8 Designers Share the Vintage Finds They'll Never Forget

Yellow tufted velvet sofa.

Glamohemian Girl

Is there a vintage lamp you lusted after for years before finally tracking it down on Facebook Marketplace? Or, maybe you stumbled upon the most incredible midcentury table at a roadside antique shop before wondering how you ever lived without it. Vintage pieces make an impression on us, not just for their style, but for their stories—the stories of the owners who’ve come before, of their provenance, and the tales of how we tracked them down.

We asked eight designers to share with us the stories of the vintage finds they’ll never forget, from estate sale near-misses to flea market treasure hunts to diamonds in the rough in need of a bit of imagination. They truly reminded us why it’s the hunt that makes these items so special. 

So, whether you have a soft spot for Americana, a love of bold, original art, or simply enjoy a vintage story that seems meant to be, settle into your coziest (vintage) chair and start planning your next furniture-fueled adventure.

01 of 08

George Washington Print

Vintage print of George Washington on wall.

Capitol Vintage Charm

"I had been on the hunt for an old-school house print of George Washington for as long as I could remember. One day at a favorite local flea market, I finally found him and sprinted across the parking lot. Needless to say, that level of excitement didn't do much for my negotiation tactics, but I was excited to have finally found him. We live down the street from his estate, Mount Vernon, and it feels like such an appropriate way to pay homage to our first President and my love of American History." —Stacy Harvie of Capitol Vintage Charm

02 of 08

Midcentury Dining Chairs

Midcentury inspired dining room with chandelier.

Tilt Top Living

"We had been on the hunt for the perfect dining room chairs for months, but everything we had seen wasn’t quite right. Our home was built in 1957, and we love to honor its origins by incorporating midcentury pieces in each space. While the midcentury modern reproductions for sale now are nice, they often have higher prices and are missing the magic that true vintage pieces hold. As antique dealers and lovers of old furniture, we think nothing can compare to the special feeling that comes from owning a piece that has history and a story. We were casually looking for inventory for our new online shop, and we stumbled upon the perfect midcentury dining room chairs. As soon as we saw them, we knew they were the ones. The chairs have a simple walnut frame, a woven rattan back, and generous black leather seats. What’s more, they were made in the 1960s by Biggs, a well-known furniture company based in Richmond, VA, our hometown.

They were perfect, but we actually had to compete for them at an auction. There wasn’t a lot of activity at first, but towards the end, the other bidders started driving up the price. In the final nail-biting seconds, we made the highest offer and still got them for an amazing bargain. We just brought them home and are over the moon about how they look. It’s been one of those elusive design moments where something turns out even better than we were envisioning." —Hayley and Craig Redmond Cilley of Tilt Top Living

03 of 08

A Brutalist Chandelier

Eclectic luxe dining room with brutalist chandelier.

Tilt Top Living

"The best vintage finds are the ones that come with a story, and my Tom Greene brutalist chandelier has both. It was a bucket list item for me, so I immediately spotted it on an estate sale listing. Since I didn’t think I could afford it and my daughter was home from school with a stomach bug, I didn’t go to the sale. However, as with all good vintage pieces, I couldn’t stop thinking about it and knew I had to try. The next day, I threw my kids in the car, handed my sick daughter a bucket, drove the 45 minutes along a windy road to find it still at the sale, still hanging, 20% off at a price I could afford. Sold! Except my husband had to take a day off work to take it down from the ceiling. This chandelier was literally a family effort. Not my proudest parenting moment, but will remain my proudest vintage moment." —Anna Weaver of Anna Weaver Interiors

04 of 08

A Bamboo Chair

Bamboo chair next to dresser and plant.

CJ Swank

"I’ve found several of my favorite pieces by manifesting them, silly as that sounds. When I want something really, really badly, I throw it out to the universe, which is really just another way of saying you make it happen by talking about it, searching for it, being open to possibilities that lead you to it. My most recent manifestation was also the best, a fabulous vintage Brighton Pavilion bamboo chair that I’d become obsessed with. I literally said, 'Let’s see if my chair is here,' as I opened my Facebook Marketplace listing alert." —CJ Swank

05 of 08

Antique Chaise Lounge

Antique chaise lounge.

Viva La Vintage

"The vintage find I will never part with is actually an antique recamier chaise lounge, aka fainting sofa. The piece, which I lovingly named Grace, was appraised to be a little over 200 years old. It belonged to a very dear friend who recently passed away, started my love of antiques, and taught me everything I know on how to look for quality pieces. Joyce was an avid collector who had a warehouse filled with pieces that needed to be restored, and this chaise was left unloved for decades. 

I had it reupholstered and the wood reconditioned to bring back the beauty.  It's a unique hand-carved piece that was made in the late 1800s. To incorporate this piece into my home décor was a true blessing. I designed my living room around it to create an eclectic Afro-boho/vintage style. Oftentimes, antiques are considered outdated and not able to create a new look with a modern style. But, given how beautifully this was crafted, I was able to give it a modern look, and it has become a focal point in my décor. It's my most complimented furniture item, and I'm honored to have such a historical piece added in my home with the memory of a loving friend." —Jamala Wallace of Viva La Vintage

06 of 08

The Perfect Vintage Art Piece

Colorful vintage art piece on wall.

Impeccable Nest

"It's always about the thrill of the hunt. Sometimes you come up empty, sometimes you leave a great find behind, and sometimes, you strike gold. On a random day, my mom and I walked into a local thrift store looking to pass the time—but isn't that when you just happen to find something incredible? Well, that's when my mom came across this incredible piece of art. It's massive, original, bold, beautiful, and colorful. It's as if Matisse and Picasso came to play on a canvas, and with minimal debate, I bought it. No real idea if it would work, or where it would go, but we had to have it. Now, it is the centerpiece of our living room, and to us, it's priceless." —Emma Carole Paradis and Kimberly Carole of Impeccable Nest

07 of 08

A Tufted "Croissant" Sofa

Yellow tufted velvet sofa.

Glamohemian Girl

"The right vintage piece can bring so much character into a space. What I love most about vintage furniture is its craftsmanship and unique lines, as both qualities can be challenging to find in today's furniture. I have so many vintage pieces that I love, but among my favorite is a channel-tufted Baker sofa that I lovingly call "the croissant." I found it online. There were just a few dingy pics posted of the dusty, old sofa with horrible patterned fabric, but I could discern what appeared to be a wonderful shape. I got it dirt cheap and reupholstered in rich yellow velvet because I wanted a jolt of happiness in my living room. The bones of the sofa are solid oak, and we believe it was made in the 1930s. It was a bit of an investment to reupholster but still a fraction of what something of its caliber would cost new." —Seana Freeman of Glamohemian Girl

08 of 08

Faux Tortoise Painted Etageres

Tortoise print shevles holding wine glasses.

Paula Coldiron

"One of my most unforgettable finds is a pair of faux tortoise painted etageres by Lane. I was getting ready to have an opening celebration where people could shop in person, and I really wanted some pieces that would allow me to display items in a beautiful way. I went to an estate sale with not a lot of hope since it was the next to last day of the sale, and I could not believe my eyes when I saw the pair just sitting there. Finding a pair is always fun—kind of like finding a unicorn—and these were so beautiful. I think most people had passed by them because they were covered in dust and filled with figurines, so it truly goes to show that it pays to look beyond how a piece is being used or is styled at an estate sale, thrift store, or antique store. That is not what matters—what matters is how you would use it. Look for interesting pieces with good bones, because styling alone can give items a new life." —Beth Hubrich of Mary and Wilma