What Is Vintage Furniture?


Vintage furniture is not considered antique. Antique furniture is 100 years or older. Vintage furniture is under 100 years old. Antique furniture was made from wood, aside from upholstered material and fabrics. Vintage furniture is from the 20th century, when plastics such as resin and Lucite were invented. Metals were also used in furniture manufacturing. Metals used in furniture design include aluminum, chrome and steel. Furniture that is vintage was also designed during various notable furniture movements, such as the Art Deco and Modernist movements.


  • Art deco furniture was manufactured from 1920 to 1939. This furniture was designed after the Victorian era, when furniture was hand-made from dark wood. Tapestries and patterned silks were part of the adornment on chairs. Art deco furniture is the most important vintage furniture genre, because the pieces manufactured were made when plastics, metals and plywood were being combined to create both artistic and functional furniture--something never done before.


  • When Art Deco came into existence, times were changing in American history, due to the Industrial Revolution. With the advent of conveyor belts and mass production, gone were the days of furniture makers tinkering laboriously with hand-made furniture. Machines became even more advanced during the 1930s. Producing furniture parts by the hundreds, even thousands per day was commonplace. This led to a surplus of this style furniture, and popularity grew from the affordability of the furniture and its sleek design. Popular Art Deco designers in America included Paul Frankl and Kem Weber.

Time Frame

  • Art Deco had a resurgence after falling out of fashion in the war-torn years of WWII during the 1940s. There was also a new age in art and culture, and the furniture reflected the Cubist movement inspired by Pablo Picasso, Henry Matisse and many artists who set the trends in art in the 1950s.


  • There was a period of vintage furniture called Modern. Sometimes the furniture is also referred to as Retro Modern, or Mid-century Modern. Modern furniture was made during the mid 1950s, and was similar in style to Art Deco, with the use of lightweight metals, like aluminum for chair and table legs. Often the metal was bent in odd geometric shapes, and encompassed a design theme that complimented the Modern Art movement of the time.


  • The furniture was both functional and artistic. Chairs were made from lightweight metals, but with rounded backs of resin plastic or plywood, they were also made for comfort. Plusher materials such as leather and fur were used as fabrics on chairs and sofas. The furniture was made to be used, yet it was bold and didn't lack in elegance or luxury.


  • Popular Art Deco modern and Mid-century Modern furniture manufacturers were Heywood Wakefield, Charles and Ray Eames, Dunbar, Herman Miller, Florence Knoll George Nakashima, Paul McCobb, George Nelson, Alvar Aalto, Hans Wegner, Edward Wormley, Harvey Probber, Paul Evans and Frank Lloyd Wright. German modern furniture made during this time period from the Bauhaus School of Design is also prized by collectors.

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  • Photo Credit furniture image by Luisafer from Fotolia.com
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