Antique, Vintage, Repurposed: Old Items Get New Life
Our community has many transplants, lured from the steel gray skies and crowded cities of the Northeast by the promise of sun-kissed beaches and never-ending blue skies.
Like hermit crabs, they shed their houses and everything inside them, trading dark, massive furniture often inherited from relatives for the light airiness of coastal vibes.
“Most people leave their antiques back home when they move here,” said Barbara Lackey, owner of Uptown Vintage Market in Melbourne.
Some people prefer to start anew and head to a furniture store, while others not ready to completely part with their past make a beeline for places such as Lackey’s shop, where a trove of usually dark pieces are turned into light treasures with a fresh recipe of paint.
Lackey enjoys telling the story of a customer who, tired of living with pieces inherited from long-gone relatives, presented her with seven truckloads of furniture.
Fast forward a few weeks and the same customer is shopping at Uptown Vintage Market and spots a piece she must have. Lackey smiles and reveals it is one she tossed out, just refurbished in lighter hues.
“She didn’t believe it,” said Lackey, who had to point to a mark inside the door to convince the customer.
The delighted customer went home with the refinished piece, a gift from Lackey. The story underlines what a difference a little TLC can do for tired furniture.
“It takes on a whole new life,” Lackey said.
While antiques are cherished in Northeastern cities, Brevard seems less keen on the charms of these old things, instead enamored by the laidback style of reimagined vintage — a different bird from an antique.
Learn the Lingo
According to Merriam Webster, an antique is “a work of art, piece of furniture or decorative object made at an earlier period and according to various customs laws, at least 100 years ago.”
Vintage, on the other hand, can be as young as 40 years old. The big difference between antiques and vintage is that messing around with the finish or patina or hardware of an antique is considered verboten, for it significantly diminishes its value, while vintage is tailor-made for refreshing and repurposing.
Another anecdote from Lackey concerns a 1920s-era buffet that languished in the showroom for four months in its original state.
“Nobody asked about it,” she said.
In desperation, she refinished the piece, and it sold within two days for $100 more.
In this sector of the furniture and accessories industry, antiques and vintage are just the beginning.
Primitive items are handmade items that incorporate carpentry techniques such as dovetailing and mortise and tenon joinery.
Beyond antique, vintage and primitive is retro, the youngest kid in the block, with items that are at least 20 years old but have not yet hit the 40-year mark. They are nostalgia for a recent past we can still remember.
Reproductions, or repros or repops, look old, but are not, and neither are they fakes. They are nothing more than honest copies that celebrate originals.
Like reproductions, collectibles need not be old. They are just, well, collectible items that, like potato chips, are desirable in large quantities.
Making Old Into New
Upcycling transforms unwanted objects into items perceived to have a higher value.
The variations don’t stop here. Repurposing entails using an object for something other than its intended use. Good examples are the shadowboxes Lori Stanizzi creates from scrap jewelry and Gorilla Glue. Lori’s Imagination Creations repurposes single earrings, broken watches and unwanted costume jewelry into little figures that reside inside 5”x7” shadow boxes.
“I love looking at the old jewelry and coming up with new ideas,” she said.
Stanizzi started her business this past August at local farmers markets. The reception to the shadow boxes and their inspirational messages exceeded her expectations.
“I sold the first one I made immediately,” she said. “They hadn’t seen anything like it.”
She now takes custom orders for weddings, anniversaries or just because.
“I have people asking if I can use their mother’s or grandmother’s jewelry,” she said.
Heather Gast is also adept at repurposing items such as old, scuffed doors into headboards or benches. Under her skilled hands, an old toolbox becomes a nifty side table with just the addition of four legs and a coat of paint.
“You’re making something old a little different,” said Gast, owner of Rehab Vintage Market in the Eau Gallie Arts District of Melbourne.
Chalk paint is Gast’s best friend.
“There is no prep work involved and it sticks to anything,” said Gast, who sells Annie Sloan chalk paints to DIY customers.
“We have people coming in during their lunchtime to get inspired,” she said.
Do-it-yourselfers who go pro often begin puttering with restoring and repurposing at an early age. Kathy Duart, for example, remembers how her family always found new life for old things.
“We didn’t throw anything away,” said Duart, owner of A Vintage Marketplace in Melbourne.
“My dad and I liked to take things apart and put them together differently, like taking a television armoire or an entertainment center and turning them into tables and bookcases.”
A reason for the painting and the repurposing is the fact that out-of-style furniture made even just a couple of decades ago was intrinsically well-crafted and deserves a second life.
“One of our customers wanted to sell his Henredon set because he wanted white furniture,” Lackey said. “I asked him, why not paint it? He loved it.”
Terms of Time
Antique: At least 100 years old
Vintage: As young as 40 years old
Primitive: Handmade using carpentry techniques
Retro: At least 20 years old but not yet 40
Reproductions: Honest copies that celebrate originals
Collectibles: Desirable in large quantities
Upcycling: Unwanted items transformed into items with perceived higher value
Repurposing: Using objects for something other than their intended use
Where to Shop
A Vintage Market Place
6370 N. U.S. 1, Melbourne
Lori’s Imagination Creations
Various local markets
Rehab Vintage Market
1441 N. Harbor City Blvd., Melbourne
Uptown Vintage and Antique Market
1024 S. Harbor City Blvd., Melbourne