Decorating with Vintage Art

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Discover the charm and timeless appeal of vintage wall art for your home. Learn how to select unique pieces that tell a story, add a personal touch to every room, and create a captivating focal point. I’m sharing my favorite ways to decorate with vintage art, where you can buy it, and how to keep it looking its best. 

bookcase decor with books, art, and decorations.

Whether you’re an avid collector or just starting to explore the world of antiques, incorporating vintage pieces into your home decor is a surefire way to add depth and personal touch to your living spaces.

If you take a walk through my home, you’ll find vintage art in almost every room. As you might know, I’m generally a fan of vintage and antique finds to decorate my spaces. Vintage artwork is no exception.

Navigating the world of vintage art can be tricky if you don’t know where to start. This guide serves as your treasure map, leading you to the most promising spots where those hidden gems await. Whether you’re a seasoned hunter or a curious newcomer, you’ll learn how to scout the best pieces without breaking the bank.

While there are many reasons why I love vintage art, here are a few reasons that stand out to me:

Why Vintage Art?

It can be inexpensive. Why splurge on generic, mass-produced art when vintage pieces can give your walls a much more distinguished look for less? I’ll point you to the best buying spots where you can find quality art without the hefty price tag—your wallet will thank you!

It’s typically pretty unique. Yes, you can buy new art at your favorite home decor store; however, chances are that your friends, family, or neighbor may have purchased some of the same items. When you buy a vintage work, you’re more likely to be the only one in your circle with that piece.

It tells a story. This might be my favorite reason to buy vintage. Old pieces have history. They tell a story of where they’ve been, who owned them, and why someone loved them. There might even be a beautiful history about the artist that created the piece. Antique pieces can add a curated and collected look to your home.

gallery wall of vintage paint by numbers in a living room.

Where to Buy Vintage Art

Okay, now that we’ve covered the why, let’s get into the where.

As you might expect, you can find vintage art at any of the places where you would find vintage and thrift items. Here are a few of my favorite places and why I recommend them.

  • Thrift Stores – If you’re looking for the best value, thrift stores (Goodwill, Salvation Army, Restore, etc.) are the way to go.
  • Estate Sales – I’ve found that estate sales always have a great assortment of artwork. They can be great places to grab a few pieces, especially if you share a similar esthetic to the homeowner.
  • Antique Shops – Want a more curated collection and are okay with paying a little extra? Well then, an antique shop might be your best bet. Antique shops tend to be a little more expensive as they have already done the hard work by searching the thrift stores and estate sales to bring you the best of the best. By the way, I’m local to Pittsburgh, PA. If you are too, or if you are visiting the area, you can find all of my favorite antique stores in the Pittsburgh area.
  • Online Resellers – These would be places like eBay, Etsy, Facebook Marketplace, etc. If you have specific needs, this might be the option for you. Online resellers give you the option to be a bit more specific with your search. Plus, you can shop from the comfort of your own home. Just pay attention to sizes and imperfections since you’re not viewing the piece in person.

No matter which option you choose, have patience and know that in the end you will be rewarded. Unless you happen to get lucky, it will likely take time and several visits to stores to find that “perfect” piece. Personally, I think the thrill of the hunt is half of the fun. (I figured this was worth mentioning if you’re new to vintage shopping.)

bookcase with books, decor, and framed vintage art.

Caring for Vintage Art

I don’t typically buy expensive or priceless art, but if you purchase a vintage art item of any significant value, I definitely recommend reaching out to a professional for proper restoration.
In contrast, if you’re just looking for a way to give your thrift store art finds a little refresh and to keep them looking their brightest, here are a few products I use and recommend.

  • Goo Gone – Often sellers will place price tags on the glass. These can be a bit of a pain to remove. Goo Gone is my go-to for any stubborn sticky residue. I particularly recommend the gel variety as it’s less likely to run behind the frame and damage your artwork.
  • Glass Cleaner – If your vintage art is framed and behind glass, a quick cleaning of the glass with some glass cleaner will give it new life. Try out my go-to glass cleaner.
  • Rub ‘n Buff – Many vintage art pieces are framed with gold frames. Rub ‘n Buff is a must-have in my tool kit. It comes in several different gold shades and is perfect for touching up frames.
  • Old English Scratch Cover – I love this product, especially for darker wood frames. It does a great job at disguising scratches. I recommend applying it with a cotton swab to avoid getting it on the glass/artwork.
  • Feed-N-Wax – Whether it’s a frame or another wooden piece in your home, if you have wood that looks really dull and dry, Feed-N-Wax is a miracle worker. An application of this product will quickly refresh wood and give it protection with a wax finish.

When possible, I also recommend testing any product, like the ones just mentioned, in an inconspicuous area to see what results they are going to give you.

gallery wall with vintage art.

Vintage Art Decor Ideas

At this point, I’m sure you’re ready to see a few examples of vintage art and learn how you can effectively style your new-to-you artwork.

