Is it antique, vintage, or just plain used?

I am often asked this question! What exactly are the differences between antique, vintage, and used?  

Antique furniture is furniture that is at least 100 years old - plain and simple.  This is the definition that is most widely accepted by experts including those on PBS's Antiques Roadshow.  The definition has its origins in the Tariff Act of 1930, enacted by the U.S. Customs Office. Of course some dealers will try to tell you that anything over 50 years old is an antique, but you'll never find a learned expert to go along.  Even if an item was made as early as say, 1918, it is old, but it is still not technically an antique!

Vintage furniture is furniture that is characterized by maturity, excellence, and enduring appeal.  This definition comes from the definition of 'vintage' as given by the American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition  Using this definition, you'll find that most of the furniture I sell is vintage.  While I don't describe every piece of vintage furniture as 'vintage', I will never use the word 'vintage' for a piece that is not!  But what does vintage really mean?  Let's break it down...

* Maturity: For my purposes, vintage furniture is furniture that pre-dates 1965.  Furniture that is at least 40 years old, has lived a life that has crossed generations, and has a story to tell - if only it could talk! 

* Excellence: Vintage furniture is extremely well made, with wonderful attention to detail. 

Take a look at the drawer dividers built into the drawers of these 1940's chests  The drawer on the left even has a sliding coin tray - made of wood, not plastic - in the center section.  Notice that even the floors of the drawers are made of mahogany.

* Enduring Appeal: Vintage furniture was built for function, sometimes even more so than for beauty.  Yet, it's inherent appeal endures long after its intended function has become obsolete.

Once upon a time every properly outfitted bedroom had a dressing table like those that you see here.  Typically, a mirror would hang above it.  Today,  these make wonderful desks!

Used furniture is ordinary furniture that is simply not new.  It is not antique, and it doesn't possess the qualities needed to classify it as vintage. Used furniture has its place in the world - lots of people choose it for reasons of budget or convenience - but it has no place at Fabulous Finds!