Top tips from an industry expert
The enduring style of vintage and vintage-style furniture is hard to put your finger on, and even harder to recreate in your home. It takes a true expert to pull off the look using vintage accessories and homeware mixed with new buys with a retro feel. Paula Sutton, the creator of The Hill House Diaries Blog, hits the nail on the head in her beautiful English country house and is here today to share her top tips for filling your home with unique and characterful pieces.
What originally drew you to vintage style?
I was first drawn to vintage style in my first London flat, and it was basically a need to fill the rooms with beautiful furniture that wasn't expensive or at the other end of the spectrum - flat packed. I'd always been a fan of vintage style dressing anyway, and that was based on my love of classic English literature which painted a beautiful scene of country drawing rooms filled with solid wood furniture, large sofas and flowers everywhere.
Have all of your previous homes been as fabulously eclectic?
I've always loved a mix of things. Basically, I buy what I love, regardless of the era or style. It just so happens that I'm drawn to classic design and beautiful shapes, so everything tends to work together in the end.
How do you choose what you bring into your home? Do pieces of furniture and art have to have a certain sentimentality or meaning, or is beauty sufficient?
The things that I bring into my home have to tick the box of either beauty combined with durability or beauty combined with sentimentality. I'm a romantic at heart, so beauty will always come into it.
Where do you source most of your furniture, or is it from many different places?
For my older pieces I like to visit old vintage shops, antiques emporiums and local auctions. I'm finding more and more fabulous vintage traders on Instagram, so it's actually making life a lot easier to shop for good quality vintage. For my newer pieces, which tend to be lighting, beds and sofas, I look for brands that have a strong sense of quality, craftsmanship and classic heritage design.
How do you suggest readers might start their own collection of vintage furniture?
Definitely look out for vintage emporiums that host several vintage traders. Often the traders will style their own areas to suit the pieces, and you will get a good idea of the styles you like. There are also many traders to be found on Instagram who will send items straight to your door, and are happy to send close up images and details if you message them before purchasing. You'll quickly discover which items that you're drawn to time and time again, and this is how a collection gathers apace. It may start with one floral painting - but quickly turns into a collection.
Are there any rules for mixing new and old in the home?
If you absolutely love it - then it will work. Don't try too hard to contrive a mix, and trust your own eye. I'm a firm believer that everyone can find their own style if the simply buy the things that make them happy.
What is the number one tip for vintage shopping?
Realism. Don't buy anything broken or in need of repair that you can't fix yourself unless you've already factored in repair costs. Often it costs more to repair a piece of furniture than to purchase it. Exceptions to this rule are if the piece is solidly made with a beautiful shape and you simply wish to recover something or paint it. Although not cheap to reupholster furniture, it can be worth the expense for the right piece.
What do you love about your Sofa Workshop sofas, and how do they fit into the scheme?
My two Sofa Workshop sofas both work well for different reasons. Both are based on timeless, traditional shapes and designs, and although modern, both could have been in the house for generations. Button back Chesterfield style and Howard style sofas have been around for over a century and originals are found in many country houses. What adds an element of modernity to them is that the Lady May is in a lusciously bright pink - which suits our informal 'snug' area perfectly, and the Grand Dame is in a beautiful cream linen and sits elegantly in my more formal sitting room.
If you could bring back any vintage detail to the mainstream, what would it be?
Cabriole or Queen Anne legs, and hump back sofas would be lovely!