Snippets Issue 16 : The Vintage & Retro Issue

Vintage Decor

Style your home with vintage odds and ends.

Vintage Decor

By Tara from Queens of Vintage

If you’re eager for a bit of a household purge this summer, there’s no need to get too bin-bag happy, in fact lots of your ‘junk’ can be given a fresh purpose and a new lease of life. Tara Gardner offers a few quick and easy tips.

Whether you’re trawling the local junk shop, or doing a bit of a clear out, it’s worth having a careful think about the items in front of you, as they often have plenty of hidden potential.

Vintage sugar bowl for your vanity


Give your old vintage shelves a DIY makeover:

Browsing junk shops, antiques markets, and car boot sales, you may be forgiven for never giving that tatty trunk or battered old wardrobe a second glance, but perhaps it’s time you looked again. Within those shabby shelves hides a wealth of restoration possibilities too good to pass by. Tara Gardner explains how you can give weary shelves a whole new lease of life.


It’s obvious to say that many collectors look for pieces in excellent vintage condition, but others seek something a little less grand. Many collectors will see the hidden value of a seemingly shy and tired vintage piece, regarding it as a great restoration challenge, and a fantastic investment.

There are lots of ways you can bring back the glory of a time-beaten set of vintage shelves, ranging from simple wood stains or varnishes to wallpapers and paints. Wallpapering and painting shelves not only gives them a unique character and style, but can also really liven up your living space.

So grab yourself a set of simple vintage wooden shelves from your local car boot sale, pick out your favourite vintage wallpaper, roll up your sleeves and get crafty with this guide to wallpapering your vintage shelves.

Choosing wallpaper and paint


Before you choose your wallpaper, make sure you have measured your shelves carefully. Plan out where you want to put the paper – for example, if you want the whole unit to be fully wallpapered, or whether you just want certain features covered. Once you’ve got a good idea of how much wallpaper you will need, then you can start the fun part of shopping around for it.

With such a huge array of eclectic eras of design to choose from, you may find it difficult to pick out a wallpaper, so do spend some time researching on the internet, or rummaging through car boot sales and antique shops until you find your perfect paper.

Consider the décor of the room you want the shelves to sit in – do you want them to be bold and make a statement, or do you want them to subtly blend in?

Once you’re happy with your wallpaper, select some paint which you feel will best compliment it. This can be used to fill any spaces which aren’t wallpapered, such as the inner back panel or edges.


Wallpaper and paint all coordinated, you can start on your restoration project.

First of all, it’s a good idea to sand down the shelves in order to prepare them for painting.

Carefully measure the areas you want to cover with the paper, and mark this out on your wallpaper. Once you are happy you have accurate measurements, cut the wallpaper accordingly.

When the wallpaper is cut and ready, apply a coat or two of primer on the areas of the unit you will be painting. Remember to leave these to dry completely. Once these are dry, you can start painting – using several coats if needed. Let this dry fully before starting with the wallpaper.

Once the paint has dried, you can start to paste your wallpaper. You can use a craft adhesive glue, or wallpaper paste for this.

Paint the glue or paste onto the surface you are wallpapering, and then slowly roll on the wallpaper. Use a clean paint roller or a rolling pin as you unroll the wallpaper, to make sure it sits smoothly on the surface without air pockets.

Keep a craft knife handy to neatly trim away any excess paper.

Leave it to dry for a few hours.

Once it is dry, you can use either a varnish, glue, or clear lacquer spray as a top coat on the wallpaper. You can use this on the painted areas as well if you have not used a gloss paint.

Let it all dry overnight. If you want a more distressed look to the paint like the shelves in this picture, try chipping away at it a little, or sanding off some of the paint.

And that’s it! A really simple way to give your home a beautiful statement piece of furniture, which will cost you very little except your time.

This technique can be used with lots of different items of furniture. Try it with your coffee table, wardrobe, chairs, or even a headboard. You can even re-paper and paint them if you want to change your décor.


