How to Source and Style Vintage Decor


Known for her eye-catching color palettes, pattern and texture play, and knack for finding vintage treasures, Meghan is passionate about showing you what’s possible when creating a home with enduring charm.

Are you currently attempting to figure out how to incorporate cherished family heirlooms you have sitting around into your decor? Or are you unsure about adding vintage pieces to your home without it looking outdated or too quirky? 

Let me tell you, it is possible to maintain the feel of a fresh, modern home while weaving in the unique vintage and antique finds that speak to you. And today, I’m showing you how.

Outfitting your space takes careful consideration, and hunting for secondhand treasures requires that same discerning eye, along with a healthy dose of risk taking. When you see something you love, you have to be decisive. You may not have time to wait around for inspiration. My advice? If you love it, go for it. You’ll figure out the rest later! 

This overall mindset for sourcing unique, quality vintage decor is an art in and of itself. The thrill of the hunt, the ability to quickly assess quality and envision possibilities, and the challenge of blending with your current decor — it’s all part of the territory when infusing a space with character and charm.

Wait, what’s to love about vintage?

If you find yourself drawn to the appeal of vintage decor and furniture yet question the real value of antiquing amidst a sea of brand-new, reasonably-priced options available, allow me to offer some insight.

Here are a few reasons why I encourage my clients to consider vintage:

  • Tell a story that continues with you. Heirloom pieces live many lives before they reach you. As their new owner, you get the opportunity to write the next chapter. You help shape their history, giving more meaning to the spaces you share them with.
  • Make a modern home feel warm, welcoming, and lived in. No one wants to feel like they can’t kick off their shoes and stay for a while. Pre-loved pieces strike the perfect balance. And it doesn’t take much. A few key objects can transform a spiritless space into a joyful reprieve.
  • Used is still better quality than many new mass-market goods available today. If an object is still around decades later, chances are it was crafted with longevity in mind (as is often the case with preowned furniture made of solid wood versus today’s fiberboard). Even if an antique comes with a higher price tag than its new counterpart, you may still save money by opting for something that can (and has already proven to) stand the test of time.
  • Adaptability. Vintage pieces can be updated on many levels, from a complete refurbishment to a new coat of paint, helping you bring another layer of individuality into your space.
  • Alignment with your values. If you value sustainability and ethical production, you’ll find that secondhand pieces align more closely with your vision for a better world. It’s essential that the objects you surround yourself with feel authentic to you and your lifestyle.

Interior designer Meghan Jay of Meghan Jay Design straightening a vintage piece of artwork on a gallery wall.

Photographer: Ben Speckmann

*Throughout this post, you’ll encounter a few of my favorite vintage treasures and how I styled them in my own home! 

01. The Hunt – How to Find Vintage Decor 

So, where does one even begin looking for those coveted vintage treasures? Here are my best-kept spots – near and far.

Local Vintage Shops, Estate Sales & Flea Markets

Whether you live in a big city or a smaller town, there are plenty of ways to source vintage decor without going far. When planning your outing, the internet is your friend! Here’s what I recommend: 

  1. Get to know the historic shopping districts in your area. Use Google or Apple Maps to search for terms like “antiques,” “vintage,” and “thrift” in your city and surrounding towns. This will provide a jumping-off point for local sourcing. Many times, shops are condensed to certain areas. For every great spot you find, there are likely a few lesser-known ones in the mix nearby. 
  2. Scout out local estate sales. Some of my best finds have come from these – with my two little ones in tow! Estate sales see much less foot traffic than antique stores, so you’re more likely to uncover those hidden gems here. Search for local listings, shop for specific items, and receive alerts to avoid missing out. And when you find one to add to your calendar, be sure to get there early and plan to stay a while!

Vintage pieces of artwork found in interior designer Meghan Jay's victorian home.

I was browsing an estate sale when these two small paintings were about to be thrown away. Photographer: Heather Talbert
Styling: Centered by Design

  1. Research nearby flea markets. And explore them enough to discover which are most fruitful for your aesthetic. If a flea market sounds daunting, keep an open mind. Many markets today feature a more curated experience than you’re probably imagining, with vetted vendors known to offer quality goods.
  2. Facebook Marketplace (or another classifieds platform that’s most popular in your area). These online resources can be great for finding local vintage pieces within your budget. Ask questions, obtain measurements, and request more photos if needed to ensure the piece for sale is legitimate and worth your while.
  3. Pull from what you (or a gracious family member) already have. Take inventory of any hand-me-downs while exploring your attic, basement, or storage spaces where you might’ve stowed away any sentimental pieces. Also, every family has at least one person who’s known for holding onto heirlooms. And they just might be ready & willing to pass them on. Check in with them and let them know what you may be interested in/looking for to give new life to any old items lying around while strengthening connections to family and memories.

Regardless of which local option you choose, make a day of it. Plan your route while leaving room for surprises along the way. Remember, the hunt is supposed to be fun! The journey itself will add to the joy and satisfaction when you finally stumble upon that perfect piece.

