Thursday, March 15, 2012

Vintage vs junk

The last time I had to hastily furnish a flat on a budget, I did so with a mix of cast offs, Habitat and junk shops. That was a decade ago, and, alas, gone are the days where you can buy a big, quality, stylish sofa from Habitat for  £700. Frankly, it's all gone a bit IKEA. Today's £700 Habitat sofa looks a lot like a £400 IKEA one.

Something similar seems to have happened to junk shops. They've all gone a bit vintage.

I bought 4 lovely midcentury modern chairs for £20 when I moved into my flat in 2002. I got them from a no-nonsense second hand shop in Gospel Oak. They were a bit tatty and my cat, Jack, made them even tattier. But they served a purpose and for a fiver each you can't ask for perfection. My old friend, the Activist, revamped them for a book project and they looked brilliant, until Jack destroyed them again.

It was with the memory of my £5 chairs that I struck out onto the Holloway Road last weekend. I wasn't after anything fancy. A battered old chair, a scarred kitchen table, perhaps a rickety bedside table. An honest house clearance shop, selling crappy formica wardrobes, nasty pine chairs, and the odd hidden gem.

I quickly came to doubt such shops, and such hidden gems, still exist.

This shop sells a fairly undistinguished dining table for £900. I'm no expert but it didn't look like anything special to me. For £900 I'll stick with John Lewis and age the thing myself, thank you.
And this place, which looks pretty low end, offers old fashioned shop fittings. Including a lovely glass-fronted set of drawers - which reminded me of the local sports shop we used to buy our PE kit in - for £1800. I guess I'm not their target market. I'm after actual junk, you see. Not already-identified gems.

I was a little heartened by 'Ooh La La', a few doors down. They seem to straddle the worlds of junk and vintage fairly comfortably. Common-or-garden, but charming, chairs for £30 each and a cool '60s bureau for £200. That's a little closer to what I had in mind.

But I kept moving and looking, positive that there must, surely, be better bargains out there. I'm glad
I did.

This shop is camped out in an old newsagents. I'd call it a Pop-up but I'm not sure it counts if the proprieter doesn't know what Pop-up means. 
It is run by a madhead with crazy eyes who sits in the pub across the road and runs out if he sees you go into his shop. Then he regales with you insane stories till you either buy something or flee. It's quite an effective sales strategy.

In amongst the absolute rubbish he was selling - shell suits, old Jackie annuals, worn Gola trainers, and the plastic floral display you see here - was the rocking chair.

I paid £30 for it and am pretty sure that once it's been sanded, screwed and glued, and painted, it will look like it's worth almost £50. That's the kind of vintage furniture I like.


  1. Hey, you're right. It is the same rocking chair!

    1. It is! And I think you are right about the cushions. Just need to stop it wobbling, and paint it, first.