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 advertisement for beer on the side of a building in the Downtown Tuscaloosa Historic District, Alabama, United States

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 design's 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]


Vintage design contains various subcategories reflecting the vast diversity of aesthetics that make up traditional and 20th century design styles.[2][11]

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]

Art Deco[edit]

Art Deco was created to intentionally embrace a clean, modern, and man-made look, developed and pupular from the 1920s through to the early 1940s. This style features mostly geometric shapes, symmetrical patterns, and idealized human figures.[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]

Atomic Age[edit]

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

International Style[edit]

International Style design contains broad block letters in fonts such as Helvetica (see Swiss Style for further information on the typographic style) and sleek, modern lines invoking Mies-ian simplicity and a cosmopolitan aire.[2]


The styles of the 1970s are incredibly popular in vintage design, recalling the aesthetics of hippies and other counterculture groups of the era. Use of natural color combinations such as the well-known 'harvest gold, avocado green, and burnt orange' was widespread, as were psychedelic colors and designs such as paisley.[2]


The punk counterculture style of the late 1970s and 1980s is reused today. It contains harsh lines, clashing colors, juxtaposition, and 'edgy' imagery to create an anti-authoritarian aesthetic.[2]


Postmodernism as a style incorporates bold colors and abstract geometric motifs with intentionally humorous references to past architectural and design traditions, popular in the 1980s and 1990s. Whereas 'less is more' was a tenet of modernism, postmodern architect Robert Venturi quipped 'less is a bore'.[12] Postmodernism has heavily influenced the vaporwave aesthetic.[2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Definition of Vintage". Retrieved 2019-12-04.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "A Guide to Vintage Design Styles". tutsplus. 2020-06-17. Retrieved 2021-10-21.
  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.
  11. ^ "Vintage design: tips and inspiration to master the trend". 99designs. 2018-11-07. Retrieved 2019-12-04.
  12. ^ ""Less Is More" vs. "Less Is a Bore": Whose Camp Are You In?". Architizer. Retrieved 2021-10-21.