Rocking retro: How to pick the perfect pre-loved furniture for this trend

What do the words vintage furniture make you think of? A crocheted teapot cover? Dreary floral patterns? If vintage furniture evokes a general feeling of discontent like this poor hound, you need to think again.

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Retro or vintage furniture doesn’t mean bad. There’s a reason why appliance brands like KitchenAid remain so popular. One of the key principles of good design is to keep it simple, but iconic. It helps if iconic people like Julia Child calls you marvellous, but a recognizable design is going to make more of an impression than a trending hashtag.

But rocking a retro look with pre-loved furniture can go from cool to kitsch very quickly. You start off with a pop art poster for some extra colour and you end up with a kitchen looking like it's from an adult colouring book when you only had three sharp pencils.

Getting this retro vibe right can be incredibly rewarding. With an Instagram-able look that’ll make you pop on your polka dots and pretend you're in a diner, this décor style is ideal if you’re conscious of not wanting to buy more stuff. It might feel a bit like playing Tetris with second-hand furniture, but the rules are simple. 

Pick your palette

Remember what we said about iconic? The colour palette is essential - iconic if you will. Mid-century décor lends itself to softer colours, but don’t fear to be bold. For a single room, contrast colours can work well. If you pan on giving your whole house a makeover, tread carefully.

There are some great tools out there to stop your house looking like a chameleon on a Rubik’s cube. If you’re not sure, swatch, swatch and swatch some more.

If you’ve set your heart on second-hand furniture you spotted online, use the primary colours from that statement piece to guide your colour picking.  

Mix and match until you find the right fit. Pretend you’ve just discovered your mom’s blue eyeshadow and pink blush for the first time. Play around and make it wild, make it loud, until you find something that syncs with your groove.

Explore colours you’ve never considered before. If it all goes to hell in a handcart there’s always a can of white paint to help your walls recover from the trauma. 

The clash

Not the band. (They’re not that vintage.) Even if you’re not going full retro, clashing is where buying second-hand furniture has a big advantage.  The days of matching your dining chairs are long gone, but clashing décor with second-hand furniture takes things to the next level.

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Second-hand furniture won’t always come in a set, so you have to adapt. Avoid violence on the eyes by not going overboard mixing and matching patterns of fabric, but don’t be afraid of having your lounge chairs be different.

Strong shapes

The 1950s was good at shapes – and that’s just the waist clinchers. Modern design favours clean, straight lines, but retro second-hand furniture is much bolder. Like the flared polka dot skirts that defined the fashion of that era, everything from chairs to TVs were much more extravagant back in the day.

If you’re decorating a tiny space, larger pieces of pre-loved furniture won’t always slot in so well. But some of the best second-hand furniture pieces are the oddly shaped end tables.

end table second hand buy online

Awkward corner in your tiny lounge? There’s no app, but there probably is a pre-loved solution for that. 

Wow with walls

Despite what social media tries to tell you, feature walls have been a thing since way before an influencer hashtagged it. It’s all about contrast. Use textures, patterns, décor or simply, a different colour.

If you’ve not quite reached the retro level of reciting lines from Grace Kelly films in your kitten heels, go for a lightbulb or two.

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Word of warning on these: just because they look cool doesn’t mean they are cool for the environment. Edison bulbs are far less energy efficient, so use sparingly and only as a décor piece – try not to rely on them for lighting up a room entirely.

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Retro art can also make a strong statement, just don’t get carried away. You don’t want your lounge looking like you’re planning to start an online second-hand furniture shop of your own, do you?

Second-hand furniture shopping

Browsing antique furniture shops on a lazy afternoon is idyllic, but it’s an unlikely reality for many. Whether that’s because of a global pandemic or because there’s a lot of life stuff to do. Quaint little shops piled high with curios and other trinkets aren’t easy to navigate either. So while we might favour the décor trends of times gone by, we don’t have to put up with its (lack of) technology – even if typewriters make great bits of décor.  

Online second-hand furniture shopping is far more convenient – and you can do it while pretending to send an e-mail from your phone while nodding convincingly in the general direction of whoever is trying to talk to you.

Go for décor

If you’re not quite ready for the Extreme Makeover Vintage Edition, you can start small. Second-hand décor items are easy to find online – or in somebody’s attic if you want to keep things authentic.

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Jazz up some old suitcases – it’s not like anyone is travelling anywhere any time soon. Or do a show and tell for the millennials in your life and try get their heads around the idea that we used to have to wait before we saw what selfies looked like.

You do you, boo

Most important of all, create a space that represents you. And if that means a plastic shower curtain as a room divider or aesthetically pleasing chars that are a nightmare to sit on, it doesn’t matter.

refurnishr retro furniture shopping ideas

If you have to go for these chairs, though, do consider the posterior of others. Add as many kitsch scatter cushions as you like. And when you think you’ve added enough, add some more. Nobody wants to leave the couch with lines imprinted as a reminder of the discomfort they had to suffer through. 

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