I love gallery walls. And while the decorating professionals may tell you they come and go in terms of trendiness, I will forever be a fan. As you may have seen above (and will also see below) I have a few gallery walls in my home.

The first (which I’m still building) follows the wall up my staircase. This is a mix of vintage and new art.

gallery wall on a staircase with vintage art.
artwork gallery wall

The second gallery wall is in my family room and is a collection of framed vintage paint-by-numbers. I wrote an entire post about this collection which you can find HERE.

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collection of paint-by-numbers hung on a gallery wall.

Finally, the third wall is in my bedroom. While this is mostly vintage art, the large coastline landscape is new. Be sure to check out more of this collection.

master bedroom with gallery wall
dresser and gallery wall art

Create a Focal Point

Choose a standout piece of vintage art to serve as the focal point in a room. Position it where it naturally draws the eye, such as above the fireplace or in the main hallway. This placement allows the piece to command the space and set the tone for the rest of the room’s decor.

As a Stand Alone

You don’t need to create an entire gallery of art to have your vintage art look beautifully styled. I have a few single pieces tucked in throughout my home including this one in my kitchen.

artwork hung on tile in kitchen

Hanging an individual piece can really call attention to it and make it feel important.

Seasonal Art

If you enjoy switching out your decor seasonally, changing your vintage artwork display(s) can be a great way to accomplish this. As I mentioned above, not only can you do this inexpensively, but since the artwork can lay flat, it can be stored easily. So, switching out your artwork periodically can be a quick and easy way to give your space a new look each season.

winter artwork in a kitchen hung on tile.

Incorporate Modern Elements

Blend the old with the new by pairing vintage art with contemporary frames or setting them against modern wallpaper. This juxtaposition highlights the beauty of each era and creates a sophisticated, eclectic vibe.

Layered on a Shelf or Bookcase

I will often use art when I’m styling bookcases or shelves. Because many artworks are typically tall and thin, they make great pieces for layering. Simply tuck (or hang) the art towards the back of your shelf and continue styling in front of it. This is an effective way to fill a space and add unique interest.

bookcase decor with bust, books, and vintage artwork.

Mix Periods and Styles

Don’t be afraid to mix artworks from different eras or in contrasting styles. A modern minimalist room can be greatly enhanced with an ornate, baroque-style vintage painting, creating a delightful contrast that sparks conversation.

That’s a Wrap!

And that concludes my tips and tricks on vintage art and how to decorate with it. I hope you picked up a few helpful ideas and are feeling encouraged to hunt down and add a few vintage pieces to your home.

As always, Happy Decorating! 

More Vintage Home Decor Ideas You Need

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15 Comments

  1. Hi Michael, You’re posts are great, I always enjoy them whether about food & drink, decorating, vintage, art, etc. I’m also a Pittsburgher. Q: On your stairwell (a cool spot for a gallery) I love the little abstract painting (?) above the sampler. Is it from an artist you can share? Or a website? Thanks so much!

  2. Michael – you are one of my all time favorites for using vintage items and making them look fresh and interesting. Plus love, love and more love your recipes, so my complements and keep up the good work! Also, would like your take on light cleaning on vintage paintings on canvas. So many are pretty dirty with dust and/or smoking? I can manage the frames (if they have one), but need some practical hints on the art itself. Not talking of precious nor expensive canvases, but the run of the mill that you often find. I have tried lightly blotting with a slightly damp lint free cloth but wondering if there was more. Additionally some are matted with kind of a grass cloth that can be dull and yucky so looking for hints on that. Gee Michael – maybe an idea for a whole new post? Thanks again.

  3. You have a wonderful collection, Michael! I have a few pieces I picked up at Goodwill, and I love thinking about the women who painted them. (They’re signed, so I know them by name. :)) Your home is so lovely – thanks for the inspiring blog!

  4. I just love how you decorate your home with things that you collect and love! Do you have any advice on how to do a gallery wall around a large art piece over my living room couch? Thank you!

    1. It’s hard to offer a suggestion without seeing it, but I would probably off center the large art piece and then work from there. Try searching “gallery wall” on Pinterest too – I’m certain you’ll find some helpful visuals.

      xo Michael

  5. This is a gorgeous post. Your creativity is absolutely amazing to me, and your curated home is in my opinion, exactly what a home should be. Thank you, Michael, for sharing your genius. Invigorating and motivating!

  6. I LOVE LOVE LOVE YOUR STYLE! One of the primary reasons to add vintage items is because they add so much interest and personalization to ones home. If you love it, someone else visiting your home will appreciate it as well! Plus, your accessory items won’t look so cookie cutter…..as you often see the same accessories on blog home after blog home. It’s helps each home look unique and curated over time. I love mixing old/new, shiny/rustic, mixed metals…..it just seems that one highlights the other!

  7. I’ve been going through old family photos for about a year now and plan to frame several, so I’m also hunting for frames at thrift stores. I’m really excited to do a gallery wall — you have inspired me to move it to the top of the list!