5 Tips to Going Vintage
Home decorators crave the unique, which makes it no surprise to any observer of style that vintage is very in. A return to well-worn, well-loved furnishings is evidenced by two books, “The World of Shabby Chic” (Rizzoli, 2015) by Rachel Ashwell and “Patina Style” (Gibbs Smith, 2011, $35) by Brooke and Steve Giannetti. All three authors have found ways to bring their signature styles through different businesses and media, from bed linens to blogs.
Appreciating the history of objects is a natural instict for Ashwell, the face of the “shabby chic” movement that first became popular in the 90s. “My parents were in the flea market business, so they instilled in me an appreciation of collection and quality of details,” she says. “They also taught me how to navigate through a flea market at a very young age.”
This passion for beautiful things led Ashwell to styling for photography shoots and commercials. “I learned the process of making beautiful moments in time and was able to then translate that to my stores,” she says.
For Brooke Giannetti, designing by instinct is her forte while her husband Steve Giannetti is a registered architect. Brooke runs the popular design blog “Velvet and Linen,” and the duo owns a full-service architecture, interior and landscape design firm as well as a home furnishings store.
“We appreciate objects for the memories they hold as well as the purposes they serve in our lives,” Steve Giannetti says.
Why vintage? Simply put, vintage refers to things made in the past. But just being old doesn’t cut it, Ashwell says. “Whether it is the finish of wood or wearing of something – how it gets distressed over time or how linen becomes fluffy or how fabric becomes faded in the sun – the process of how things age over time is my true inspiration,” she says. That’s what drives everything that makes its way into her couture collection.
“Everything that I create has heirloom qualities that enable you to pass on history through things, which is kind of an authentic green way to live, because you’re recycling beautiful products from one generation to the next,” Ashwell says.
Lack of perfection is perfect for the Giannettis. “Vintage style allows us to live beautifully without making our family crazy by embracing the imperfections in our home,” says Brooke Giannetti. “We tend to look for items with classical proportions and slim features that always mix well with each other and can move from room to room.” Steve adds that simple shapes and natural materials keep a space from feeling overly decorated.
When it comes to hard furnishings, Brooke Giannetti suggests sticking to natural materials, such as white oak and pine woods; brass, iron, zinc and bronze metals; and limestone and marble. “They age beautifully. Our interaction with these materials only softens them and makes them look better as they reflect the history of our family life,” she says.
For soft furnishings, Ashwell says velvets and linens are authentically vintage, but people should stay open to anything that catches their eye. “Don’t shy away from fabrics that have holes in them, whether it’s a rug that has a stain on it or a curtain that is faded from the sun,” she says. “You can always dye fabric or add patches.”
“If I find a piece inspiring and it just needs a little repairing or I can find a unique use for a broken item, then I’ll still buy it,” Brooke Giannetti says. “We have a large clock face in our stairway that was once the town clock for the city of Nancy in France and it’s made the perfect addition to our home.”
Ashwell agrees. When it comes to wood furnishings such as tables, chairs and cabinets, she says, think outside the box. For instance, if the legs of a table become rotten, Ashwell might take the top of the table off the legs and put it onto a different set of vintage legs or cut the legs down and create a coffee table.
“I really look at the process of what can be saved in the same way I look at my friendships,” she says. “Say a friendship no longer has all of its original elements, think about what’s still of value and what can be saved and enjoy that piece of it. Don’t discard things just because they’ve lost their original use.”
If you want your space to scream vintage, but you’re not sure where to start, consider these tips:
1. Less is more
Get rid of things that you think you need, but don’t. “That doesn’t mean if you have a box of your mom’s old love letters, those have to go. I’m talking about stuff that’s for the sake of stuff, like 10 lamps in a room, Ashwell says. “Let one or two stand beautifully. When you have beautiful things, you don’t need a load of them.”
2. Paint walls white
While bright colors do indeed wow, Ashwell says mellow colors have much more longevity. “A clean palette is a good place to start, but that doesn’t mean that over time one wall can’t take on wallpaper or a different color, like a pastel or muted smoky palette.”
3. Add drama
Signature pieces, such as a chandelier, instantly create a feeling of grandeur even in a small space, says Ashwell. Finding that dramatic piece can get the ideas rolling for the rest of the space.
4. Bring the outdoors in
Keep in mind garden elements such as cement pots, urns and fountains. “They always have a great patina that they acquire naturally through their time outside,” Brooke Giannetti says. “A pair of aged cement urns in a dining room brings a bit of the garden inside.”
5. Architecture, architecture
Old architectural elements, such as French shutters and vintage columns, add an interesting large-scale element to any room, Steve Giannetti says.