How to Choose Quality Vintage or Retro Furniture

Arabia Finland Jam JarsDecorating with Retro Furniture

There are no hard and fast rules for decorating with retro furniture.  You can choose to strictly represent a specific vintage look or even a regional style like German of Scandinavian retro era.  Retro furniture or collectables mix equally well with modern furniture, adding interest and contrast.  This article focuses more on choosing quality pieces.

Things that add value to retro furniture and collectables:

  • Original construction – Quality of the material and workmanship.
  • Care by previous owners
  • Authenticity
  • Quality of any refurbishment
  • Named or famous designers


Retro Furniture Construction – Tables and Chairs

Victorian Ash retro Coffee tableRetro Furniture that was originally badly constructed will readily show signs of wear after 60 years of use, but they can be disguised by sloppy restoration. It is wise to inspect an item in detail, particularly hidden joints.  A recently refurbished retro chair or table will readily show fresh glue residue or wood stain.  Go ahead and give the legs a fair wobble and see if they stay firm.

Any sign of nail heads will put me off, unless it is clearly part of the decorative effect such as was used to hold metal covers over furniture legs in the 1960s.

Solid wood is always worth more than veneered surfaces and the odd scratch in solid wood is normally acceptable, but a tear in a veneered layer is likely to get worse and absorb moisture over time.

Original cloth covering on retro chairs may have sentimental value but let’s face it, after decades of use only the rarest pieces will have survived without stains or tears.

Retro Storage – Sideboards and Cupboards

The items to look for in retro storage furniture are hinges, drawers and knobs.  Hinges should match, be perfectly lined up, firm and smooth in action and still solidly fixed in place.  Drawers should be flush when closed and open and close smoothly.  Take the drawers out and inspect them each from the bottom. That is where you will spot signs of hard use. Knobs should be firm, original and match.

Retro and Vintage Collectables and Lighting

Retro furniture, collectables and Lighting easily show signs of sloppy repair.  Still they deserve a good look for signs of glued repairs, chips in ceramics or tears and stains in soft materials. If you are buying for decorative purposes a minor flaw can be overlooked, but if you are buying a retro collectable item as an investment the piece must be flawless, and totally original.  Ideally it should clearly represent the vintage and region that it came from.  The Italian lamp in the image is a perfect example.

Famous Retro Designers

Of course the designers in their time were not thought of as retro designers.  Back in the 1950s through the 1960s, furniture designs went through a transitions and the designers were considered modern, ‘space age’ and regarded as innovators.  They were breaking away from earlier traditions and became daring in many concepts.

The G-plan concept broke free from the concept that one had to buy furniture in complete suites and space exploration inspired many designs that have gone out of fashion and have re-emerged as sought after art deco collectables.

A retro furniture item from a recognised or famous designer can be viewed as an investment.  They are highly sought after and much in demand.

Here is just a short list of such designer labels:

  • G-plan/ Gomme
  • Parker
  • Clement Meadmore
  • Grete Jalk
  • Fler Narvick
  • Roger McClay
  • Van Treight
  • Eames
  • France & Son
  • Burgess
  • Arabia
  • Crown Devon
  • Royal Tudor


Collectika Retro Store in Sydney

At the Collectika retro store in Sydney we love to talk to and assist customers in choosing quality vintage furniture.  We will tell you what we know about retro furniture in general and about any specific item, where it came from and anything you want to know about the restoration process.  You can talk to our store manager or Ask online about any of the items.