Buying vintage for our homes has gone through various seasons as a trend. It’s been everywhere then over and out again, but it feels like now – there’s a balance available that brings a creative freedom and wide range of options, and Susan Robertson looks at how we harness that to bring the old together with the new in our West End homes.
There is often a blurring of lines in what is described as vintage, and what is antique but in general, vintage items often loosely represent an era, at least 20 years old – so yes – that’s actually the 1980s now! Antiques however need to be 100 years old to merit the term. But the swathes of programmes and articles on the subjects over the years have really helped to familiarise us with the terms and bring a confidence to using mixtures of old and new in our homes.
There’s a softness and an approachability that comes from solid, older items in our homes, maybe it depends on your age but for me, there’s a real appeal about a piece with a story to tell and a statement to make, and I think most people now find the idea of flatpack furniture a little bit depressing. Everyone has their own preferences but you can buy some great, quality pieces that are beautifully crafted and sourced from artisans all over the world now, in the time it would take me to battle with a flatpack instruction manual.
You can go for a genuine antique and source something that really stands up in its own right to make a statement in your room without doing anything to it. Or – you can source a new item that fits the bill well. Alternatively – you can find something you like and try your hand at adapting it a bit yourself. Add a bit of creative flair to something that you find in a charity shop for example, or revisit some of your existing bits and bobs and see if anything can be given a new lease of life.
For a while the concept of upcycling became a bit confused as a dodgy DIY trend that everyone thought they could do, regardless of skillset – so often the idea conjured up images of rickety dressing tables that had been poorly sponged by hand in chalky white paint. Thankfully this is no longer the case and there is an array of information available to help with your own projects, or you can really get the best of both worlds simply by identifying the best designers and stockists working in the area.
So we’re lucky to have some great experts and inspiring shops right here on our doorstep – a favourite browse of mine since my days living in Partick is UP, on Dumbarton Road. Owner Stephen Higgins can turn any old bric-a-brac into cutting edge design statements so if you’re thinking of something a little bit different, nip in here first. There’s an eye-popping range of impeccably upcycled furniture, homeware touches and vintage quirky bits that you can choose from, or if you’re on the hunt for a project – get some great design inspiration from what he’s already done and some expert tips on your own creative ideas. He even stocks the paints for you to try your hand yourself.
I asked Stephen for some tips. He said:
‘Look for the fun pieces. Focus on just adding a single piece of colour or quirky item to any room. It’s important that you don’t overdo it, or it can look contrived. Concentrate on one standout piece to really bring your character into your room.’
Stephen also suggests, ‘Look at things in a slightly different way considering how they can possibly be adapted. For example, could the legs be changed to create a different look, or could you add legs to raise the height and change the function? Could a splash of paint hide any defects and tie the piece into the room’s colour?’
And my favourite piece of advice from Stephen, ‘Forget about what rooms you would normally find pieces in – there are no rules – change it up.’
We often get constrained by conforming to what things were originally built for, by trying too hard to ‘match’ or ‘scheme’ either with colours or styles and we find ourselves caught into the ways that previous trends created their looks or effects and this takes away from the fun and creativity of creating something new so, keep your eye on what you think looks good, and what works for you practically in your home, rather than expected ‘norms’ and that’s when you’ll really make something unique.
Alternatively – have a good rummage about the West End, there are great new places opening up every day, and it’s worth your while to step off your usual routes and have a wander around other corners. I recently dropped into CoLab on Dowanhill Street. It stocks carefully chosen lifestyle brands in a contemporary environment, and you can sit down for coffee while you’re in there. You’ll often find something unique and edgy here, and at the time of writing, they had upcycled, industrial cubes featuring reclaimed film posters which could be used as stools or side tables, and cool industrial mirrors made from upcycled oil drums.
Whatever you do, try to be realistic about your skills and available time. You may end up botching an item that you’ve previously loved by just being a bit over-confident about it – or using the wrong materials. I spent ages sourcing a perfect shaped old writing bureau then spoilt it a bit by impatiently not preparing it properly and, with hindsight, I should have used different paint. So, if you decide to change an existing piece yourself or add a creative touch – double-check you’re doing it right and you have the time, space, and tools you need, and plan your approach carefully and enjoy it. Otherwise – commission Stephen to do it for you so you get the best of both worlds – a one-off design statement tailored to your own space and character.