Vintage furniture and accessories make our hearts sing because they are bursting with character and history. Whether you’re an avid flea-market shopper or just discovering the wonders of vintage, here’s our checklist for scoring the perfect pieces.

Got the Mid-Century Modern itch? Start shopping all of our favorite, expert-approved vintage gems on Sotheby’s Home.

Structurally Sound

No one wants to sit in a wobbly chair, open a dresser with drawers that stick or put books on a shelf that might tip over. Always check that frames are sturdy and everything is in working order before you buy. You want your purchase to be original, beautiful AND practical.

Our Picks: A Mid-20th Century Daybed Sofa designed by Peter Hvidt and Orla Molgaard-Nielsen for France & Son and a set of 6 Mid-Century Modern Molded Dining Chairs circa 1960.

Quality Control

Although vintage furniture often gives you gorgeous details and workmanship for an incredible value, there are always a few duds in the lot. Look out for knockoffs made with cheap materials that won’t stand the test of time. Search for original labels or markings to see if you can research the maker, and always ask the seller lots of questions. Where was it made? What are the materials? What is the provenance?

Our Picks: A High-Back Swivel Chair designed by Adrian Pearsall for Craft Associates from 1960-1969 and a Mid-20th Century Wedge Side Table, also by Adrian Pearsall.

Wear & Tear

Vintage pieces arrive at your home with tales of travel, intrigue and life from a different era. That’s what makes them so charming. They’ve probably traveled a long way to get to you, and this means there may be a few scratches or minor flaws. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Embrace the character, and if something really jumps out at you, consult a professional furniture refinisher.

Our Picks: A pair of Mid-20th Century Scissor Accent Chairs by Folke Ohlsson for DUX and a Mid-Century Modern Mosaic Coffee Table.

Use Your Imagination

An old crate can become a side table, a wood table from 100 years ago has the potential to be your new kitchen island. Repurposing vintage items is a surefire way to add unexpected character to a room. Show off how you can give new life to old and intriguing pieces.

Our Picks: An Americana Style Robison Natural Finish Trunk from the Early-20th Century and a couple of Postmodern Rolling Side Tables.

Vintage Not Your Thing?

It should be! If buying vintage furniture seems daunting, start with smaller items like mirrors, artwork and accessories. Practice makes perfect, and after a few great purchases, you’ll be ready to tackle some larger pieces. As you get more comfortable with hunting down vintage furniture and accessories, you might just decide you’ve found the perfect new hobby!

Our Picks: Modern Style Amethyst Crystal Geode from between 1900–1999, a 20th Century Mid-Century Modern Style Chain Mail Chandelier, and lastly a Modern Wine Barrel Mirror

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