimed or repurposed pieces into your own home is a great way to add character and depth to any decorating style. Mix new with old and reap the rewards of your own creativity. Save those classic pieces from the junkyard! Choosing vintage furniture is an eco-friendly option in home decorating.
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