Gen Sohr is a featured Stylemaker in the September 2014 issue of Better Homes and Gardens. Here, Gen shares tips for choosing and using vintage pieces.
Hi! I’m Gen Sohr, and I love all things vintage, from Bertoia chairs to Bakelite bracelets. I’m the co-founder (with my darling husband Benjamin) and creative principal for Pencil & Paper Development Co., in Nashville. We renovate old houses, build new ones, and even remake retail stores—anything in need of some creative reimagining.
Here are my favorite rules for when you should go vintage—and when it’s best to buy new. I don’t ever want my spaces to feel like a museum, or as if I am trying to recreate a particular era. It’s about the mix: Old and new together is what I find most interesting.
Truly, I am addicted to the hunt! Nothing compares to spending the day scouring a good flea market and then coming home and cleaning up your treasures. But the thing about vintage is … it finds you. It’s not usually the piece you were hunting for to complete a particular room. But often, it IS the piece that makes the room!
You have to buy what you love when you find it. I never pass up something that speaks to me simply because I don’t need it. I am a believer in buying things as they find me.
Since I have a retail background, where I was in charge of customer experience in stores like Old Navy and Victoria’s Secret, I start by “merchandising” my vintage pieces. I put them in the best, most visible spots in a room. Then I fill in with new pieces where function dictates (and to keep my spaces from feeling like an actual thrift store).
In our master bedroom, I started with a pair of vintage Asian-inspired Lane bedside tables (in my favorite tomato-red). They are the heroes! I love the mix of these vintage finds with the modern Tolomeo desk lamp for bedside reading. For the bed, I wanted something upholstered for comfort, and I didn’t want to break the bank. We opted to keep it simple with this new neutral linen headboard from West Elm.
I think every room needs something that just speaks to you. This is my master closet. I wanted the space to be super clean, white, and functional with great natural sunlight. The simple architecture and well-organized cabinetry is the canvas for this space, but it’s the amazing vintage side table and pair of cut-glass mirrors that make it sing! I rarely buy tables or mirrors that are not vintage treasures because I can get a one-of-a-kind look with them. But for window treatments, I choose something simple, unfussy, and new. This Roman shade allows the vintage pieces to stand out. I often use graphic pattern fabrics in fun colors because they keep my vintage finds feeling fresh and young.
Usually, I recommend purchasing new sofas—both for comfort and sanitary reasons. But sometimes a very special vintage sofa just calls your name, and you have to break the rules. This chrome-framed beauty is such an occasion. I had it recovered in a neutral geometric pattern and had the cushions re-wrapped. Now it’s better than new!
When it comes to vintage clothing, I usually keep mine reserved for special occasions. And, like my vintage furniture, I am not scared to tweak the design of the pieces to feel more current (and figure-flattering). The great thing about buying vintage is that it allows you to become part designer, too. When I wear a vintage dress, I always pair it with a modern clean shoe silhouette (new of course) and some great chunky modern jewelry. Again, it’s always about the mix of new and old together.
And sometimes it is just plain OK to fall more on the vintage side of things. In my children’s desk nook, the desks, chairs, and lamps are all flea-market scores, which could be retro overload! But somehow with the introduction of bright modern art pieces and graphic window treatments, it all just works.
That’s the fun of using vintage pieces in your home and wardrobe: There really are NO Rules! Simply follow your heart and have fun!
Hello, friends! I’m Amy from Gather & Build—a home design and lifestyle blog.
I started blogging during the renovation of my home, a 1940s cottage loaded with charm and every bad thing: mold, asbestos, lead-based paint, and the ickiest paneling to ever grace a wall. When Refresh magazine approached me about featuring my home in the premier issue, I did what any normal person would do: I read the email four times just to be sure. And said aloud to nobody in particular, no way. No way. No. Way. What?!?
Months after the photo shoot, my story (and home) made it to new stands. It felt like an eternity. Let me be real with you. When your house is going to be in a magazine time moves like molasses—the way time moves for a six year old waiting on Christmas.
It was worth the wait. Surprise, Amy, your house is on the cover!
When it comes to decorating, my style is influenced by vintage and repurposed trends. I like a little bit of history in my decor—something with a life of its own. A trend emerged in my flea market finds: I like tools—as in hammers and such. I like the idea of taking something that has been exceptionally useful and giving it an opportunity to be beautiful.
Here are five vintage tools that have found a prettier purpose in my home:
1. Old Paint Brushes
The more the merrier—I’m on the hunt for a few stands to add to the collection.
2. The Carpenter’s Ruler
This ruler holds an old photo of my sweet grandmother and my four-year-old self. Bless our hearts. A few other ideas: It could hold a hand-written note, a family recipe, or a postcard.
3. Tool Boxes
I found these tool boxes when I was renovating. I particularly love the zinc lid on the top box. I stacked them to use as a side table in my living room. They’ve also worked nicely as a sofa table. They make great storage. Christmas decor hides in mine. My pup, Patsy Cline, approves.
4. Vintage Levels
I love these because most of them have a gentleman’s name scribbled on the side. Of course, I want that side to show. I wanted to use mine as a point of interest but I’ve seen them used as ledges. I like that, too.
5. Metal Trays
This particular tray was an interior tray in a large metal tool box. It’s great for housing rotating arrangements of flowers, candles, and art supplies.
This is one of my favorite spots in my house—the hallway with its red door and yellow light fixtures which are repurposed acetylene tank tops.
The yellow lights didn’t make it into the shot in the magazine but the clipboards in my stairwell did. I cannot explain how the photographer captured this but he did! It was quite an angle!
Grab a copy of Refresh to see the whole house—as in, all but one bedroom!
You’re invited to make yourself at home at my blog for another dose of inspiration. I’m working on a new house project and I’d love to share ideas with you and hear your ideas—my readers weighed in on so many design decisions during this house project.
Finally, I have so much appreciation and respect for the Refresh team—thank you for letting me put pen to paper and tell the story of this house myself. I’m grateful for the opportunity, flattered by your trust. You all are rockstars and you’ve succeeded in creating a beautiful and helpful publication—a thousand thank yous.