Vintage Vantage

By Shelby Deering

Interior designer Albert Hadley once famously said, “A room should feel collected, not decorated.” If you gravitate toward spaces that are filled with collected special treasures (that also lend plenty of visual appeal), then it’s time for you to stock up on vintage pieces. Many designers say that vintage, consignment and secondhand items give a home “soul,” and there are other benefits, too.

Not only is vintage shopping an eco-friendly venture, but Jennifer Richardson, owner of Atomic Antiques, also loves vintage for its ability to transport people to another era.

“When people see something vintage, very often they can identify with the time period,” she says. “If they were around for the period, it often brings back nostalgic memories.”

Ryan Hackstock, owner of Madison’s Retro Revolution, says that vintage pieces tend to be higher quality than today’s big-box finds. He says, “I’m always amazed when I find something in great condition. They were made to last.”

If you’d like to start collecting some bygone treasures of your own, here are some tips from our local experts.


When first shopping for vintage décor, start by searching for items that call out to you. Look around antique and secondhand stores and see what you’re drawn to before purchasing a lot of items that just don’t feel right when you get them home.

“When working with people, we try and find out what appeals to them,” Richardson says. “Everyone has different tastes when it comes to design, and people should pick things that appeal to their sense of style.”

Hackstock agrees that an old-school piece “has to speak to [somebody] in some way.” He says that it could be the design, something a relative owned or an object that “brings back good memories.”


Part of the fun of vintage shopping is seeing how seasoned sellers style their wares. A flea market booth, shelves at a consignment store or an entire decorated room at an antique shop can all serve as inspiration for decorating your home.

“One of the things we frequently hear is how much people appreciate the dealers being set up with vignettes,” Richardson remarks. “Visualizing how an item might look is much easier when placed into a similar setting as it would be in a home.”

Snap some pictures with your phone, and you’ll pick up some great vintage decor ideas from the pros.


While a vase or wall art might be straightforward vintage purchases, others can be trickier and deserve a careful once-over.

For example, Hackstock always checks the wiring of electronics before purchasing, since, as he says, people used to turn to dangerous methods to fix wires, from masking tape to glue. If you see either, put the item down or have it rewired.


Richardson says that just because someone lives in a home built 100 years ago doesn’t mean they can’t decorate with mid-century pieces. In fact, that surprising juxtaposition will likely complement the spaces. Experiment with décor from one era even if your home was built during a different time.


Madison has many options for antique and vintage shopping.

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