If you’re a sucker for a vintage find but can’t sort the wood from the chaff, the gems from the junk, read on for a toolbox full of tips from a professional.
It’s a familiar feeling. You’re driving home and see a classic sideboard on the side of the road, or trawling a vintage market on your long weekend and fall in love with a generous armchair…
How do you know whether to take the plunge and invest in your new love, or cast a knowing eye over it and keep moving?
We talk to Dave Beeman from iconic Sydney vintage emporium Vampt Vintage Design to learn how to look before we leap.
What to look for in a vintage piece
“The advantage of hunting for vintage pieces is that you have a 70-year range of designs to choose from,” says Dave. “And they have been made to last so have already stood the test of time if they are still standing.”
“After 17 years we still see things we have never seen that blow our mind,” Dave enthuses. “Quality of the materials and joinery is probably the best thing to seek.”
"The most important thing to consider is we all have limited space and we don't want to fill it with just anything."Dave Beeman
How to spot the potential in a roadside find
“A roadside find is only worth grabbing if it’s something worth restoring,” Dave warns. “Condition is a big factor - if it's waterlogged it's probably finished.”
“Upholstery and restoration are at times quite costly to do, so if it’s not a piece you need or want to invest time, effort and money into then maybe take it to auction and see what you get for your effort.”
"Look for something you need, then find something you love and invest in it. You never regret buying something you love and get to enjoy in everyday life."
The secret tell-tale signs to uncover a gem in the junk
Look for the piece that stands out or catches your eye. “If it’s a recognisable shape, has a maker’s stamp of some sort, is well made and solid wood (like a mid-century teak) or is in good enough condition to be cleaned up and ready to use - then its happy days!” says Dave.
"You could be lucky to find one of these around,” ventures Dave. “These (below) are the original TH Brown blackwood bar stools made in South Australia. Now back into production and an Australian design classic that was rarely, if at all copied.”
“This is a great example of a classic mid-century design by one of the best,” says Dave of this Danish-made Hans Wegner GE236 sofa by Getama (below). “The solid oak frame, sprung cushions for support and posture perfect design is not a street find piece but is a great example of being able to recognise quality.”
Top tips for finding the best vintage pieces
“Do your research,” says Dave. "Work out what you like and what you need, then research and seek help from a professional. Search Instagram and websites of your local stores and see what you like, then go and try things out.”
As a vintage furniture specialist, Dave can usually find you’re looking for and estimate its value before you invest time in a lengthy search.
“Something like these shoe racks may appear if you were really lucky,” says Dave, warning that the shelves could be in pieces or have, wheels missing etc. “Scout around in the store for all the pieces to save costly replacements.”
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