Vintage Chic: The Art of Waste Not What Want Not

When it comes to interior decoration, whether it be for home or commercial projects, it is always important to have at least one unique “anchor” piece to add character and visual interest to a space.

Of course, what these special pieces actually are depend on the overall design direction of each project as well as other factors such as budgets, market availability etc., but from my professional experience, they need not always be from luxury design brands or pricey artwork at all.

I strongly believe that the right anchor pieces can be found for any given budget as long as one knows where to look.  So, today I would like to share with you my little trade secret for those who wish to have something special to decorate your room without breaking your piggy bank or running up unnecessary credit card debts (especially if the items are more for decorative purposes and do not necessarily possess any functionality to them).  That is the wonderful world of “antique markets” and “architectural salvage yards”.

Old artwork at Sunbury Antique Market
Vintage Persian Rugs
Second hand cameras and vintage knick-knacks at Sunbury Antique Market

At these establishments, one can find anything from quirky decorative items, accessories, larger furniture pieces such as chairs, tables, cabinets etc; up to architectural components such as reclaimed wood flooring, tin tile panels for walls and ceiling, or even doors and fireplace mantelpieces, to name a few.  The only factors one needs to consider when sourcing materials from these sources are:

  1. Knowing where these markets are located so that appropriate logistics can be arranged.  The vendors there do not offer home delivery service for example, and the good markets where products are sold at extremely low prices tend to be outside London.
  2. The schedule of opening times because more often than not, good antique markets and architectural salvage yards, do not open everyday of the week, only once or twice a month. So, it is very important to check this information to avoid time wasting
  3. Make sure one has plenty of cash because most vendors do not accept card payments.
  4. Most markets and salvage yards are outdoor so dress appropriately to the weather.  It can get a little bit miserable in the winter though because the wind tends to be freezing when one has to walk around for extensive period of time.
Sunbury Antique Market at Kempton Racecourse

For those of you who are interested in exploring these places for inspiration, a few selection of the antique markets that I regularly use to source products and materials for my projects are listed below:

  • Sunbury Antique Market Kempton Racecourse, Staines Road East, Sunbury on Thames
    Middlesex TW16 5AQ.  Tel: 01932 230946
Pink wooden cart found at IACF in Newark

There are, of course, antique markets in London too such as Portobello Market, Brick Lane Market, Bermondsey Market, but I find that these places offer much less selections of really distinct objects.

Vintage knick-knacks and mining lights found in Elementals, Shoreditch near Brick Lane Market


Vintage knick-knacks and mining lights found in Elementals, Shoreditch near Brick Lane Market

Visiting antique flea markets or architectural salvage yards is always a fascinating day out especially on a warm sunny day.  If one can’t find the item one is looking for at the first visit, don’t be discouraged because availability is always different upon every visit.  It is important to visit the markets regularly or take down details of vendor who may be able to source the item, so one can contact them again while they move around the country sourcing products to sell.  

Not only objects found here are a bargain, they also come with a distinct character that can only be obtained through age and the fact that they have been thoroughly used or worn down.  These qualities add something very special to the space because more often than not, they are one of a kind.  For me, it is these little details that completes an interior design scheme, so what’s not to like when one gets to save the environment by recycling at the same time as shopping and creating a beautiful interior space.

Below is an example of an interior of a restaurant project I am currently working on called PACATA London in Covent Garden, which shows how these random items can be put together to create layers, depth and warmth to a space.  The restaurant, PACATA London, will be open for dining in February 2014 so if you wish to visit, it can be found at 4 New Row, Covent Garden, London WC2N 4LH.

Vintage framed artwork, accessories and chairs from antique market used at PACATA London Ground Floor Dining Room


Vintage cuckoo clock from antique market used at PACATA London Basement Dining Room


Accessories and chairs from antique market used at PACATA London Basement Dining Room
If filling a whole room with vintage knick-knacks is not quite what you are looking for, unique pieces of furnisher can also be created from a combinations of items collected from antique markets, such as a coffee table made from old crates by Becca Diestelkamp-Woodham of DIY Vintage Chic  as shown in the image below.
Coffee table made from old crates by Becca Diestelkamp-Woodham
Either way, let your imagination runs wild because the sky is the limit.  For more DIY ideas from vintage objects, please visit


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