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Why Does Vintage Furniture Get Such a Bad Rap?

Updated: Aug 14, 2023

Going Beyond Shabby Chic and Discovering the Artistry of Upcycled Vintage Furniture

What is it about the word "Vintage" that doesn't quite click when it's associated with "furniture"?

Join Susan Ruth, the insightful voice of The Furniture Artists Collective, as she unravels a common misconception and reveals a world brimming with surprises and endless possibilities……

Cover image by Katherine Smith at Eclectic Art Studio Clacton-on-Sea

Is Vintage Furniture by Definition Shabby?

Let’s talk about the difference between the word “Vintage” and the phrase “Shabby Chic”, because they’re definitely not the same, and we’re in real danger here of missing out on some extraordinary upcycled vintage furniture just because it’s been labelled “shabby chic”.

Could it be we’re too fixated on the “shabby” and not enough on the “chic”?

Here’s what I mean…..

The word “Vintage” conjures up so many different images depending on what it’s describing, doesn’t it?

A “Vintage” teacup brings to mind images of ornately decorated, impossibly delicate china cups with handles you can’t quite get your finger through and you fear will snap clean off should you try too hard.

“Vintage” Couture takes you straight into the world of Chanel and Dior, of Hardy Amies evening gowns and beautifully simple elegance....... Oh, the dreaminess!

A “Vintage” car is something to behold. I had a Rolls Royce Phantom for our wedding. I felt like a Princess in it. Definitely not too shabby!

But somehow, when the word "Vintage" is attached to furniture, we often find ourselves thinking of worn-out pieces, chipped paint, and faded fabrics.

It's as if the term "Vintage" somehow got lost in translation!

Put another way, “Vintage Furniture” is often thought to be synonymous with “Shabby Chic”, and even though that may have been true in the 1980s when the phrase was first coined, my goodness me, how we’ve moved on.

“Vintage” furniture is not just a passing trend or a fleeting phase.

“Vintage” in the context of furniture, speaks of our heritage, our history, of a time when craftsmanship in all things was prized and cherished.

Therefore, Vintage” should be celebrated and shouted from the rooftops.

In fact, I firmly believe that no "Vintage" (or "Shabby Chic") treasure should ever be dismissed without exploring the boundless array of possibilities it holds.

Need some extra inspiration or persuasion?

Feast your eyes on these breathtaking vintage pieces crafted by our talented artists at The Furniture Artists Collective. And Prepare to be amazed!

Jess Garratt:: Awoken Attic Kendal, Cumbria

Jess’s work has such a magical quality to it. It’s like stepping into a fairy tale.

This stunning dressing table brings to mind Cinderella’s wedding dress and Belle’s ball gown.

It’s ethereal, pretty, ornate, decorative and unashamedly vintage.

Meanwhile, Sandy LaCassa North with Granola Girl Treasures in Port Orange, Florida, has a simple yet resolute mission. She will give your home stylish beauty and functionality with pieces that have stood the test of time.

Although unwanted by some, Sandy sees the rare opportunity to restyle each and every item and creates stunningly eye-catching pieces that will grace any home for years to come.

Rachel Roberts of Ridgeways Designs is most definitely a 21st Century artist. She upstyles vintage furniture for thoroughly modern interiors. With her keen eye for detail and impeccable design skills, Rachel has mastered the art of enhancing the original beauty - often resulting in the most surprising transformations.

If you're on the hunt for a Vintage gem that effortlessly captures the essence of its rich heritage, then look no further than Leeds artist Rachael Dobson of Classic Lines Designs.

Her masterful touch breathes new life into each piece as if they were destined to embrace their newfound glory from the very beginning.

Just look at this transformation. It feels natural and organic but still pays homage to the cabinet’s heritage and design roots.

(Interestingly, Rachael’s approach is to study the grain pattern of the piece she's working on, allowing space for her design to emerge rather than forcing something on it.)

And let’s not forget that these wonderfully talented artisans don’t just produce breathtaking upcycled wood furniture. They also produce some of the most stylish re-upholstered items too.

Just look at this fabulous upcycled chair by Sandra Bellew Gibbons Artisan’s Loft. in Llandudno, North Wales. Proof, if needed, that upcycling goes far beyond paint and varnish.

Sandra's passion for jungle fabrics and lush, large-leaved tropical plant designs shines through all her work and brings everything bang up to date for a contemporary interior design.

Staying with upholstery just marvel at the sheer magic unleashed on this Lloyd Loom style chair, courtesy of the incredibly talented ,Jane Page at The Revamp Shack Peterborough.

Be honest, you wouldn't have looked twice at the "before" version, would you?

But in Jane's skillful hands, the transformation this piece has undergone is nothing short of miraculous!

The artistry and imagination shown in every single item our members produce is astonishing.

No two pieces are ever the same. Each is totally unique: restyled and upcycled with flair, style and skill.

And speaking of original work, that's where the real magic happens—right in the world of commissioned pieces.

It's like stepping into a treasure trove of creativity and artistry, where our talented artists shine.

Picture this: you have the opportunity to team up with a skilled furniture artist to bring your vision to life.

Whether it's transforming a piece you already own or sourcing an elusive item, they 'll work their magic to make it a reality.

Every detail will be meticulously crafted to match your exact specifications and design, ensuring the final result is crafted with the utmost care and precision.

Our artists possess a deep understanding and appreciation for the true value of each piece, and they pour their heart and soul into every commission they undertake.

It's an experience that transcends mere craftsmanship—it's pure artistry at its finest!

It’s like having Coco Chanel working just for you!

So, there you have it. Next time you’re looking for something unique and stylish to make your home stand out, look past the labels, and look to the character and soul of the piece.

Remember, Vintage or Shabby Chic furniture is a great way to add oodles of character and charm to your home.

With vintage and upcycled furniture, you can honour the past while still enjoying the comfort and functionality of modern, contemporary living.

So, if I've whet your appetite for vintage, get ready to embark on a thrilling adventure of mixing and matching, where every room in your home becomes a canvas for artistic self-expression.

Whether you are looking for a statement piece, like an art Deco restyled chest of drawers, or a functional accent piece, like a vintage cocktail bar, these wonderful artists will create something perfectly you.

Call it what you will, “Vintage” or “Shabby Chic”. When it comes to the work our artists create, there is really only one adjective you need….


If you like what you've seen and want to connect with any of the artists featured in this blog please visit our directory of artisans here for UK artists and here for USA and Canada artists.

With special thanks to:

Katherine Smith - Eclectic Art Studio, Clacton-on-Sea UK

Jess Garratt - Awoken Attic, Kendal, Cumbria

Sandy LaCassa North - Granola Girl Treasures, Port Orange, Florida, USA

Rachel Roberts - Ridgeways Designs, Monmouth, Wales

Rachael Dobson - Classic Lines Designs, Leeds, UK

Sandra Bellew-Gibbons, Artisan's Loft, Llandudno, North Wales

Jane Page - The Revamp shack, Peterborough, UK

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The Furniture Artists Collective is an inspiring community of independent creatives and skilled artisans united by their love for innovative and sustainable furniture and home decor.

We stand firmly behind businesses that share our core values and actively work to foster their growth within the industry.

Our mission is to shape the future of furniture and home decor by promoting eco-friendly practices and celebrating the beauty of sustainable design. Together, we breathe new life into cherished family heirlooms and vintage finds through the art of upcycling and restoration.

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