In Praise of Old Stuff

Previously published in the Hughson Chronicle-Denair Dispatch.


Vintage at the Yard is on September 16th. I look forward to this event all month. Let me tell you why.

I love old stuff.

  1. Old stuff is cheap: look for something a little worn, a little dented, and you can get it cheap. Get it from someone who does not know its value or does not value it, and you can get it cheap. Do not buy anything wobbly. I learned from experience. The time and effort it will take to correct it might make it no longer affordable. Do avoid typical antique stores whose antiques are in pristine condition with certificates. Do look for antique stores in smaller towns to find the deals.
  2. Old stuff is kid friendly: generally made of real wood all the way through, “gently distressed.” The extra distressing my kids give to it will not be noticed. The additional damage becomes part of the piece’s story.
  3. Old Stuff incorporates color: I bought a lithograph from a booth run by one of the friends of the Four Friends Market. Her booth was a delight to the eyes with its 1950’s prints, dishes, and handkerchiefs. In the last Crate and Barrel catalog, I could not find one color, except perhaps navy blue (less colorful than its equally popular buddy, indigo blue). The movies may have been in black and white, but the wallpaper and bathrooms were not!
  4. Old stuff is generally a thing of craftsmanship: this depends on the era. Midcentury pieces will not hold up as well as early 20th century Amish furniture. Still, their factory lines were better done than many of ours, which have learned how to maximize the look while minimizing the cost. I want a thing made of real wood, not particle board, with real screws or dovetail joints, not bitty dowels and a dab of glue. I want to know a maker sat on it before sending it out into the world to be trampled by my children. I can know this when I know it survives more than 40 years before it came to me.
  5. Old stuff are things of beauty: minimalism is great and nothing beats modern drawer mechanisms, but the carved details in old wood make for stunning texture as you look across the room. They add depth to the visual space, give the eye a place to rest as it travels around its view. Midcentury furniture has this too, even though it is more modern in style. The look is interesting. That matters more than if it is French, Art Déco or modern. Someone put thought into how this thing would look. I cannot always say that with the mass-produced decor.
  6. Old stuff has a soul: not a literal, vegetative or rational soul, but there is a warmth and heart because this old thing existed around people who lived their lives around it. It has a story and the story of those who owned it and parted with it live on in the life/existence of this old thing. That is why antiques give warmth to décor not found with the all-new, store-bought furniture.

I try not to go too far in one direction. My goal is to create a mix in whatever area I am decorating. That mix becomes visual interest and makes a space work. It does not matter whether I have carpet, hardwood, laminate or tile floors. Antiques can work in any space.

If I owned an older home, the house itself is an antique. I would use antiques from a different era or use fewer antiques in general and let the house speak for itself. Putting all 1950’s antiques in an unrenovated 1950’s home will look like a time capsule.

My 2006 home pairs well with almost any era of antique because its factory standard build is a blank slate. I try to stick with a general time period/style in a room to make more visual sense. If design tells a story, it has got to make sense.

In old stuff, you can find the romance or the whimsy we are sorely lacking in this serious, information soaked world. My home is my refuge. I want to invite these antiques to be part of our story.


For further reading on the idea of things with a soul, take a look at this beautiful story about a woman, a boy, and a piano. And check out the blog, Miss Mustard Seed, as she tackles a new home with a new style, still uniquely hers.

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