Can you make a room look brand new by renovating it with used furniture? Oh yes, definitely. What was once considered worn-out is what is considered charming today. From appreciating only the latest designs, we have now grown to appreciate the styles of yesteryear, and if you’re a flea market enthusiast like I am – that’s pretty much the best thing ever.
With a bit of effort and time spent searching through thrift stores, flea markets, and your own stash of old things in attics or basements, you could easily re-do your living room with a well-worn, vintage look. The patina of age may look perfect with other items you own, especially family heirlooms. So, why not search for unique items at the local flea markets? Here are some suggestions to help you in your quest for the perfect furniture, accessories, decals, trinkets, and little bits of vintage style that will leave your home looking unique.
Think Outside the Box
When you are considering a purchase, be creative in what you envision for your living room. You can find a new purpose for old items. That old wooden chest? That’s your coffee table or nightstand, and a handy storage unit as well.
An old carved piano bench or a stack of old suitcases can look fantastic as a side table. A vintage sewing machine stand can make an impromptu sofa table behind a love seat. Seek out distinctive artwork for your walls such as unusual mirrors or old signs to make this room really stand out.
Old drawers with interesting knobs make wonderful shadow boxes. An ornate daybed can make a very comfortable sofa, and an antique dentist chair the perfect place to view your favorite movies.
Do Your Research
Go through DIY books for great ideas on decorating with second-hand items and refurbishing articles to match your living room. Go online and view sample rooms that others have furnished. Read about tips on getting the most bang for your buck when your bargain with flea market vendors and other shop owners. There are also many magazines available that are specifically on finding and decorating every room in the house with your treasures.
Most importantly – just go and search. Go for a walk around town and check out antique shops. Second-hand stores. All the cool places dedicated to vintage wonders. Some will be expensive, sure, but if you search long enough, you’ll find amazing bargains.
A mixture of modern, antique, and other items can produce a truly dramatic and inviting effect. A cozy wing back chair will look very intriguing in a bold, geometric print.
Bright colors can quickly and easily bring a dull and ordinary room to life. Or combine – paint a couple of walls in bright, vivid colors of your choice, and then leave one wall exposed, with bricks showing. The juxtaposition will make those exposed bricks look sophisticated, totally different than the rest of the brightly colored room.
Also, keep it simple. Place contemporary chairs around an old library table for a true mix of the old and new. Sometimes, that’s all you need to create a vintage effect.
Choose a Focal Point
Select one item in your overall decorating scheme that will determine the colors and styles of the remainder of the room. That’s your key item, the one thing that defines the whole look of the place. It could be a piece of stained glass, an old painting, a hand-sewn quilt, or even the upholstery of a sofa. Base all of your selections on that one key item to gain a unified and coordinated look.
Let’s use an example. Say you own a painting with main tones of red and gray. Base most of the colors in the remainder of the room on this. Upholster your sofa in a light gray and accent it with red pillows. Add a floor rug with a distinct blend of gray and red and other minor colors.
Accessories such as lampshades and picture frames can follow suit. You will find yourself with a lovely room filled with color and a very unified appeal.
Choose a Theme
If you do not wish to select a focal point, another option is to choose a theme. It could be nautical, western, Victorian, or vintage circus. This will give you a much narrower field to select your furniture and accessories but the final outcome can be phenomenal.
If you’re a person who chooses a Country Western theme, search flea markets and shops for items with Texas stars emblazoned on them, old leather-bound Western novels, wooden bullet boxes, and anything with Western horses on it.
Wall art could include old maps of Texas, Western cowboy scenes, covers of pulp magazines, and even an arrangement of unusual horseshoes around a doorway.
Consider Free Items
While you are out scouting for articles in thrift shops and flea markets, keep an eye out for items that are free.
A wooden pallet can very easily become a rustic coffee table when you add extra wood strips to the top, paint or stain it, and pop on four industrial wheels to each bottom corner. That’s an item you could find for free, or at a small price because it’s something that’s usually taken for granted and thrown away after use.
Bring the Outdoors In
Antique outdoor furniture can easily make the transition to the indoors. An ornate wrought iron table, no matter the size, can make a great addition to a corner of your living room. A wicker lounge chair can add so much comfort and appeal to a small reading nook.
Remember to Keep it Clean and Tidy
Your flea market findings, as charming as they are in their vintage appearance, need your care and attention. You’d be surprised how quickly that authentic vintage look loses its appeal and becomes trash. Why does that happen? Because you forgot a couple of simple tasks.
Keep your stuff clean and your home tidy. That old armchair you brought in from your grandparent’s old house can’t be left to gather dust. Don’t let rust eat your collection of mid-century coffee cans. Think of your vintage furniture and old-timey items as irreplaceable parts of your home and include them in your regular maintenance, without exceptions, at least for every season of the year. Otherwise, your prized vintage possessions could become nothing but junk.
Bonus tip: Consider using organic, non-chemical based cleaning products. Chemical products might actually harm vintage furniture. Go DIY and make your own cleaners by combining trusted methods such as vinegar, baking soda, lemon juice, and peppermint.
Don’t Give Up!
Many get discouraged when they cannot find exactly what they need for their living room, or any other room, for that matter. Or they find something perfect, but at a price too high. It’s okay, it’s nothing uncommon.
Just think of your shopping excursions to flea markets and other second-hand venues as fishing trips. Some days you will find all kinds of articles that will help complete the decor of the living room. On other days you will not be able to locate a single item that would fit your decorating scheme. The thrill and enjoyment are in the journey. Enjoy every single step of perusing the many stalls and shops full of potential treasures.
The ideas I shared here are especially useful for living areas in summer cabins and guest houses. Family and friends will feel immediately at home because antique furniture and vintage items somehow give us a warm, welcoming, homey feeling.
Your home (or home-away-from-home) will be like no other, and you’ll find guests commenting on the originality and creativity of your living room and other areas of the house. Even when your living room is complete, you will probably still be searching for new and innovative additions for several other areas, both indoors and out. But hey, vintage is a way of life. Embrace it!