There’s something very appealing about buying vintage fabric or a preloved piece of furniture – it’s often cheaper than buying them new, and pieces that are aged with time and marked by the hands of those who cherished them before us can give our homes added personality. However, buying vintage homewares can be daunting, especially if you’re not the type who enjoys scouring dusty op-shops in search of elusive treasure, then taking the risk that it will fit in with your decor – or even last the journey home.
The good news is that the traditional approach to buying vintage furniture and accessories is changing. Gone are the poky corner shops and the ‘take it as it comes’ mentality. Many companies now showcase their wares in inspiring settings, and will also restore and modify furniture, accessories and soft furnishings to create a perfect fit for your home. To further ease the transition, many vintage pieces can be given a contemporary makeover to suit your interior style.
*Check out our vintage furniture gallery*
It takes a certain kind of person to get excited about doors, but Brooke Crowle and Tim McGuigan’s unbridled passion for salvaged objects, decorative doors and architectural hardware is good news for renovators. Based in Sydney’s Leichhardt, their sprawling warehouse and showroom, , is filled with exquisite antique and vintage doors, shuttered windows, grilles and fireplaces from around the world.
Keen travellers, the pair picks up items on trips around Australia and during visits to France, India and South America. “We came back from a holiday in France to find that our photos consisted solely of pictures of doors,” laughs Brooke.
The shop is a renovator’s paradise – and is particularly popular in light of the current trend for infusing contemporary interiors with unusual vintage pieces. Here you’ll find huge decorative doors from a French chateau, stunning Venetian windows and imposing cast-iron fireplaces. But what takes the shop from the fantastical to the practical is a comprehensive restoration and modification service, which takes place in the on-site workshop or is outsourced to a network of specialist craftspeople. Doors and grilles can be levelled and trimmed to size, re-finished and re-painted using traditional methods, and refitted with new handles and hinges that match the originals. Tables and cabinets can be modified with new tops, shelves and drawers, you can bring in your old mirrors to be re-gilded, or even have a front door or fireplace fully restored.
The process of incorporating older fittings and furniture into a contemporary setting is not always straightforward, and as Tim admits, “There’s a fine line between rubbish and a beautifully aged piece.” But it’s certain that this team will continue to be driven by their enthusiasm, and to search for seductive items that will stand the test of time.
When David Page studied industrial design in London, he couldn’t picture himself “designing washing machines and colostomy bags”. It was his love of antique and classical furniture that led him to his true vocation – redesigning classic pieces with a contemporary twist – and so (named after his Australian-born wife and business partner, Nicole) was born.
The two met while working at a chain of antiques stores in London, and brought their design concept – and list of contacts from the Notting Hill antiques mecca, Portobello Road – to Sydney in 1992. Most of their pieces are sourced in the UK, and they still can’t contain their delight when a container of furniture, fabrics and accessories arrives on our shores. “It’s just like Christmas morning,” says Nicole.
Fans of David and Nicole’s imaginative designs flock to their Surry Hills shop for desirables such as 1930s wing chairs backed with Union Jack flags, mid-century cabinets lined with vintage wallpaper and maps, and imaginative lighting. While reconditioned vintage pieces account for a significant part of the stock, David also produces contemporary versions of classic designs, such as traditional leather armchairs and Chesterfield sofas. “Chairs invariably come in leather or cream,” he says, “but to us, they can be as exciting as a fabulous coat.” To prove the point, newer pieces can be upholstered in everything from tweed and pinstriped suiting fabrics to textured linens.
Many items can be tweaked to suit your scheme, whether it’s by way of colour, decoration or material. “I want people to fall in love with my designs,” says David, “and still love them in fifty years’ time.”
In every interior designer’s address book there are a few secrets they’d rather not divulge, and is one of them. This one-stop decorating shop run by Jill Casey offers used soft furnishings from all the big names – Jane Churchill, Colefax and Fowler, and Warner Fabrics, to name a few – at a fraction of the original price. Better still, an on-site alteration service allows you to customise curtains, upholstery fabrics and bedheads.
Jill left an office job to pursue her passion for vintage furnishings seven years ago and was joined by business partner Prue Gardiner two years later. Prue focused on the decorating side, offering advice on styling homes, and has recently set up her own business – PG Interiors.
While Decorating Recycled is best known for its vintage curtains and upholstery fabrics, an eclectic mix of second-hand furniture and accessories is also available. Lighting is another key area, as Decorating Recycled can fit old and new lamps with custom-made shades.
The double-fronted shop in Sydney’s Rose Bay has a relaxed atmosphere and you can easily spend hours picking your way through an interesting mix of vintage finds. The business is run on a consignment basis, so whether you’re looking to buy or sell, is one address worth holding on to.
Additional sources for customised vintage pieces and services:
91 Bourke Street, Woolloomooloo, NSW 2011
2 Danks Street, Waterloo, NSW 2017
12 Byres Street, Newstead, Brisbane QLD 4006
18 Sumners Road, Darra, Queensland 4074
63 Cardigan Place, Albert Park, VIC 3206
1-3 Inkerman Street, St Kilda, VIC 3182
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