Vintage (design)

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Vintage design refers to an item of another era that holds important and recognizable value.[1] This style can be applied to interior design, decor and other areas. Vintage design is popular[2] and vintage items have risen in price. Outlets of vintage design have shifted from thrift store to shabby chic stores.[3]


There is debate over what determines if an item is vintage. Some rely on the definition of anything old and of value. Others create a more limited bracket dictating only objects old enough to have been "used", but not more than two generations old.[4]

The terms vintage, retro, and antique are oftentimes used interchangeably and have some overlay, however the words possess different meanings. Retro refers to styles of a previous era, while vintage refers to an older object that contains important value, and lastly antique refers an item of the previous era or at least 100 years old.[5][1][6] A related term is antiquity, which indicates something of past eras, or simply put, ancient.[7]


Vintage design contains various subcategories or sectors.[2]

Art Deco[edit]

Art Deco was created in the hopes of looking modern and man made back in the 1920s and 1930s when it was popular. This style features mostly geometric shapes, symmetrical patterns, and idealized human figures.[2]

Art Nouveau[edit]

Art Nouveau is a style containing curved lines, flowers and other plants, contrasting colors, ornate colors, young women, and intricate details. It was created at the end of the 1800s and gained popularity at the start of the 1910s.[2]

Vintage badges[edit]

Badges call back to the late 19th and early 20th century with fonts, and images that represent ink stamped onto paper.[2]


Letterpress is simple with limited colors and fonts. The style is similar to that of a printing press with indents in the paper or the resemblance of indents.[2]

Mid-century modern[edit]

Mid-century modern style makes use of straight, clear lines, curved objects, wood tones, thin supporting, and oversized objects. It is meant to call back to the mid-20th century.[2]


The punk counterculture style of the 1970s is reused today. It contains harsh lines, clashing colors, juxtaposition, and mixed images to create an off kilter picture.[2]


Steampunk is a mash of Victorian technology and futuristic images to create a steam-powered aesthetic.[2]

Atomic Age[edit]

The Atomic Age creates an idea of a "optimistic, modern world based on a 1950s and 1960s vision of space exploration". (Kramer 20)[2]

Swiss Style[edit]

Swiss Style (International Typographic Style) contains broad block letters in contrast with a solid background to create a 3D effect.[2]


Vaporwave style couples imagery of the 1980s and 1990s with soft pastels to create a picture reminded of what "one might see in a video game or a surrealist photograph". (Kramer 25)[2]


Vintage items spark interest in many. The United States Department of Labor tells us that, "Design and fashion trends play an important part in the production of furniture. The integrated design of the article for both esthetic and functional qualities is also a major part of the process of manufacturing furniture."[8]

The popularity of vintage design and vintage inspired items can be seen through media. In 2004 designer Nicolas Ghesquière created a line for Balenciaga which called back to older collections.[9] Tom Ford's collection for her also uses references to the past. Vintage design can also be seen in ads which promote vintage inspired clothing.[9]

There are several reasons for vintage designs popularity. Some claim the phenomenon is due to the rarity and classic value of the items.[9] Others state the reason to be a result of nostalgia creating a positive emotional appeal for people toward a decade of their childhood, or other experience.[10]}


  1. ^ a b "Definition of Vintage". Retrieved 2019-12-04.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l "Vintage design: tips and inspiration to master the trend". 99designs. 2018-11-07. Retrieved 2019-12-04.
  3. ^ Kasprzak, Emma (2012-04-17). "Vintage style: The rise of retro". Retrieved 2019-12-04.
  4. ^ "Age Defining: Antique vs. Vintage vs. Retro". Apartment Therapy. Retrieved 2019-12-04.
  5. ^ "Definition of Retro". Retrieved 2019-12-04.
  6. ^ "Definition of Antique". Retrieved 2019-12-04.
  7. ^ "Definition of Antiquity". Retrieved 2019-12-04.
  8. ^ "Reusing Furniture". Joy's Used Furniture & Decor. 2019-07-17. Retrieved 2019-12-04.
  9. ^ a b c Larocca, Amy (July 4, 2001). "Tomorrow's vintage today: with designers reissuing house hits and unveiling future classics, now is the time to snap up an item you can wear right away and sell in the future". Gale one file. Retrieved December 2, 2019.
  10. ^ "A Guide to Vintage Design Styles". Design & Illustration Envato Tuts+. Retrieved 2019-12-04.