Should you buy vintage lighting? These are the things to consider, according to interior designers

Interiors that mix old and new are all the rage, but should you buy vintage lighting? According to interior designers, you absolutely should!

Should you buy vintage lighting
(Image credit: JH Designs/Barker and Stonehouse)

Vintage decor effectively adds character to a scheme, but should you buy vintage lighting? While they come in quirky designs and add unique appeal, the safety side of things has many people questioning whether introducing these older fixtures is a good idea.

There's no denying that introducing the right lighting ideas can truly transform a room. From beautiful fixtures to the right ambiance, there are many ways to add style and atmosphere.

Decorating with vintage is an ideal way to add charm and personality to a space, but is it so easy to choose old lighting fixtures and make them fit for use today? We've asked the experts whether or not you should buy vintage lighting and the things you need to consider.

Should you buy vintage lighting?

Vintage wall sconces in a living room

(Image credit: JH Designs)

There's no denying that our love for buying vintage homeware has increased tenfold in recent years – from furniture to decor, no scheme is quite complete without a mix of old and new. But it seems vintage lighting is one area people are more hesitant to dive into.

'Buying vintage lighting is a fantastic idea! It adds a unique character and charm to any space that modern fixtures often simply can't replicate,' says interior designer Lauren Gilberthorpe, who has experience in introducing vintage lighting to traditional properties.

'Each piece has a story or history behind it, which can be a great conversation starter and add a sense of nostalgia and authenticity to your home. Plus, vintage lighting can be an eco-friendly choice as it promotes recycling and reusing existing materials,' she adds.

Vintage lighting is also incredibly versatile, both in design and the spaces it can be introduced to. 'One-of-a-kind vintage lighting can deliver impact to any space by adding character, color, and patina. Just as a contemporary light fixture can give an instant shot of modernity to a traditional room, a vintage piece can add substance, texture, and gravitas to an otherwise contemporary space,' says Anthony Barzilay Freund, editorial director at 1stDibs.

The breadth of designs is vast when it comes to vintage lighting. From retro shapes and colors to unique patina and interesting patterns, there's no denying vintage lighting's ability to add a unique touch to a scheme. 'Vintage lighting comes in a range of styles, periods, origins, materials, and shapes, from iconic hand-painted Delft blue and white table lamps to biomorphic shell or mushroom lamps,' he adds.

What should you consider when buying vintage lighting?

Buying vintage lighting offers a wealth of visually appealing benefits, but it's not quite as simple as purchasing new fixtures. There's lots to consider, from both a style perspective and a practical one.

Is it in good condition?

Hallway with vintage ceiling lights

(Image credit: Lauren Gilberthorpe Interiors)

It might seem like an obvious point, but it's important to check the condition of the vintage lighting, especially if you're purchasing online and can't look at the piece in person. The condition covers everything from the wear and tear to the electrics.

'When purchasing vintage lighting – whether from an antique shop, consignment store, or even from Facebook Marketplace – it's important to verify that the lights are in working condition unless you are prepared to invest in repairs,' says Kailee Blalock and Taylor Troia, co-founders of House of Hive Design Co.

If the piece does need restoring, electrically or otherwise, consider whether or not it's worth the cost. Could you purchase one in better condition for the same price? Also, remember to check the condition of the lamp itself. 'Check for any damage, such as frayed wires or broken parts, and consider if it's worth the repair costs,' advises Lauren.

While almost any lamp can be rewired or have its electricals fixed, damage to a lamp base or shade might not be so easy, so take this into consideration when sourcing and checking vintage lighting.

Is it the right style for your home?

Vintage lamp on a living room sideboard with a more contemporary lampshade

(Image credit: Barker and Stonehouse)

As with buying any decor for your home, choosing vintage lighting that suits the style of your home is key. It's easy to fall into the trap of a good deal or an eye-catching piece, but if it jars with your interior design scheme, it can throw the whole room off.

'Consider how the vintage piece will fit with your existing aesthetic. Don't buy a piece just because it's vintage – make sure it speaks to the rest of your scheme,' advises Lauren. Really think about the colors, patterns, and era of the fixture to make sure it feels cohesive with the rest of your room.

This is much easier if your home has a certain aesthetic of the era it embraces. 'When considering the purchase of vintage lighting, keep the aesthetic you desire in mind, whether it’s Art Deco, Mid-Century, or Victorian style,' suggests Kailee and Taylor, adding 'remember that if you love the base of a lamp, the lampshade can always be replaced.'

Does it need rewiring?

Vintage wall lights in a hallway

(Image credit: JH Designs)

Vintage lighting will always have either already been rewired, or need it. While this isn't the fun, aesthetic side of buying vintage lighting, it is arguably the most important, and there's lots to consider.

'Always review the item details or ask the seller if a piece has been rewired or converted to your country’s specifications. Also, check the bulb specifications and the number of sockets,' advises Anthony.

Jane Lanyon, of JH Designs, also recommends checking the type of plug socket, and ensuring the wires are the right length. 'Make sure it’s safe and that the wires are long enough for where you want to put the lights. It may need re-wiring for current regulations or if it has come from the US or Europe,' she says.

Is it the right size for your space?

Living room with colorful patterned sofa

(Image credit: Lauren Gilberthorpe/Coombe End Manor)

This is something people often forget to consider when it comes to lighting, but ensuring your vintage fixture is the right scale for the room you intend to use it is key. Choose something too small and the room's scale will feel off, but if it's too large, it simply won't fit.

'Check dimensions to ensure the size of the piece will work well in its intended space,' says Anthony. Whether it's a wall sconce, table lamp, or pendant light, check the width and length of the fixture before purchasing.

'An oversized chandelier might overwhelm a small space, while a petite sconce could get lost in a larger room,' adds Lauren, so make sure you measure twice to avoid any mistakes. Vintage lighting can't be returned the same way a contemporary piece can.

Interior designers say buying vintage lighting is a wonderful way to add character and charm to your home, whether your space leans more traditional or contemporary. When purchasing vintage fixtures, just be careful in checking its condition, size, and style to ensure it's the right piece for your home.

Kitchens & Bathrooms Editor

I joined the Homes & Gardens interiors team at the start of 2024 as the kitchens & bathrooms editor. My undergraduate degree was in Magazine Journalism and Production, which I studied at the University of Gloucestershire. Before joining Homes & Gardens, I worked for two interiors titles across both print and digital channels, writing about a range of topics from room design ideas and decorating trends to timeless kitchen schemes and the best places to source pre-loved homeware.