Online Vintage Finds

There’s no shortage of resources available when it comes to finding vintage treasures online. Check out a few of my favorites: 

  1., once again! In addition to its local offerings, it also features online estate sales.
  2. Chairish. One of my favorite vintage marketplaces for eclectic finds that can be shipped straight to you. It also has a local pickup option. Just type in your zip code and sift through products available from independent sellers. 
  3. 1stDibs. For high-end decor and antiques, this platform offers a similar experience.
  4. Etsy for vintage that suits all budgets (though not nearly as curated as the rest). Be sure to use the filter function to search based on price, location, budget, and style.

Interior designer Meghan Jay's daughter's room, featuring a bed and bunny art from an estate sale.

Found my daughter Charlotte’s bed and bunny art at an estate sale, table lamps from Etsy, and two nightstands during a trip to Round Top, TX.  Photographer: Heather Talbert
Styling: Centered by Design

Another fun way to source decor online? Shop by color! If you’re aiming to add a splash of color to your space but aren’t sure exactly what to look for, shop all decor and filter by color (and budget, of course) to discover unique objects of all kinds that fit your style. 

Traveling for Vintage Pieces 

Personally, if there’s time, I love to source pieces when I’m traveling or on vacation. It’s eye-opening to be exposed to different styles. And whatever I walk away with is kind of like my souvenir! When antiquing in Palm Springs, I discover sleek mid-century modern decor, whereas visiting my home state of Connecticut, I encounter more traditional/country accents.

Intimidated by the logistics of bringing large or delicate vintage finds home? Rest assured it’s possible. I’ve done it many times! Plus, collecting decor while traveling requires a deeper consideration of whether you genuinely love an item and want to find a place for it in your home versus a potential impulse buy. But once you’ve determined it’s a must-have, it’s worth the effort to get it to its permanent place. My tips:

  1. Do research before your trip to learn about your destination’s vintage scene. Choose a few businesses and track down photos to get a sense of what they have to offer. If you find yourself getting excited about a potential treasure trove of goodies, you’ll know to leave extra room in your suitcase (or pack a second).
  2. Jot down measurements of any spaces you’re looking to fill in your Notes app. Pack a tape measure so that when you come across that perfect piece, you can ensure it’ll fit just as you envision.
  3. Focus on what makes the most significant impact. I find that textiles, artwork, and tableware are some of the most effective choices. One of the great advantages of these items is that they’re usually relatively easy to pack in a suitcase, making them ideal souvenirs to bring back from your travels.

Meghan Jay of Meghan Jay Design, an interior design studio in Chicago, straightening a mix of artwork collected from her travels.

This gallery wall in my son Colin’s room is a mix of artwork I’ve collected during my travels. Photographer: Ben Speckmann

  1. Know that can help you get those more oversized items home safely. It operates in many countries worldwide and will connect you with the proper carrier to get furniture and coveted antiques straight to your door.

02. Bringing it Home – How To Style Your Vintage Decor

Once you’ve acquired your latest treasures, the next step is to find the perfect place for them. Here’s my practical four-step guide to styling vintage decor in your home:

  1. Aim for a subtly collected – not cluttered – look. Start small with specific surfaces that are crying out for more styling, like bookshelves, coffee tables, and even bare walls. And opt for a trial-and-error approach. Place something, stand back, and if it’s not feeling right, try something else.
  2. Next, create new vignettes with curated collections. Pulling together a small, carefully collected arrangement or display of objects, furniture, and decor items within a larger space takes time. You may not have a place for everything just yet, so create new areas where appropriate, like an additional gallery wall, reading nook, or office shelf.
  3. Embrace a mix-and-match approach. Forget the idea that you must stick to one design style or era. Instead, complement the new with the old, combine textures, and create new colorways. One rule you might encounter is the 80/20 rule (aka the Pareto Principle) – 80% of your decor consists of modern elements, while the remaining 20% is vintage or antique. I’m not a huge stickler for doing things by the book; however, this one might prove to be helpful in giving you a starting point for just how much you might want to incorporate. 
  4. Know that if it’s truly the perfect piece, you’ll find a space for it. And if it’s not a great fit in the end, that’s okay, too! Chalk it up as a learning lesson. Those marketplaces I mentioned above can connect you with someone to pass it along to.

A vintage game table area by Meghan Jay Design, a residential interior designer based in Chicago.

A vintage game table picture, table from Chairish, and chairs sourced while traveling in Round Top, TX.  Photographer: Heather Talbert
Styling: Centered by Design

I hope this proves just how transformative vintage decor can be within your home’s interiors, no matter how modern the overall design is. You can’t go wrong with the charm and versatility of vintage, and the right piece can bring all of your favorites together in a seamless, original way. 

If you need assistance finding or styling your own treasures, I’m here to help. Simply send a note to schedule a complimentary inquiry call where we can discuss your needs.

Have a vintage find or home project you’d love to share? Tag me on social @meghanjaydesign! Let’s celebrate the beauty of vintage together. 

Comments +

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Sophisticated, Subtly Whimsical Interiors – Designed to Stand the Test of Time

No matter the era of your home, it should reflect your present-day style and future aspirations while honoring the personal, meaningful treasures you’ve collected over time. We’ll consider all of that – and more – as we work together to create enduring designs that retain charm for years to come.