I was recently given a beautiful Thirties cut-glass sugar bowl by my mother. It was so pretty that rather than hide it away in a kitchen cupboard for a special occasion, I thought I’d make the most of it and add it to my vanity table display. I now keep anything in it from make-up pads and hair-pins, to brooches, and buttons.

Printing block drawer ornament rack

Old printing block drawers are fairly easy to find in jumble sales or car boot sales, and make fantastic disply racks for your knick-knacks. All you need to do is attach some picture hooks onto the back and run a piece of thin wire or strong twine across them, so it can hang neatly on your wall.

It’s perfect for housing all your little bits and bobs, and a great excuse to collect even more!

Vintage fabric to make new curtains

If your curtains are getting a bit tatty, or they simply aren’t thick enough, you could try repurposing them with some vintage fabric.

I made these curtains out of some Fifties floral fabric and used my dull, modern curtains as a backing. I also found an old sash which I cut in half and used as tie-backs.

Glass Apothecary jar or candy jar display cases

Most vintage glass, unless badly cracked or scratched, will clean up a treat with some warm soapy water and a little elbow grease. Once it’s clean, you can use the jar as a display case.

Try scattering the bottom of the jar with small vintage items such as buttons, poker chips, old jewellery, or marbles. Use these small bits as a base on which you can then add either an old playing card, cigarette card, or even an old photograph. The smaller bits will keep the card or photograph in place.

Old door knobs for draw handles

To give a bit more character to a plain old chest of drawers, bedside table, or desk, try replacing the drawer handles with vintage door knobs. You could even use a selection of mismatched knobs for a really unique look.

Another nice way you could jazz up your furniture, is using old vintage finger plates as decoration. Find a flat space on the furniture and attach the plate using small screws.

Old finger plates make great centrepieces for wooden headboards, old wooden-backed chairs, and even wardrobes.

Three ideas for a vintage birdcage

More often than not, vintage birdcages need very little doing to them and look fantastic as they are. But if you own a rather tatty or rusty birdcage, you might like to add a little something to it to give it some glamour.

Whether for indoor or outdoor display, adding a beautiful flowering plant or a vase of flowers to your birdcage can look absolutely stunning. You could even use the birdcage as a hanging basket.

Coming in all shapes and sizes, and in a huge variety of different designs, vintage birdcages also make really adorable lamps and lanterns for the home or garden. Try adding candles or placing a lamp inside your birdcage to create a really unusual and wonderfully eye-catching light effect.

An alternative to plants and lamps, is to use your birdcage as a general display case for anything from ornaments to photographs, from jewellery to hats.

Vintage tiles as coasters and table tops

Vintage tiles are so versatile there are loads of ways you can use them in your home or garden.

Without doing much to a vintage tile, you can use them as coasters, provided of course they don’t have raised ceramic embellishments and are flat enough. If a tile is a bit rough or uneven underneath it’s a good idea to back it with some felt, cork, or even stiff card.

Another great way you could use your vintage tiles is by making them into a top for a table. Even if they are mismatched, chipped, or broken into pieces, you can create your own tiled, mosaic table top by using a special tile adhesive and some grout sealer.

Vintage tiles are also great just as decoration for a mantlepiece, wall, or shelf.

Vintage basket storage

Vintage baskets are really handy for just about any kind of household storage. Use them to hold your vintage books, newspapers, craft materials, clothes – anything!

If the basket is a bit worn out, you could try giving it a lick of paint, and putting in a lining using pretty fabric.

For more vintage decor tips, check out the make do and mend section on Queens of Vintage.


Great ideas - I really like the one of using an onld jar as a display case for a photo! I love using old and vintage things for new uses (if I ever get married I've thought of telling people to get my shower/wedding presents from antique stores)
i love modage (modern and vintage)
thanks for the tips
i love modage (modern and vintage)
thanks for the tips

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