Vintage pieces have been all the rage lately, I guess classics never really fade with time.
For furniture, that often means retro pieces like kitsch armchairs or sofas with Danish influences; these old-school looks have become contemporary favourites.
For serious collectors, any mid-century piece (even the ones that are second-hand) can be quite a steal. There are plenty of vintage stores and vintage marketplaces that sell high-quality retro furniture.
But what’s the deal with vintage and retro furniture? Why does it still have a grip on our modern furniture design today?
Vintage, Retro, And Antiques: Some Differences
First of all, it’s important to distinguish the above terms, since they can be confused pretty often:
- Vintage refers to any furniture made that is less than 100 years old
- Antiques refer to furniture that is a century old or more
- Retro generally refers to furniture crafted between 1950 to 1980
Retro will generally refer to a couple of huge design trends between the 50s and the 80s, which would inspire the different kinds of furniture that you can distinguish in this time period. The biggest design influences of this period would be art deco and modernism.
How Did This Design Style Come About?
One of the biggest drivers of this design style was departing from Victorian-era or Baroque influences—think all of those fancy wooden furniture that often came with extensive decorations. Vintage furniture valued function over form, so they’re less gaudy than antiques.
Aside from that, vintage furniture also embraced the newer materials of their time. While most antiques are made of high-quality wood; vintage & retro furniture used metal, concrete, and even glass when it came to their preferred material.
Art Deco Furniture
If you’ve ever wondered how to classify big, bold, and somewhat strange furniture in geometric shapes, you’re probably thinking of art deco. This design style was mainly inspired by the abstract yet bold designs of 20th-century paintings, like Cubism and Futurism.
It also heavily features the ‘modern’ materials that came with the dawn of globalization, like glass, cement, or metal. These pieces didn’t look anything like the standard furniture of the time and instead stood out with their bold colours and patterns.
On the other hand, modern furniture heavily draws on Modernism, preferring a simple, clear-cut design. Operating under the maxim of ‘less is more’, modern furniture is characterised by minimal design paired with modern materials like glass and steel.
Unlike art deco, modern furniture is stark and utilitarian. It’s rare that any furniture from this era will have any bright splash of colour, using dark or neutral tones like grey or black to define their profile. However, their designs also make them uniquely suited to being displayed or stacked in multiple units.
Where Can I Get My Own Retro Furniture?
If you’re looking to get your own piece of design history, there are a couple of brands and furniture stores in Australia (usually around Melbourne or Sydney) that either sell or rent out vintage furniture. Here’s a short list of them:
From Classic To Contemporary
Retro furniture still has a hold over our design principles today, though the division is most apparent in the different spaces that use them.
For example, you’ll mostly find art deco furniture in creative places or public spaces, echoing the bold yet simple designs that are best suited to places with plenty of foot traffic. On the other hand, corporate buildings are some of the best places to use modern retro furniture, owing to the similarities and design aesthetic of the workplace.
So next time you’re looking for a functional and stylish design choice, consider getting vintage or retro furniture. While it certainly won’t be as fancy, you can bet it’ll leave a lasting impression.