17 Ways to Decorate with Vintage Textiles for Timeless Style

bright red quilt tapestry behind cottage bed
Photo: Edmund Barr

Vintage textiles, such as quilts, rugs, and other fabric items, are often handed down through generations or scooped up at flea markets and antique stores. Put these beautiful pieces on display in your home as art, seat covers, headboards, and more. Use these decorating ideas to creatively weave antique blankets, 1950s tea towels, heirloom quilts, recycled feed sacks, and other old-fashioned fabrics into your decor.

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Vintage Rugs

remodeled shite kitchen red color space rug
Laurey Glenn

Vintage rugs are one of the most common textiles you'll find at antique shops and markets. While shopping, remember that faded colors and frayed edges add character. Because these area rugs and runners already have some level of wear and tear, use them in high-traffic areas such as kitchens or hallways without worry.

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Vintage Canvas Sacks

rustic bench with feed sack pillows above shelf with hooks
Jay Wilde

Heavy canvas and tightly woven linen sacks that once held feed, seed, or pantry staples bring texture and pattern to interiors. Stuff a feed sack with fiberfill and slip-stitch the opening closed to create a simple DIY pillow. You can also fashion a cover for a pillow form by using the printed section of one feed sack as the cover's front and a plain feed sack or length of neutral fabric as the back.

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Vintage Bed Linens

bright red quilt tapestry behind cottage bed
Edmund Barr

Handmade quilts and embroidered pillowcases bring collected charm to bedrooms. Here, a bright red quilt doubles as a tapestry behind a primitive bedstead. Vintage linens and an embroidered pillow add to the antique look.

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Decorating with Vintage Blankets

dining area with vintage furniture
Reed Davis

Use vintage throws or quilts to give a wooden bench a softer seat. Fold the blanket to match the width of the bench and lay it across the seat (it's OK if the blanket is slightly longer than the bench's length). Attach plain leather belts down the length to secure the cushion in place. Keep the belt buckles tucked underneath.

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Memory Saver

vintage childhood dress framed above cream bed
John Bessler

Whether it's a dress from your childhood, your own kid's first pair of overalls, or just a cool-looking piece from an antiques store, vintage fashions rise to artwork status when placed in display frames and prominently exhibited. Framed baby clothes make playful additions to nurseries and kids' rooms, while more primitive apparel works in country-style and early-American designs. Surround the framed piece with wall decor that evokes similar memories or matches the aesthetic.

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Vintage Quilt Ideas

herilooom star quilt draped on distressed table with framed maps
King Au

Old quilts often sit protected and unappreciated in linen closets, but these beautiful blankets are better stored out in the open where they can be seen and appreciated. These homeowners draped an heirloom star quilt across a table set beneath framed maps (which share the quilt's hues) to create a focal-point vignette that spills over with color and pattern. When displaying a quilt across furniture, make sure the table is wide and tall enough that the quilt doesn't drag on the floor.

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Vintage Sweater Upholstery

letter sweater wrapped around leather chair seat
Kevin Miyazaki

Put your school pride on display by turning a letter sweater (or any old sweater with a newly applied letter) into a seat cover. Simply wrap the sweater around the chair's seat, tucking the sweater's neck edges in at the top. Staple the wrapped-around sections to the back of the seat to secure.

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Vintage Blanket Ideas

wicker chair with old camp blanket on rustic enclosed porch
Kevin Miyazaki

Vintage blankets, such as those produced by Hudson Bay and Pendleton companies, strike a chord with anyone who loves bold colors and patterns that evoke a sense of place. These homeowners repurposed an old camp blanket to update a wicker rocking chair. Pieces cut from the blanket upholster the seat and create a wraparound pillow that cushions the back.

