In an effort to satisfy any flea market cravings, account planner and arts blogger, Hattie Bottom, has curated our dream go-to guide for finding second-hand furniture online – be it mid-century side tables or antique candlesticks.
With many of us spending 23 hours a day at home, it’s understandable to crave newness. Before lockdown, you would all too often find me wandering Portobello and Golborne Road market on weekends. I might go out with a set mission, a glass vase or woven basket, but most of the time the apprehension of finding something that perfectly chimes with my living room is enough to make the activity worthwhile. I’m now starting to miss the thrill of arriving home with a new charity shop or market stall treasure. Something that promises to revive the corner of a room- juxtaposing old and new to create a sense of accomplishment, creativity, or rebellion.
Whilst it’s not possible to roam vintage markets and charity shops at the moment, there’s actually never been a better time to support independent and sustainable antique dealers. In the words of Vanessa Friedman for The New York Times, “where you spend your money matters. Before you buy, think: What is this about? It could be about helping save a generation of small designers and independent businesses.” So, I’ve collected a few tips on how to find, style and care for vintage interiors. Hopefully, you’ll stumble across something old but new and perfect for your home.
Treasure Hunting Tips
Mollie Riach, co-founder of Rag & Bone Bristol, is no stranger to seeking out vintage gems for the home. Her shop is a cabinet of curiosities, a beautifully curated mini-museum with dark magic hidden amongst the sideboards. Here are her top tips for finding pre-loved pieces for your interiors, and how to clean and care for them properly.
Finding something that’s right
If the piece has some kind of character that speaks to you, then make space for it. At Rag & Bone Bristol we are always drawn to items that are slightly out of the ordinary and they have to be authentic. We love worn crumbling paint on a piece of furniture or items that have been almost totally gobbled by a woodworm infestation. In total contrast, these items would sit next to sleek modernist design classics.
Mixing old and new
Don’t be afraid to just go for it and be playful with mixing together the old with the new. We really embrace it and love popping a bright neon candle in an 18th-century candelabra or using a wonderful old crumbly Gilt frame to rehome vintage Bollywood movie posters. Mix ages and styles – there is no set rule of thumb. Often I find my favourite part is bringing pieces back from a buying trip and seeing how they look even better sat next to a piece that is 100 years its senior.
Authenticity is key. If an item has old crumbling paint then that’s great but I never try to recreate it or hide it for that matter. We’ve turned an old haberdashery unit into our kitchen island and used a French wrought iron table as the base to our bathroom sink. I’ve treated the wood that the bathroom sink sits on for woodworm and to protect it from water but left its original finish totally intact.
Making it last
Simple white vinegar is brilliant, it is non-corrosive which is really important when cleaning antique glass or mirrors (and really cheap for that matter). The only downside is it always makes me crave fish and chips every time I use it!
My favourite marketplaces (best if you know what you’re looking for or browsing within an era):
Vinterior is the biggest and neatest marketplace for pure vintage and antique interiors with easy search functions and a wide range of interiors, connecting you to over 1,500 sellers and catering to all budgets.
This marketplace and magazine specialises in distinctive design objects (both new and vintage), with an international array of high profile and underground galleries, shops, editors, artisans, and designers.
The Kairos Collective
Upmarket with the excitement of insider exclusivity, The Kairos Collective allows you to connect directly with antique, vintage and contemporary design specialist suppliers. Find furniture, lighting and textiles as well as collectable art and photography books.
Though cluttered, sometimes that makes it all the more rewarding when you find something perfect and a bargain. Filter Etsy‘s home and interiors sections by ‘vintage’ or ‘recycled’ to keep your search more sustainable and remember to save your favourite sellers.
Image: Boho Zoo Rugs
Direct Independent Websites (best for curated online browsing):
Rag & Bone Bristol
Rag & Bone Bristol offers an eclectic mix of decorative antiques and vintage furniture, homeware, mid-century design, industrial lighting and original artwork – all culminating into a modern aesthetic that’s a little out of the ordinary.
Image: Boho Zoo Rugs
The Peanut Vendor
Specialising in the early to late 20th-century furniture, accessories and art-led objects. Normally you can visit The Peanut Vendors‘ showroom or hire their East London studio for photography and film shoots where you’ll find rare and unique ceramics, vases, mirrors and lighting.
Cart House has a large collection of stylishly faded carpets, rugs, silkscreens, throws and cushions. In amongst this, find oil paintings and simple, well-designed vintage furniture- ranging from early to mid-century and industrial.
Phoenix on Golbourne
Practical yet beautiful antique furniture alongside a mix of mirrors, prints, paintings and home accessories. Phoneix on Golbourne‘s furniture is often painted in the most beautiful pistachio, blue and matte black paint. Also check out its Instagram account for vintage clothing.
Set in a 17th-century tithe barn in Marlow, Buckinghamshire, Home Barn specialises in antique cabinets and cupboards, vintage coffee tables and benches, factory window mirrors, vintage drawers and quirky office pieces.
Previously a stylist at House & Garden, Charlie Porter now runs an online antique store full of sweet accessories. Think sconces, candlesticks, bookends and eggcups, alongside oil paintings and matching sets of coloured glassware.
Founded in 2016 by sisters Emily and Victoria, Ceraudo is an interior brand offering a mix of antique and contemporary furniture and accessories. Everything from Art Deco lemonade sets to antique maps to Louis XVI-style mahogany bouillotte tables.
An architectural salvage and design company, combing salvage work with one of the most sought-after interior design practices in Britain (last year the founders Adam Hills and Maria Speake designed and built Bella Freud’s new apartment).
Lovely & Co
Enzo and Lucy are inspired by and have tried to capture the vibrancy of a (much edited) flea market. Lovely & Co’s stock is eclectic and ever-changing. 20th-century design classics alongside soda crates and milking stools.
A vast selection of good quality 19th and 20th-century furniture described as ‘classic antiques and future heirlooms’. Rather than a curated store aesthetic, you can shop the site by style, room or category, including a gifts section.
Feeling inspired to shop secondhand? Try these sites for secondhand clothing.
Find out how and where to shop sustainably in London.
Discover more ethical homeware brands to help build your dream interiors.