Tips for buying vintage furniture

by Keith Lobo


Style is such a personal thing. But I’ll let you in on a secret that fits in with almost every type of décor: quality vintage furniture. Whether you go strictly secondhand or mix in pieces with your otherwise modern decor, vintage furniture can provide that extra splash your home really needs. The best part? There won’t be any other room with the exact same set up: Vintage furniture is generally so unique and one of a kind, that you will likely be the only one on the block with that item. If you are selling a home, it is something that will make your Toronto home stand out even more in this hot real estate market and that may result in a higher selling price or a quicker sale. If you are still hesitant about vintage furniture, check out our post Why buy vintage furniture?


Know Your Vintage Furniture:

If you’re in the market for vintage pieces, a little research can go a long way. Searching the net is the easiest way to get to know designers, styles and materials to look for. If you come across a vintage piece and want to know more, look it up! or is a great online resource filled with tons of design history and a comprehensive designer research section, complete with images and designer histories. The key to finding great vintage furniture is to determine what styles and time periods speak to you, and then doing your best to learn what you can about them. Perusing a site like for images and inspiration can be more than just indulging in some design eye candy; it can also be a fun way to discover the eras that you’re drawn to so you can shop accordingly. "The Find" by Stan Williams is another great resource complete with insider tips from some of the top designers. Also know your local market. Mid-century is very hot right now. In some parts of the country (Montreal & Vancouver) you can't find it at all. That demand greatly elevates prices. So be realistic about the demand in your neck of the woods. For those in Toronto and Ottawa, take heart, supply is tight but reasonable.


Where to buy vintage furniture:

If you’re not in Toronto or you don’t have a great local furniture store like ours (! The Internet can be your best friend. Here are some rules of thumb we use when buying for our home:

VHB Rule #1: Know your measurements! Most sellers should be more than happy to answer any questions you have about size and quality, so if you aren’t sure, ask! We have been asked so many interesting sizing questions over the years. We are thrilled to answer them because we realize our customer’s time is valuable. Plus we want every customer to have an amazing experience and get an item they will love for years.

VHB Rule #2 Patina is definitely not a bad thing. It’s called character. It’s a result of using all-natural products and quality hardwoods. Over time, solid wood products will naturally develop a sheen which is characteristic of the aging process. This mellowing of the surface is acquired by solid wood products through age, use, dusting, and polishing. It is a good reflection of the age of the item and really cannot be reproduced or enhanced. There is great debate over whether items should be refinished or not. We think that beauty is in the eye of the beholder so it is up to you and what you prefer.

VHB Rule #3 Ask questions. Most vintage stores should be able to advise you on what has been done to the piece. Just like a home, the item may have been modified over time, so be sure to ask. You may just find out a really cool story behind the vintage furniture if you do.

VHB Rule #4: Don’t be afraid to refinish. We have found some of the best pieces require a bit of work. Size, quality and lines are more important to us. If you don’t have the time, space or just don’t feel confident doing it? We would love to help you with our eco-friendly refinishing service.


Tips and Tricks for buying vintage furniture

Hunting for quality pieces can be a whole lot easier if you know what to look for. We’ve put together a little cheat sheet with some quick and dirty tips for your vintage shopping pleasure.

  • Wood and build quality. There is the obvious details which indicate if a piece is from a bygone era:
  • Dove tail joints on drawers:
  • Solid woods: teak, walnut and mahogany are sought after right now. But oak and pine in primitive furniture is also quite striking.
  • Doors, drawers done entirely in solid hard wood.
  • MDF was not manufactured widely until 1966 and while particle board was in use at the turn of the century, it did not get wide spread use in furniture until the 60's.
  • Style: Is it Art Deco? Is it mid-century modern? What about primitive, traditional, French provincial? Having a general idea of what you like, will assist you in your search. Also don't be afraid to mix styles!
  • Is there a mark from a manufacturer or designer? Better quality furniture will often have a manufacturers mark. This is a great place to start your research. You can find out what they were famous for and styles. You can also find out if they took any shortcuts. In addition there may be a mark from the designer. This is usually something to search out. Designer pieces will always have value. Either with collectors or due to their esthetic value.
  • That said, don’t be afraid to mix styles and woods. If you take a look at some of our in store vignettes or images such as these in or you can see that blending woods and/ or styles can enhance the overall esthetic of the room
  • mixing wood styles and tones can add depth and character while enhancing the overall beauty and sophistication of your decor.


  • Finally, if you really love something, buy it. The best thing about vintage is that it’s typically one of a kind; if you adore it, do not let it get away. Trust us, you’ll regret it if you do. Someone else will grab it and it can be years before you encounter another one in the condition and size you are looking for.
The images within this post are from and

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