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Vintage Quilt Pillowcases

cottage bedroom with plaid fabric ruffled pillow shams
Paul Dyer

Lengths of fabric harvested from frayed or raggedy quilts supply the makings for one-of-a-kind pillowcases and shams. Look for a quilt that's large enough to create a matching set, or find two pieces with similar colors and patterns. Though these two shams were pieced together from different quilts, they became an almost-matched pair thanks to the plaid fabric ruffles finishing their edges.

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Interest Underfoot

bold Brazilian blankets as rugs under table with acrylic chairs
Michael Partenio

Tightly woven textiles easily take on new purpose when wielded by creative hands. This homeowner warmed up a modern breakfast room by using a pair of Brazilian blankets as a layered area rug that unites the wooden dining table and acrylic ghost chairs. For extra safety on bare floors, always place blankets or area rugs atop nonslip rug pads, ($50, The Home Depot) to ensure the rugs don't become tripping hazards.

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Travel-Inspired Vintage Textiles

souvenir pennants stitched to quilt in rustic bedroom
Kevin Miyazaki

Stitch old souvenir pennants to the top of a coverlet, blanket, or bedspread to stylishly present a record of past journeys or to forecast travels yet to come. Gather pennants in a variety of colors, or collect ones from a certain geographical region, to arrange in a pleasing pattern. This bedspread works with vintage-looking curtain fabrics, log furnishings, and a totem-pole lamp to create a theme that is part Western cabin, part 1950s kitsch.

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Upcycled Upholstery

vintage floral curtain fabric upholstered as bed headboard and footboard
Jay Wilde

To save money on vintage textiles, buy drapery panels stitched from vintage fabrics. Each panel will supply you with at least a couple yards of material that you can rework as you please. This homeowner used floral curtain fabric to inexpensively upholster a bed's headboard and footboard.

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Period Fabric Patterns

floral panels and yellow geometric headboard in blue room
King Au

A bolt of grandma's 1960s fabric became the starting point for an interesting interplay of striped, solid, and geometric textiles. Used to create drapery panels, the fabric inspired the bedroom's blue, yellow, and white color scheme. Strategic mixing of large-, medium-, and small-scale textile patterns ensures that the room remains peaceful instead of appearing too busy.

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A Fine Tribute

vintage prints and 1904 rug hung on living room wall
Edmund Barr

Mount vintage rugs above a mantel or piece of furniture for a beautifully textured take on wall decor. Here, a century-old hooked rug becomes an artistic statement that perfectly suits the room's patriotic theme. When hanging a rug on the wall, attach it using curtain clips, ($19, The Home Depot) to avoid damaging the fabric.

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Vintage Stitched Decor

oval framed samplers and quilt accent pillows
Kevin Miyazaki

Head to your grandma's sewing room or flea market vendors specializing in vintage textiles to look for fabric or quilt remnants and needlework pieces that you can reuse to create pillows or frame as artwork. Stitched from sections of well-worn crazy quilts, these accent pillows captivate the eye. They also complement the stitchery displayed on the bedspread and the samplers showcased on the wall.

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Vintage Tea Towel Ideas

chair seat wrapped with vintage tea towel and lace-detail pillow
Jay Wilde

Vintage tea towels and tablecloths often boast fun motifs in catchy colors. Use the textiles to create window valances, accent pillows, wall hangings, or chair seats. To get a similar look, remove the seat from the chair frame by unscrewing the screws that hold it in place. Wrap the seat with a towel or tablecloth remnant. Make sure the fabric's best side is facing upward before stapling the wrapped fabric to the bottom of the seat. Cut away the excess fabric, and rescrew the seat to the chair. Seats not removable? Top them with cushions crafted from vintage linens.

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Pieced-Together Vintage Rug

vintage blue rugs stitched together under modern round table
Ed Gohlich

Use small scraps of vintage textiles to create an inventively composed area rug. Here, shapes cut from old Persian and Chinese Art Deco rugs were stitched together and then overdyed in indigo to give the puzzled-together carpet a cohesive appearance. Thick, visible stitches add another element of texture to the design.

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