Is there anything more soothing than leisurely browsing the homeware section of an out-of-town Value Village or combing through a newly discovered antique shop? And while we could certainly all use a soothing hobby these days, how is the once-tranquil activity of vintage home decor shopping even possible during a time when in-store browsing feels like a distant memory?
Online vintage home decor shopping is surprisingly similar to the IRL version — when you’re shopping at the right spots, says Nora Voon, the award-winning designer and founder of Noda Designs. The avid vintage collector typically goes antiquing every few weeks, and while the tactile element is currently missing, the best online shops address this discrepancy with detailed photos and thorough descriptions. Pro sellers will also meticulously note an object’s irregularities, which Voon encourages shoppers not to be dissuaded by. “Imperfections aren’t necessarily flaws,” she says. “They could just be signs that the object was not machine-made, and therefore more likely to be a one-of-a-kind antique.”
If your surroundings are feeling particularly dull these days, vintage furnishings can add a welcome dose of charm and humour to your home. Peruse the eight sellers below (bonus: they’re all Canadian) to discover special pieces filled with character that are sure to uplift your space — and fill the thrifting void in your heart.
A Door in Time
A Door in Time is a Toronto-based boutique specializing in cottagecore goods spanning the twentieth century. Endearing homeware with imagery of fruits and vegetables, flowers and farm animals, and quaint country life are plentiful, including a darling pair of squash-shaped soup bowls and an elegant swan teapot. Shoppers can browse by the style of their choosing— “The Ranch,” for example, features Western-themed treasures like miniature cowboy boot planters. The online shop also offers a unique selection of vintage folk art pieces from around the world, ranging from Denmark to Mexico.
Carter & Wainwright
Carter & Wainwright offers an expansive selection of over a thousand vintage items and collectables. The shop’s operation out of Prince Edward Island is echoed in its maritime-themed keepsakes, some of which include a nautical Norman Rockwell mug and a brass seashell trinket dish. The ceramics collection is another highlight, featuring a ‘40s-era porcelain lady’s head planter (which can also be used as a makeup brush holder) and a sweet dimpled blue vase made by PEI’s own Darlington Pottery in the 1980s.
According to Voon, vintage pottery can add an interesting textural element to modern decor. “If your interior is very contemporary and has a minimalist vibe, pairing old ceramic or porcelain objects can be really striking,” she says.
Montreal glassmakers Opaline Atelier stock beautiful antiques in addition to selling their own works of art and custom glassware. The boutique’s vintage collection is neatly curated and features ultra-feminine dishware and platters perfect for hosting or displaying jewelry. Colour is a major focus in the shop’s antique offerings, with an eye-catching assortment of coloured glass items that vary from opalescent amber and iridescent orange to sky blue and vibrant green. Pieces date back as far as the 1930s and include delightful relics from the 1950s, including the butterfly “party set” by the Jeanette Glass Company.
Fifth Avenue Vintage Co
Fifth Avenue Vintage Co is a purveyor of light-hearted retro homeware. The Saskatoon-based shop has an eye for vibrant patterns and playful characters, which adorn everything from throws and pillows to kitchenware and board games. The knick knacks section features a wide array of produce and animal-themed salt and pepper shakers, and the wall decor pieces are delightfully kitsch, ranging from needlepoint bird portraits to a moody blue velvet oil painting from the ‘70s.
Integrating an unusual art piece into your home decor can dramatically liven up a space. “Art is a way to not take things too seriously,” shares Voon. “I love expressing my quirkiness through art.”
Montreal Flea Market
Montreal Flea Market boasts an eccentric variety of home goods with a wide selection of statement clocks, novelty telephones, and spectacular light fixtures. The online shop is the perfect place to find cheeky home decor such as a ‘70s-era bowling-themed lamp, 1950s chalkware mounted fish, and a cat-shaped phone from the ‘80s. There are many retro-futuristic objects to choose from as well, including The Jetsons-esque chrome pieces like a Blessing tulip clock and a statuesque five-bulb table lamp.
Pieces Kept is based in Vancouver and offers a lovely selection of vintage home furnishings, including an impressive collection of art and coffee table books. Shoppers can find mint condition art books on Picasso, pottery, and Ikebana, as well as 1930s-era nature resources like Albert Dixon Simmons’s Wing Shots, which showcases birds in flight. Items in this store are impeccably photographed with striking minimalism, allowing the material of each object to shine, such as the glossy black finish on a porcelain Ikebana vase or the textured “Fat Lava” glaze on mid-century ceramics.
Halifax’s EpiCurio Collectables is a nostalgia-driven store that sells rare and remarkable toys from numerous decades. Being collectors first and foremost themselves, the owners of EpiCurio Collectables also restore their finds, so shoppers are able to reunite with childhood mementos in tip-top shape, including Care Bears, Polly Pocket, Strawberry Shortcake, and Tamagotchi. The shop’s selection of vintage stationary (including beloved Sandylion stickers), Mickey Mouse valentines, and Edward Mobley rubber squeak toys are sure to add levity to any interior.
Voon has several good-humoured accompaniments of her own. “I have an owl [figurine] perching on my bar cabinet in my London flat,” she says. “I named him Oscar and he’s a great companion if I ever need a friend.”
Handpicked Artifacts is a Guelph-based shop committed to helping the environment through the resale of vintage home goods. The online store offers an intriguing selection of art, embroidery, ceramics and kitchenware, like a green-glazed coffee pot made in Collingwood circa 1953 and an antique cupid cake mold by Birkmann. The candlestick holder collection is especially noteworthy, with an assortment of styles ranging from miniature brass trumpets to whimsical blue Fenton glass boots.
If you’re new to adding antique homeware to your space, Voon suggests starting small. “The key is to not overdo it,” she shares. “I find that in modern interiors, a few pieces of vintage items can really add personality and depth.” Whether you opt for a little vintage or a lot, Voon maintains that “good design comes in many forms.”
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