You probably already know why you should buy vintage furniture: It’s better for the planet, adds character that something mass-produced simply can’t, and it’s often of much higher quality than whatever’s available at big-box stores. But with so much of it being traded online or through social media accounts, there is another question to contend with: How? As in, how can you confidently pay hundreds or thousands of dollars for an item that you’ve never seen in real life and that you can’t return?
We talked with vintage experts to learn the telltale signs that a piece is a good bet – or that you should walk away. Next time you’re tempted by the perfect midcentury credenza on Instagram, they advise following these rules.
Get more photos – and ask for video
When it comes to online purchases, your eyes are your guide. There will be no cushions to sit upon or wood grain to run your hand over. Any online seller will have already posted several photos of the piece you’re eyeing, but always ask for more – including of the item’s interior if it has drawers or doors, and its underside.
Devin Kirk, chief creative officer for Jayson Home, an online seller of both new and vintage furnishings, advises asking for high-quality “close-up photos of details or damage or anything you can’t see well in the (original) photos.” So, if the Scandinavian table you want looks like it may have a scratch on its surface, ask for a close-up.
Zack Herrera, owner of Pickin’ Through Time, an Instagram-based vintage shop, puts a premium on video footage. While sellers can (and do) enhance photos with filters and other effects, it’s more challenging to do the same thing to a video. If the seller refuses to send additional photos