Not long ago, a reporter asked for my thoughts on decorating with vintage and antique-inspired rugs—dhurries, kilims, etc. You can read the full article here, but it got me thinking about my favorite vintage scores of all kinds. It's no secret that I love things with a past (ahem, my circa-1860 house) and try at least once a year to hit my favorite antiques show, the Brimfield Market. When I travel, I love popping into thrift shops and open-air markets to see what quirky things the locals are unloading. Without fail, the stuff I pick up secondhand always ends up being the stuff people ask about when they come over to visit, so I thought I'd share my top ten favorite vintage pieces and some sources for pre-loved things—just in time for flea-market season.
1. The blue rug
This was our first, and probably biggest, vintage purchase, and it came from the Brimfield market. We desperately needed a rug for our parlor (top shot above), and it stayed there for about four years. The great thing about Oriental rugs like this is that, while they can come off as formal and proper, they're actually super-resilient and great for homes with kids. If a rug is 50+ years old, there's almost nothing a toddler can do to it--spills, muddy sneakers, using it as a runway for toy planes--that it hasn't survived before. A dark and complex color pattern helps conceal splotches, too. Today it lives in our dining room (second shot above), which we painted Benjamin Moore's Gentleman's Gray to match, and even the occasional dropped spaghetti noodle doesn't cramp its style.
2. The hallway runner
When we bought the blue rug, we bargained with the seller and got him to throw in this runner in lieu of lowering his price. Good move, no? It looks as good today as the day we brought it home.
3. The bathroom chandelier
A couple of years later, after renovating our master bathroom, we went back to Brimfield and found this chandelier. I have no idea whether it's an authentic anything or its provenance, but it sparkles like mad and looks great with our other hotel-luxe inspired finishes, so I don't care.
4. The church print
While on vacation last summer, Dave and I wandered into the Hospital Thrift Shop on Nantucket, and walked out with armloads of little decor pieces. My favorite was this print of an old church, simply because it reminds me of the church where we got married. The price tag? $3, but apparently it was "Wacky Wednesday" at the shop, so I got it for $1.50. Yesssssss.
5. The ink block
This wooden block currently serves no purpose other than looking cool on my bedroom mantel. Hand-carved wooden blocks like these are traditionally used in India to make block-print textiles, which I also love. (Making my own block-print fabric is currently #1,974 on my to-do list.) I got this at the Brimfield show about two years ago.
6. The Turkish (I think) rug
We got this bad boy at—you guessed it—Brimfield, thinking it might work in our entryway, and it was only $165. It's too big for that space, which is why it's currently being used to drape over an ugly file cabinet in Dave's office. Maybe we'll put it in the mud room, if we ever finish our mud room. It's a not-quite-flatweave, with barely any pile, so I think it'll be good in a high-traffic space.
7. The definitely-Turkish rug
It took forever to find this guy, but I got him from an Etsy seller based in Istanbul. He's wool, ever-so-slightly shaggy, and the perfect size for our master bathroom. When I want the space to look all put together, I put some coral flowers in a blue vase on the sink. Puuurrrrty.
8. The Custom house print
A few weeks ago, I was in California shooting a home for my book, and I went into a decor shop called Bon Bon looking for pieces with personality. This vintage 1974 lithograph caught my eye as I was leaving the store—and it was marked down 50%. I had it shipped home, and I love it irrationally. You'll see him in my book, 'cause he looks great leaned on a long, narrow console.
9. Our Lady of the Loo
When renovating our kitchen, we added a tiny powder room not much larger than a confessional box. When it came time to decorate it, of course I filled it with a crazy blue marbled wallpaper, because I have no restraint, and then put up this odd Virgin Mary-esque portrait I found on Etsy. I'm itching to re-frame her—the brown wood isn't doing it for me—but she still makes me smile every time I go in that room.
10. The cockatoo
I bought this on Chairish after posting about the parrot trend, and I love it to death.
I could go on and on. There's the sailboat painting I bought online from a seller in Sweden. A kilim rug my husband picked up in Greece. Some Oriental scatter rugs I use as floor mats in my kitchen. Vintage pieces just make a home feel special and interesting, IMHO, and you can bet I'll be featuring a ton of them in my upcoming book.
My most frequent sources, for now, are:
- Brimfield (clearly)
- Wellfleet Flea Market: For textiles and vintage coffee table books
- Etsy: For vintage rugs and frameable prints
- Chairish: For decor and vintage prints
- Craigslist: For furniture with good bones that's in need of a paint job or new upholstery
- Woven Abode and Kennedy Rose Interiors: For small vintage rugs
If I get the chance, here are some markets that I've been meaning to visit at some point:
Rose Bowl Flea Market: A midcentury and boho-decor mecca in L. A.
Marche aux Puces in Paris: I'd have to spend about two weeks here. Not kidding.
Portobello Market: A good excuse for a London trip
Todd Farm: A local spot I need to hit some upcoming Sunday
What are your favorite sources for vintage? Are there any shops or shows you'd plan a trip around? if so, leave a comment below!