In the world of furniture, the words vintage and antique are sometimes used almost interchangeably, though this is not the correct way to use them. In fact, they are two separate and completely different terms used to describe age and quality. Its important to know the difference so that you get what you are looking for when you look for vintage or antique furniture.
The word vintage brings up a number of images when attached to furniture. The first and most obvious is one of age because this is a partially correct application of the word. It also brings up images attached to bellbottoms, vinyl records and generally things that have been out of the mainstream for some time. While this is society’s definition of the word, it is not an entirely accurate true of the word.
The word “vintage” is properly defined as something of high quality that demonstrates styles of the past. Because of the use that society has put on the word vintage, it is important to note that the word applies to much more than just something you can find in your grandma’s attic. Vintage furniture applies to many types of furniture, the most important qualities being those that show age and high attention to detail.
When you go to a furniture store and ask for vintage furniture, you may find a number of styles presented to you, not all of which include aged furniture. The store owner could assume you are looking for a certain style, not a certain age of furniture. This could end up with anything from a reproduction of a vintage furniture piece to a modern piece that has been termed vintage because it’s manufacturer was hoping to add a bit of romance to their sales presentation. You can see how confusing the word vintage to only mean aged furniture could get you in an entirely different type of style than you planned.
Antique furniture is another thing entirely. The correct definition of antique furniture is that it is made at least one hundred years before it is purchased. This definition is often stretched by retail stores. Often times when you do arrive at antique store, you will see items that are only 50 to 60 years old. This is because of the large industry that has grown up around antique furniture. Many people have come to realize that if antique furniture is made with a high enough quality to last over 20 years then it is much more likely than new furniture to last another 20 or more years.
Another aspect to consider about antique furniture is that should be in its original condition and not altered in any way. This definition is also stretched in many cases because finding pieces in perfect condition after over fifty years is very difficult. Sod doing a little restoration is far more economical.
So you can see that antique stores are often filled with vintage restored furniture. But that doesn’t sound as good as calling it antique furniture. Another reason they aren’t called that is because vintage furniture doesn’t have to be old, but antique furniture does. So its closer to the truth and more profitable to create an antique furniture store than a vintage furniture store.