What’s The Difference?
While related, vintage, retro, and mid-century furniture don’t necessarily mean the same thing. Vintage is the broader term, meaning anything older than 30 years old. This means that both retro and mid-century furniture can usually be categorised as vintage. Careful not to cross the 100-year mark here though, because, after that, the piece qualifies as an antique!
Retro – coming from the word retrospective – will usually be specific to furniture from the ‘50s, ‘60s, and ‘70s. These decades are singled out in particular because this is when the general aesthetic started to move away from the traditional pre-war style. It’s fun, purposefully kitschy, and nostalgic. Think bold wallpapers, chrome chairs, sleek furniture, and psychedelic patterns. The retro look can even be divided further into the particular decades that it covers. An important thing to note is that a piece can even still be considered retro even if it wasn’t created in that era, as long as it still follows the retro aesthetic!
In the flourishing fifties, there was a post-war renaissance in design and architecture. Popular aesthetics included gentle curves, clean lines, and a mix of different materials which would be eventually be hailed as mid-century furniture. The movement saw Danish style furniture take reign of the interior design industry, making Scandinavian pieces an iconic cornerstone of the aesthetic up until today.
Out With The New, In With The Old
The design trends of the past couple decades have been dominated by cheap IKEA-esque DIY pieces. That’s why more and more designers and homeowners are going back to vintage, retro, and mid-century furniture. Not only are they built to last, but they’re usually not instantly tied to any single furniture line or manufacturer, resulting in pieces that will truly make your living space one-of-a-kind. It’s doubtful that you’ll be able to find a big-box desk at a 2nd hand shop or vintage marketplace – simply because they’re just not made to last very long!
Where To Shop?
So you’ve decided to go out and find some pieces for your home, but where do you start?
- eBay - In this day and age, you can find almost everything online. But sometimes all these sites can get a little overwhelming so eBay is a great place to start if you want to look for cheap and second-hand vintage furniture.
- Collectika - Collectika offers a wide range of vintage furniture from rosewood coffee tables to sideboards.
- Grandfather’s Axe - One of the higher end furniture shops in Melbourne, Grandfather’s Axe offers high-quality mid-century furniture.
- Good Day Club - Are you planning a retro-inspired event? Don’t want to spend on actual furniture? Good Day Club has everything from vintage to mid-century modern furniture. Check out this sofa that you can rent for only $AUD 210.00
How To Identify An Authentic Mid-Century, Vintage, Or Retro Piece
So you’ve visited a vintage store and maybe you’ve found something you like. How can you tell if it’s the real deal? Here are a few ways to identify an authentic piece.
- Designers and Manufacturers – Once you’ve more or less chosen the look you like, familiarise yourself with popular designers and manufacturers that make the type of furniture you’re after. Then, if you recognise the stamps or markings, you’ll know that it’s authentic.
- Date and Place of Origin – It’s hard to trace an item’s provenance, but usually a mark that says “Made in Denmark” is a good sign, particularly for mid-century furniture. Some sellers will even have papers or receipts to prove the origin of a piece. For retro furniture, the date when of when it was created will most likely be your best bet of authenticity.
- Quality – As mentioned before, this era takes pride in professionally-made, quality pieces. Make sure to take a good look at the joints, corners, and even inside the cabinets to see if it’s well-made enough.
- Material – For mid-century furniture in particular, designers were fond of using solid wood like elm, beech, and rosewood. However, other materials like plastic, metal, and fibreglass were used as well.
An important thing to note is that an expensive price tag does not automatically mean that it’s authentic. Plenty of genuine pieces can be found for cheap! You’d be surprised how affordable genuine vintage furniture can be if you look hard enough.
Popular Retro Styles
Quirky and fun would be the two words fit to describe what retro is. However, depending on the decade, retro can span a whole range of various designs from kitsch to subtle to bold. One thing is for sure though, you’ll always have a conversation piece that will add personality to any space!
Coffee tables like these were very popular during this decade, sporting both form and functionality. Sleek furniture was a mainstay during the retro ‘50s and it’s usually laid against bright and colourful wallpaper.
Colourful armchairs and abstract touches were also quite common. There were often influences from the subtle curves of mid-century pieces as well.
When ‘60s retro is mentioned, Parker furniture always comes to mind. It was during this decade where Scandinavian design – borrowed from the mid-century look – is playfully paired with bright psychedelic colours.
After Tony Parker returned from London to Sydney in the ‘60s, he established a retro look that was still Danish-inspired.
Playful furniture that played with where your eyes would be drawn to was a big hit as well. Splashes of colour along with a mix and match of shapes achieved this retro vibe.
A major aspect of the style of the ‘70s were bold fabrics, colours, and patterns. Print on print was used often, as were non-traditional material and textures.
Furniture became slightly less sleek and a little more chunky, like this sofa. Burnt oranges and avocado greens were popular colour palettes as well.
Popular Mid-Century Styles
All across Melbourne and Sydney, you’ll find mid-century furniture in homes everywhere – and for good reason. This Danish style compliments almost any space and combines both form and function.
The mid-century look often used gentle curves and experimented with different materials. It’s never too overly ornate, keeping it simple yet elegant.
Sleek lines are an iconic mid-century style. Geometric forms that kept things uncluttered yet functional was also another important principle in this aesthetic.
Mid-century designers would often explore a juxtaposition of shapes, colours, and textures. But the rule was always that form should follow function.
Furniture and interior design are very personal and will reflect your style, space, and mood. Whether your vibe is vintage, mid-century, retro, or even a mix of all three, the important thing is that you express yourself! You should exercise your freedom to be creative with your home and see that it’s as unique and one-of-a-kind as you are.