What is a Vintage Interior?

The word vintage is perhaps one which is somewhat overused. The term originates from the Old English word vendage which is itself an alteration of Old French vendange from Latin vindemia, meaning to remove wine. Vintage became a reference to the year or place that a wine was produced and then a more general term denoting something from the past which is of high quality or the best of its kind.

Age and Quality

We can conclude then, that interior décor should be of a certain quality and feature the best furnishings and accessories if it is to be considered vintage. These days, however, the word vintage is often used to describe anything from a past era whether it possesses any special qualities or not. It won’t be long until coloured bathroom suites are described as vintage when the right word is probably hideous! Coloured bathroom suites were a trend not vintage and that is a different thing entirely.

Movements and Trends

The past few hundred years have seen many trends.  It is human nature to explore different ideas and a fundamental part of the artistic nature to challenge us. Designers have always, therefore, fostered new trends by presenting us with new ideas and styles. Throughout the ages people have always wanted to show that they are fashionable and so they adopt the new styles. Whether they are always tasteful is another question!

Personal taste

The contemporary householder is presented with a choice. They can decorate their home to reflect the latest trends or they can take inspiration from the past. The results of the latter are often referred to as vintage but perhaps that term should only apply if the highest quality is achieved. Vintage furnishings and accessories might often better be described as retro. Just because something is from the past or reflects the past doesn’t mean that it is of laudable quality but it doesn’t mean that it is necessarily naff either.  In short retro interiors can be good, bad or indifferent, vintage ones are a class apart.

Time and Perspective

I suppose the other factor to consider is age and I don’t mean that of the furniture! Your concept of vintage or retro will be influenced by your own age. What looks like an antique to a youngster may very well be something you consider as a fond reminder of the not too distant past. Some people are rather resistant to change or simply feel more comfortable with what they have grown up with and for them a vintage or retro room may be decidedly current! Age seriously influences your perspective regarding both what is old and what is laudable.  You have to have lived through certain eras to appreciate the qualities of the decorative styles and the shortcomings.

Our use of the word vintage has broadened over the years to the point where its meaning has become generalised.  Vintage is not a matter of time but one of exceptional quality.

Article by Sally Stacey