The most desirable and most expensive vintage items are those with wonderfully aged patinas: cracked, peeling, weathered painted wood and tin. Left untouched, these pieces add character to your decor and mix beautifully with modern and traditional looks. They are often used as decorative elements, not for work surfaces or in dining areas, unless covered with glass.
• For utilitarian items such as tables, dressers and accessories that require cleaning, use a mild solution of warm soapy water or, for tough, greasy jobs, trisodium phospate (TSP).
• Before recoating a piece, sand the surface lightly to break up the existing finish. This will provide a "tooth" so that the new coating adheres well.
• Use a bristle brush for the first coat of paint to ensure proper adhesion. Use a small foam roller or foam brush for a smooth final coat.
• For a worn paint finish, rub a coat of clear paste wax on edges and raised detail areas before painting. Lightly sand down the areas where the wax was applied to reveal the wood or layers of paint beneath. Apply a final coat of wax or an acrylic clear coat for a durable finish.
• To antique a painted finish, using a foam brush, apply a coat of diluted acrylic raw umber over the entire piece, one section at a time. Use one part raw umber to three parts latex glaze. Wipe off immediately, leaving behind a transparent coat of the tinted glaze. Let dry. Seal with furniture wax or clear-coat acrylic for a durable finish.
Getting the vintage look
• Use discretion when integrating flea market finds into your home. Avoid filling your house with all flea market pieces.
• Blend old with new for a modern country style that's sophisticated and enduring.
• Find a palette of colours that you like and stick with it when choosing fabric, wall colour and furnishings.
• Avoid using bold colours too often against pale backgrounds to maintain a soft, calm colour scheme.
Steven Howard, Canadian Living's vintage-style expert, is owner of three vintage-style stores in Toronto's trendy Leslieville (Queen St. East) neighbourhood. Visit his website for inspiring furnishings and to see his paint finishes, www.flikandcompany.com.