How to Buy Vintage Furniture by Laurence Carr, Interior Designer


There are innumerable ways to work sustainable practices into your home design. One of my favorites, is to shop vintage. You may wonder how shopping vintage lends itself to sustainability. After all, many of the pieces you stumble across were made so long ago, it is nearly impossible to confirm manufacturing practices. This is absolutely true, however, in this case, manufacturing is not the main focus, rather, shelf-life is. By shopping vintage, we are extending the lives of well-made pieces, thus reducing waste. In this, we keep items in circulation while adding depth and soul to our home’s design. Here are our top 5 tips for buying quality vintage pieces.


Know what you want. Shopping vintage can be a daunting task. It requires a keen eye and a willingness to do more legwork than a traditional retail experience would. You can increase your chances of success by first isolating exactly what you’re looking for. Decide what piece you want, what style fits into your home, and what color range you would consider. Pinterest is a great place to visit to better understand design styles and how they may play against your home’s existing decor. Also, take some time to understand average pricing on your piece. Look at the entire scale and become familiar with what factors go into low and high-end pricing (ex., materials, construction, imperfections, etc.).



Be intentional. Once you have isolated the piece you need, style, and color range, shop with this (and only this) in mind. In my experience, without tunnel vision, vintage shopping can lead to making unnecessary concessions. Rest assured, the piece you are looking for is out there. Finding it just requires patience and dedication.


Shop in a way that is comfortable to you. There are dozens of incredible vintage shops all over the world whose reputations are fantastic and collections are incredible. However, vintage shopping requires you to ask questions and, sometimes, to be assertive. This can be challenging for some to do in person. If you have a healthy budget and are looking for a smooth, simple experience without the guesswork, I suggest going with a big, reputable online retailer. Sotheby’s Home and 1st Dibs are places where you can purchase without fear. You can also visit Ebay or Etsy, however you would have to check out the seller’s ratings. My recommendation is not to buy from anyone with less than a 5-star review. Don’t be afraid to ask the tough questions and hold your seller accountable to the answers. 



Check the piece for flaws diligently. If shopping in person, don’t be afraid to check the piece closely. With tables, inspect the wood closely and always check the piece’s structural integrity. Look for scratches, dents, or dings. With sofas or textiles, look for stains, pulls, tears, and runs. Beware, even the tiniest nick can turn into a big problem. Point out flaws to the seller and, if you wish to purchase the piece despite imperfections, do not accept any price reduction that will not cover the cost of a repair. Use the same rule of thumb when shopping online, just know you will have to rely on photographs. If you receive them and they are grainy or don’t show full detail, do not hesitate to ask for a new set of photos.


Clear and prep your space for delivery. Always prepare your space for the arrival of a new piece, as if welcoming it home. Have your old item moved into storage or picked up by a buyer before the new piece arrives. Vacuum, clear the clutter, and use sage or palo alto to cleanse the energy in the room. When the piece arrives, cleanse it as well, clearing old energy to make room for the new.


Shopping vintage is poetic in a way. It is a chance to look to our collective past to provide greater hope for the future. It is a way to express ourselves creatively while supporting practices that nurture our planet, truly embracing the notion of waste reduction. It is a way of contributing to the circular economy. So, go forth and shop well, with a smile on your face and love in your heart. Your home’s energy will only benefit from the unique lift only time honored pieces provide.



Laurence Carr is founder & CEO of Laurence Carr Design, an award winning interior design firm in New York City providing full service and e-design services to clients. She creates exquisite holistic interiors that promote mindful living and harmony, while attaining a level of sophistication through layering modern art, furniture, antiques and accents. Born in France, Laurence has 20 years experience in design, the performing arts, and fashion. She has been nationally published and is a frequent speaker and panelist in major industry related events. an award winning interior design firm in New York City providing full service and e-design services to clients. She creates exquisite holistic interiors that promote mindful living and harmony, while attaining a level of sophistication through layering modern art, furniture, antiques and accents. Born in France, Laurence has 20 years experience in design, the performing arts, and fashion. She has been nationally published and is a frequent speaker and panelist in major industry related events.

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