Where & How to Buy Good Vintage Pieces

This post is an oldie but a goodie. It was featured on our old website, but remains chock full of great tips for hunting down vintage finds. Thank you, Krizia, for your timeless words of wisdom!

I’m Krizia, the owner of Oak+Olive. I paint and refinish furniture. I find a piece of furniture that needs some love and turn it into a modern and sophisticated (sometimes whimsical) piece that you can add to your home. I like to use color, but I also want my pieces to have a warm and earthy feeling to them because I value a comfortable and stylish home.

My other goal is to provide you with inspiration on style and decor as evidenced by the addition of House Tours on my blog. I show homes that are creative and stylish. Homes that blend those three important pieces: new, vintage, and handmade. Today, I wanted to share with you some tips on where to find good vintage furniture and decor as well as some thought processes on how you can determine that the item(s) will be the right purchase for you.

Where to shop:

Well… Shop local, of course! See what kind of cool vintage shops and antique stores are around you. I promise there are many. Sometimes I think these stores are a little harder to find with basic searches – like “vintage shops (+your city),” “thrift shops,” “antique stores/malls,” etc. – but it is possible to find them this way with a little effort.

A REALLY great resource to find shops in northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin is the Vintage Shop Hop. I don’t know a lot about who’s behind this magnificent idea, but it’s an excellent way to plan a weekend, hit the road with your friends and stop at all of the participating stores in the area. You can easily plan your own road trip anytime to visit these unique places. They make it so easy to figure out your route with their handy map of shop locations too. 

The folks behind the Vintage Shop Hop have even put together a photo album of places all throughout the midwest. Click on “Photos,” then “Albums,” then “Road Trips” on Nellie’s Barn Sale Facebook page for all sorts of flyers for  flea markets, pop up shops, and barn sales in the Midwest.

Etsy is another great way to shop local believe it or not! I think so many people think Etsy is this unmanageable sea of stuff (which it can be), but if you know what you are looking for or have an idea, then this is an excellent resource for vintage and handmade.

On their homepage you can choose “Shop Local,” type in the city you’re looking to shop and also what you are looking for. For instance, you could type in “vintage” or “furniture” or you can be more specific and type in “ceramics” or “jewelry.”

I think the great thing about this is that you can find small businesses who are really passionate about what they do but don’t have a brick and mortar shops. You can write the shop owners directly, ask questions, meet them and pick up your order without the hassle of paying for shipping.

Along with local shops, go to vintage and handmade markets to find great pieces. You can search the internet easily for flea markets, pop up shops, indie craft fairs, or urban outdoor vintage markets in your area. Many times, you’ll find out about local shops because they are the vendors at these markets along with other regional shops who travel to be in the shows.

How to shop:

Now that you know where to shop, it’s time to think about how you are going to choose the right item to add to your collection. Decor purchases are generally easier, but be careful about going overboard with those smalls! It’s easy to buy small $5-$20 purchases just to get home and wonder where the heck you’re going to put it all and does it actually match your style/decor?! Try not to let it get out of control because if you’re like me, it’ll just make you feel uncomfortable and your space will be cluttered.

Buying Furniture:

When buying larger items like furniture, that’s always a little harder. Prices tend to be a little higher than you were hoping, yet you know you really want something fun and unique to add to your house. Here are some things to consider when you’re choosing a piece of furniture for your collection.

Structure / Assess damage:

Is the piece of furniture well built? Is it solid wood? Are there broken pieces like missing veneer, cracks, and/or water damage?

Sometimes these aren’t always reasons to say no to the piece and it’s important to ask yourself if it’s fixable. A lot of times broken or missing pieces of wood can be fixed with wood filler if you are going to paint it. If you aren’t going to paint it, occasionally that missing piece is not that big of a deal.


What’s the style you’re going for? Is your home mostly modern, cottage chic, industrial, bohemian?

Many times these different styles can work together, but sometimes they don’t. I’ve always loved a more modern look with some industrial and bohemian thrown in. But, occasionally I’m drawn towards a vintage farmhouse look.

I found that when I bought furniture and decor with a farmhouse look and tried to mix it in, it just didn’t quite fit. There have been a lot of  times where I’ve spent money on things that just don’t go, leaving me with more clutter than I know what to do with. (Good thing for Craigslist!) So, I think it’s always a good idea to keep in mind the overall look you are trying to achieve before buying a piece of furniture.


What are you going to use the furniture for? Dressers, for example, have become very versatile with people thinking of other ways to use them. Changing tables in nurseries, credenzas in the dining room or living room, or entryway storage are the most popular. It’s great that one piece of furniture can be so multifunctional.

Below are three pieces I worked on that speak to the power of versatile furniture.

The first one is a MCM dresser that I painted for Sarah and Jeff of A LA CRATE Vintage Rentals to use as changing table in their little one’s nursery (image courtesy of Twig & Olive Photography; dresser painted by Oak+Olive).

The second one is an antique buffet retrofitted as a bathroom vanity (image courtesy of Oak+Olive).

The last one features a MCM dresser used for storage in a kitchen (image courtesy Beth Skogen Photography; dresser painted and refinished by Oak+Olive featured on this house tour).

So when you start planning your trips and getting out there, try to keep in mind function, style, and the structure of your vintage furniture (and decor)! There’s an incredible amount out there along with reclaimed and handmade, so why not fill your home with all of these gems? Spring and summer are the perfect times to plan your trips. Good luck and happy hunting!