Designer Tip: Bring on the Vintage!

Hi!  I’m Karen- interior designer and house flipper over at Copper Dot Interiors.  I’m happy to be here sharing some tips on how to channel your favorite HGTVers and take your home to the next level!

Take a good look at any room by Joanna Gaines or Emily Henderson.  While these two HGTV stars have very different aesthetics, their rooms all have one thing in common.  Let’s take a look and see if you can spot what I see!

1: Fixer Upper: Craftsman Remodel //2: Fixer Upper, Fresh Beginning //3: Emily Henderson Instagram

Yes, most designs from Joanna and Emily have neutral colors, wooden touches, and a variety of textures… but the common thread in ALL their spaces is at least one vintage item.  Did you spot them in the spaces above?  When done right, they don’t scream at you, yet have such an impact.  The standout vintage elements in the spaces above are brick fireplace and vintage feedsack pillows in the first image, the white distressed sideboard in the second image, and the leather side chair  and mid-century sofa (just to name a couple) in the last image.  As an interior designer, I’m always suggesting ways for my clients to take their spaces to the next level and my most common recommendation is vintage touches!


So what’s the magic about vintage pieces?  No one really wants to live in a room that looks like you bought it all straight off the furniture showroom floor, but why?  The furniture pieces are well curated and coordinate well (usually), yet it still feels cold…. something’s missing.  Character, personality, and history!  These issues are easily solved with a few vintage touches.


Character:  Perfection is unattainable.  Trust me…. I’m a recovering perfectionist.  Even a brand new floor stays unblemished for approximately 3 miliseconds once it’s walked on.  I’ve learned to embrace that imperfections are what make something special.  I’m not talking about a shabby-chic, fake distressed, deliberately imperfect piece of furniture.  I’m talking about a lovingly worn vintage leather chair, a slightly tarnished antique silver tray, or a marked-up wooden children’s shoe form like I have on my living room shelves below.  Worn, imperfect elements are the perfect balance to a sleek modern glass coffee table, a sculptural white vase, or a chic, clean-lined sofa.

Personality:  What do you have in the space that’s unique to you?  I love HomeGoods and Target’s home department just as much as anyone.  Maybe even more than most, BUT the brass planter that you think is sooo cool (which it probably is!) might also find it’s way into your neighbor or best friend’s home.  I’m not saying to stay away from the planter at all- in fact, buy the planter! Buy one for ALL of your friends!  Just make sure that along with that planter, you also have something in your space that sets it apart.  Even if all of your friends have the same planter, you’ll be the only one with it sharing a shelf with a vintage hand vase that you found at an estate sale and painted white.

History:  New is boring.  A new house with new furniture and new decor may be beautiful to some, but it will still have a somewhat empty feeling.  There’s no history!  I know there might be some of you who totally disagree with me on this one, but I LOVE being in a space, knowing that it has a story to tell and wondering what it could be!  Let’s use the example of the ikat chair above.  A new chair in a similar fabric would totally work in it’s place color-wise and scale-wise, however this chair is like an old wise man with a story to tell.  On it’s surface, it’s an antique chair that I reupholstered while taking an upholstery class.  Before I gave it my own story, it had another life covered in red velvet stripes in a friend’s grandfather’s formal living room.  Even if you didn’t know any of this about the chair, is has an inherent warmth to it.  When you put a piece of furniture with a history (whether you know it’s real story or not) into a new space, it instantly softens the sterile newness.

Fixer Upper, Rustic Home Office

Next time you’re watching Fixer Upper, put up your antique radar and see how many you spot.  Joanna is a master at sneaking vintage items into her designs seamlessly.  Whether you’re hoping to step your design game up a notch with a full redesign or just add a new touch or two, might I suggest something vintage?  You won’t regret it!


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