How to (NOT) Select Vintage Furniture: Cautionary Tales
As promised in my post about some of my favorite recent vintage finds, here are (some of my many) vintage purchases that I regret. Writing this hilariously revealed to me SO MANY of my personality flaws. Overconfidence in abilities to do everything by myself? YES. Glossing over important details because I want pretty thing? CHECK. Buying something because it is cheap, even though I don’t need it / it will cost a lot of money to fix? YUH-HUH. Trolling auction sites while having a glass of wine? YUP (maybe not a personality flaw, but friends, don’t drink and internet – it never ends well, and for me, it ends with useless furniture). Now, you’re probably thinking, that photo up there doesn’t look TOO bad. Nice turned legs, cute little brass detail on the keyholes. Looks like a sweet addition to an antique house. WELL, YOU WOULD BE WRONG …
Chickens are like, “Wait a MINUTE … Where’s the fourth leg, lady? Who would do this to an innocent piece of furniture?”
I’ll tell you who. UPS. Here is the photo I sent EBTH.com to get a refund (to their credit, they refunded in full):
The leg wasn’t just broken off, it was outright missing, which means that somewhere along the way it snuck out this hole in the box, and some delivery person was like, “Huh, weird, a random broken table leg in my truck. Oh, well, I’m sure it will never be missed!” That said, it was too rickety to use for my intended purpose (converting into bathroom vanity) anyway, so in a way I lucked out since I got my money back (silver lining!). The perils of buying vintage online is you really can’t kick the tires and see the quality of the piece you’re buying.
Then comes this twin bed:
Again, you’re thinking “Yeah, you need to dust off this bad boy, but what’s the big deal? Jenny Lind style cute little bed. Rooster seems cool with it.” The big deal is that it came without rails. And it is an antique. Folks, do NOT buy an antique bed without rails. I thought I could just make rails, but it turns out I don’t have a wood shop, so, NOPE. Then I thought I could just put bolts into a cheapie IKEA frame or the like. NOPE and NOPE. The problem is that the holes for the rails are an off size, so to put on a modern frame you need to (A) spend $ on the frame, (B) buy specialized adapters to attach it, and (C) that only works if you can actually successfully attach those adapters, which I couldn’t here because of the size of the posts and where the old rail holes are. FAIL.
Next we have this little guy:
I mean, I guess it’s okay? It’s just not for this house. Like maybe it’s for a run down Newport mansion, or for Napoleon to keep at his bedside for his false teeth to go on or something. I bought it online (I think eBay?) with the idea that it would be a great candidate to convert into my powder room vanity. Then it arrived and I was like “Why would I buy something with this much gilt and detail that ISN’T EVEN THE RIGHT MEASUREMENTS for my bathroom vanity?” And then I immediately answered my own question with “OH RIGHT, I was on my third glass of wine when I purchased this.” PSA: don’t drink and bid on furniture, folks. Heck, don’t online shop and drink at the same time. Thank goodness I didn’t spend too much $ on it (likely because other bidders were smarter than I was and passed it up).
I have a pair of these little gems:
Okay, these are gorgeous Mastercraft brass side tables from the 1970s. I mean, really, I hopped on these because they were a steal on Craigslist, and I thought I could use them in the living room. BUT nope. They are only 17 inches tall. I mean, this guy looks downright comical next to this bed (though the marble lamp, one of a pair, is a GREAT craigslist find that I love):
They don’t even work next to our (low) couch. Plus, they are glass topped, which as anyone who has a toddler knows is basically asking for disaster. I think I’m going to try my inaugural run at selling on Chairish with these ladies, because even though they didn’t work for me, they are stunning. The shipping / packing factor is intimidating, though, since they are heavy and the glass is extremely breakable. I just need to pull the trigger.
Oh, bamboo-legged ottoman.
Like so many of my vintage regrets, my go-getter DIY attitude bit me in the butt with this one. Here’s what it looked like when I bought it:
I stripped the legs, which took FOREVER but actually came out looking great. Under the white paint was a nice light pine. Then came the upholstery. I bought the batting, the foam, and broke out my decorative brass upholstery nails and upholstery stapler (because this was not my first upholstery rodeo). I honestly thought I’d make a whole blog post about it, so I have like ten process photos of me re-upholstering this guy, like so:
However, this area around the legs was precisely the problem. It just was not enough space for me to properly staple on the batting and fabric, especially given that the wood was riddled with old staple holes. Around the legs the staples all fell out after about a week. On top of that, this bench, at 21 inches tall, is too tall to use as a cocktail ottoman by our couch. I bought stain-resistant outdoor fabric so that at least I could have it be white but easy to clean (though perhaps I was kidding myself there, too). This little guy CAN be salvaged, but it would take more work than I’m maybe willing to do. Specifically, I need a new wood piece for the top, I need to cut down the bamboo legs by about four inches, and I need a LOT thicker (and therefore pricier) piece of foam to make it look proportionate. The only plus side of removing the legs and making a new top is that I could precisely make it fit my space. As-is, wasn’t the best measurements (are we noticing a theme???).
You guys, the outright SAGA and waste of money that was this bed:
I’m going to do a whole post about it on Wednesday because all my lessons learned doubled the size of this post, but, spoiler alert, it was not structurally sound and required much money and SO MUCH TIME to fix and paint. It turned out okay(ISH) but yeah, so many regrets with this one (all stemming from my cheapskate need to have this bed because it only cost $25).
So, yeah, these are kind of embarrassing to share! My favorite things are discussing how inexpensively I found cool stuff, or how easily I was able to lipstick up a piggy, but I think it’s important to remember that ‘to err is human,’ and (hopefully) learn from my mistakes so that next time I don’t end up with any ugly (furniture) babies.