When we first moved into our cozy apartment, we loved the bedroom with its two walls of windows. It made the space seem bright, open, and larger than its actual measurements. I knew, however, with two walls occupied by windows and a third by a long closet and the door, that furniture would be a challenge.
THE BEDROOM STORAGE ISSUE
Dressers in front of the windows was absolutely not going to happen, which meant that I needed to utilize either side of the bed for storage rather than nightstands, and even that space was minimal. I accepted that I would be getting two cheap dressers from Wayfair that perfectly fit the measurements we had to work with. Why invest in pieces when hopefully I’ll have more space one day soonish?
However, a Wayfair backorder date that just kept getting pushed back and my OCD tendencies that make living out of a box impossible made it clear that my inexpensive interim solution for small space storage was not going to happen. This gave me time to think about what exactly I was going for in our bedroom. Did I really want to spend $200 on a dresser that I would look at every day and think “I can’t wait until I can get real furniture”? At that point, I decided that small space or not, I was going to take the plunge and find pieces that worked with our limited measurements but that I also loved and could repurpose in a future home even when we have more room.
WHY GO VINTAGE
As I started looking around, it became clear that not only would I be unable to find the sizes I needed at more conventional stores like Crate and Barrel or West Elm, but anything that was remotely close to what I wanted was not only absurdly priced, it lacked a bit of personality and character that I wanted to find if investing in a piece for the long term.
That’s when I started poking around on Craigslist, Etsy, and websites like One Kings Lane and 1st Dibs. I realized that a few things were working in my advantage in going the vintage route. One, the measurements of vintage furniture tend to be a bit smaller. Two, the prices were not quite as high as what you’d find on new furniture. Don’t get me wrong, well made and well maintained vintage furniture isn’t cheap, but in general it’s a bit less than buying a dresser new. Three, the quality is often higher in vintage. The pieces that are still on the market today and in good condition (I’m not a DIY girl, sorry) tend to be solid wood. And, lastly, you can find a variety of styles with such remarkable details that they are easily identifiable in their provenance yet timeless at the same time.
SHOPPING ON ETSY
Who hasn’t purchased from Etsy before? Jewelry, paper goods, home items. You can find it all. However, I’d never even thought to look on Etsy for furniture until I started shopping for our apartment.
One afternoon I decided to type in “lingerie chest” since I knew that I needed something tall and skinny for my side of the bed. Pages and pages of results came up and I quickly started learning all of the different decades, brands (Henry Link is now a personal favorite), and styles. I compared delicate chinoiserie with sturdy campaign styles and eventually settled on this 1970’s chest which I thought to be a happy balance of detail and presence.
I realized when searching for my perfect lingerie chest that it’s necessary to contact most sellers to find shipping information, but that’s where you can build a relationship and negotiate. For this particular chest, the seller was able to come down on the shipping cost because she already had a truck coming through to do a pick up that week. Not only did I have the chest within a week, but the shipping ended up half as much as initially quoted. Of course, it’s worth noting, shipping will be expensive, but it’s worth it when you find the piece you’ve been searching high and low for.
Also, when talking with the seller, you can ask for customizations if they are someone who refinishes the furniture themselves. Often they can change the color, the finish, or shine brass pulls for a minimal additional cost.
SHOPPING IN VINTAGE AND ANTIQUE STORES
Another great resource for finding vintage furniture is of course vintage and antique stores. Not surprisingly these will often come with a lot of digging, but is that really that different from Etsy? Plus, you can see the pieces in person before you purchase, which is always preferred.
When I was looking for these two pieces, I spent hours scouring an antiques mall in Richmond, and I would absolutely recommend finding the largest antiques mall that you can. With so many booths in so many styles, you have a high chance of finding exactly what you’re looking for at a reasonable price. Depending on the style you’re looking for you, you can often find booths within antiques malls and entire antique stores dedicated to a particular era. Mid-century furniture is certainly having a moment,
and just googling “mid-century furniture in dc” will turn up pages of stores and sellers in the area that specialize in this style.
The dresser I found actually came from my aunt who refinishes and sells vintage furniture in Richmond. I was on the hunt for a dresser that measured 32″ at the widest, which seemed an almost impossible task. It couldn’t be too feminine since it was going on Adam’s side of the bed, and it needed to be big enough to serve as his only storage beyond the closet. My aunt happened to have this two part dresser waiting to be refinished, and she painted the exterior edges white to achieve the mid-century look we were hoping for. You can find her other pieces at West End Antiques Mall and online at C.SJ for the Home.
ANY OTHER VINTAGE FURNITURE LOVERS?
Do any of my readers also love finding amazing vintage furniture pieces? What have been some of your favorite discoveries? Let me know in the comments and let me know if you have any other secrets for finding stunning antique and vintage pieces, particularly at great prices.