'It adds instant soul to your home' – Designer Emily Henderson shares her 3 easy tips for shopping the best vintage furniture

Looking to add character to your home through thrifted furniture? Follow these tips to help you source the best vintage finds

living space with vintage chair and chest and Emily Henderson
(Image credit: Emily Henderson/photo Sara Ligorria-Tramp, Getty Images/Jason Kempin/Staff)

Shopping for vintage furniture is one of the best ways to add character to your home. Often, vintage furniture is made from quality materials and can really elevate a space while achieving your desired retro look. 

From midcentury to antique, there are endless styles of vintage furniture to decorate with that can each add depth and interest to your home. But despite the obvious appeal of decorating with vintage, it can be tricky to know where to start if you're not used to shopping this way. Unlike shopping new, there are additional factors to consider to ensure you make the right vintage purchase for your space. 

Thankfully, interior designer Emily Henderson has shared with us some useful advice on sourcing and purchasing vintage pieces. Below, we've rounded up her three tips to follow to ensure you're aware of mistakes to avoid when shopping for thrifted furniture

'It adds instant soul to your home,' Emily tells H&G regarding vintage furniture. 'There’s nothing like finding an awesome vintage piece that will make your home feel unique to you.'

1. Consider any restoration costs

vintage gray dresser with vintage chair

(Image credit: Emily Henderson, photo Kailtin Green)

Before making a vintage furniture purchase, you should be aware of how much it'll cost to do any restoration work that's needed. Depending on the condition of the piece, it can be incredibly costly to bring it back to life, so it's important to weigh this up first. 

'I know a lot of us look at vintage “fixer-upper” pieces and think we can easily bring them back to life or customize them for cheap,' says Emily. 'Sometimes that’s the case but often it’s more expensive or extensive than you think. Try to price out the repairs or customization before you buy. You might realize that it’s more affordable to wait for a piece that's going to require less work.'

Emily Henderson
Emily Henderson

Emily Henderson is Emily Henderson is a stylist, interior designer, HGTV host, and founder of Emily Henderson Design which she's been running for over a decade. Emily provides us with style inspiration every day over on her Instagram, and her blog is a great source of ideas for DIYs and making the most of your space. 

2. Look for standout, unique pieces

floral patterned chaise lounge with gallery wall

(Image credit: Emily Henderson, photo Sara Ligorria-Tramp)

'I really try to make sure that whatever vintage I am buying is something I haven’t really seen before or is something I’ve been wanting for a long time,' says Emily. When shopping vintage, look for unique, standout pieces that you know you'll love for years to come. It can be an investment so to avoid making any costly interior design mistakes, consider how much design interest each piece will add to your home decor ideas. 'Look at interesting shapes and quality materials,' adds Emily. 'That way it’ll be almost impossible to regret.'

3. Mix vintage pieces with modern decor

corner of a room with vintage chest and red modern chair

(Image credit: Emily Henderson, photo Sara Ligorria-Tramp)

When it comes to styling your vintage finds, decorating a room with modern pieces as well as vintage can create balance and ensure the old pieces don't end up dating a room. Before filling a room entirely with vintage pieces, consider which modern pieces can work alongside them for an up-to-date look.

'I’m a big fan of mixing and matching vintage and new pieces,' explains Emily. 'Good accent tables, cabinets, and coffee tables are pretty easy to find and use. Plus they usually don’t need too much updating, unlike upholstery. The balance of using new and vintage is where the magic is for me.'

Decorating with vintage will always be one of the best ways to elevate your space. If you're feeling inspired to follow Emily's advice and see the benefits of decorating this way, we've rounded up where to buy vintage and antique furniture online to help get you started. 

Paint & Color Editor

Emily is H&G's Paint & Color Editor, covering all things color across interior design and home decor. She joined the team in the summer of 2023, having studied Fashion Communication at university before working in various creative roles ahead of making the leap into interiors. She lives in Glasgow where she loves admiring the city's architecture, frequenting her favorite coffee spots, and sourcing vintage furniture for her tenement apartment. Emily's interior style is inspired by the simplicity of midcentury design, mixed with more playful modern pieces that inject small (but bold) doses of color.