During the last few years there has been a growing popularity in old furniture, some of which used to be classed as old junk, suddenly became trendy to purchase one persons cast offs and either renovate or make something else from it. It is now socially acceptable without the fear of being branded an eco warrior, hard-up (you can’t afford new) or a bo-ho hippy. Thank goodness for that.
Since the 1970’s I have enjoyed delving into people’s skips, visiting junk shops and auctions to acquire pieces of furniture. I have been grateful too, for other peoples cast offs, although I think they were glad to be rid of it, most of which I still own and enjoy. The hours spent repairing, stripping, waxing or painting, transforming a tired and neglected item into something wonderful has been rewarding, and my home is an eclectic mix of antique, vintage, retro, salvage and a little ‘shabby chic’ thrown in too. I don’t think I have any ‘utility’ pieces at the moment!
However, when items of furniture are restored, up-cycled, re-cycled, re-purposed, per-loved of whatever terminology you use, how are the categories defined?
Antique – Furniture which is 100 years old and older.
Vintage – Apparently, this is anything older than 20 years old. Or maybe classed as ‘Vintage 1920 or 30’s’ stating the decade in which it was produced.
Utility – Furniture produced in the U.K. during and just after World War Two, which was made to cope with shortages of raw materials.
Salvage – Saved goods from damage or destruction, often restored or made into other useful items (re-purposed).
Shabby Chic– Items often heavily painted through the years, with many layers showing through time worn areas. Items of furniture are painted and distressed to achieve this appearance.
Retro – Of a certain style in the recent past. This term of classification is somewhat blurred with the vintage classification. Retro to me is 1950’s, 60’s, 70’s, or 80’s, a certain style of furniture of that particular decade. But if ‘vintage’ is classed as anything over 20 years old, then I’m at a loss.
I have recently read scathing remarks from pretentious ( and very successful) people who have slated ‘those who purchase wormy junk finds and just slap paint on them and call the ‘shabby chic’ has no place in our home.’ Items which are repaired, restored, re-used and re-loved is a good thing. It takes a lot of time, skill and work to breathe new life from a once discarded item into something you love. Each piece of furniture is different, and whether painted, distressed, hand embellished, or used decoupage to decorate it, the item will be unique, a bespoke one off. Duncan Grant and Vanessa Bell were two of the first people I know of, who not only painted their furniture, but also the doors and walls of their home ‘Charleston’. There are also local small businesses who will restore furniture on your behalf, tailored to your individual preference.