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Design Tips: Vintage Buying Ideas

Updated: Feb 23, 2023

One of the questions I get asked the most is where do I find my vintage treasures. The truth is, they have been collected over more than 30 years of trawling car boot sales, charity shops, online auctions, flea markets ... even spotting things dumped at the side of the road or in skips.

If you're new to vintage collecting, then it's difficult to know where to start. I know when I first started buying I probably bought far too much - I think at one point I had more old tea sets than the Royal Family! But over the years I learned to sort the good stuff from the not so good stuff; to be more picky about what I buy; and think I have created a curated home that is just perfect for me.

BUYING ONLINE: Go back a few years and eBay was a veritable vintage hunting ground and over the years I have found some amazing finds. But for many, the idea of an online auction can be a little daunting and more often that not the "buy it now" option can prove quite pricey.

Now one of my favourite places to stalk is Facebook Marketplace. Without the posting costs (make sure you're looking for things in your local area) items can be far more affordable. Search for items such as "vintage chair" or "old cabinet" and even have a look under "chester drawers" ... yes, I've seen many an old treasure listed with a spelling mistake!

This glass cabinet in my kitchen, above, was a steal for £10 and listed only a couple of miles away from my home. It was exactly what I was looking for and thankfully I managed to squeeze in my car. The peacock chair in my lounge, below, was also a great buy at £40. I'd wanted one for so long but was reluctant to pay over the odds for one.

CAR BOOT SALES: So the car boot season may be over for a few months (unless you're lucky enough to have an indoor one down the road) but I'm counting the days until I can get back out in the early morning and have a good hunt through house clearance boxes.

It's true that the bargains aren't as easy to find these days and the professional vintage sellers will be up at the crack of dawn to hunt out the best ones; so if you want to find some real treasures then you need to there early too. Never be afraid to haggle, especially if you are buying a few things from the same person. And make sure you take cash with you; pound coins are most welcome.

Over the years I've scored some real beauties at car boot sales and a few of them can be seen in the photo below - Sir Gerald Kelly's stunning Saw Ohn Nuyun Burmese print (I'm lucky enough to own the other one too) and the beautiful 1950s floral fringed cushion.

FLEA MARKETS: There are few better joys than spending a bank holiday having a good mooch! My favourite is Malvern Flea, held throughout the year and home to hundreds of indoor and outdoor stalls selling everything from furniture and artworks to jewellery and clothing.

I tend to go with an idea of what I want - say an old oil portrait or a religious chalk statue - and try not to just scatter buy and come home with more than I need (it's very easy to get carried away!). My advice, if you see something you love, it's within budget, then buy it. The adage "you always regret the vintage you didn't buy" is so true - I'm still haunting but things that didn't come home with me because I decided to have a think about it only top return and find it had been sold.

PUTTING THEM TOGETHER: I'm a great believer that if you love your treasures then some how they'll just work together in a room. I love surrounding myself with colourful frippery, and my bedroom is a perfect example of this.

The beautiful yellow drawers were from eBay a wee while ago, but only cost a fiver; I spotted the distressed green filing drawers thrown out at the side of a road; the Joanne Pemberton-Longman print above the fireplace came from a car boot sale; while the stunning French antique floral quilt was from a seller on Instagram. And if you look on the mantlepiece you'll see one of my Kokeshi Doll collections - sadly, the price of these have shot up recently, but that still doesn't stop me looking out for a bargain.


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