How to Create Chic, Timeless Style Using Vintage Items

From family heirlooms to flea-market finds, timeless repurposed pieces can add fresh style to your home, especially if you’re decorating on a budget.

photos by chuck beard


There are many reasons why adding a charming vintage piece to the décor can make your room, and you, look smart. After all, furniture and accessories passed down through the family or discovered at an estate sale or flea market can be less pricey than new items. Plus, older items tend to be well-built — that’s why they’ve withstood the test of time.

Antiques and repurposed pieces also have a great story to tell, and a quirky cabinet or lamp can add character and charm to a room. For the eco-friendly folks out there, it’s green
to reuse furniture — bonus! 

Interior designers Morgan McCollum and Bethany Williard know the attraction of secondhand furniture, and they often incorporate those pieces into rooms they’ve designed. Here, they give Pittsburgh Magazine a look at how they decorated eclectic rooms using vintage pieces, and they share their tips for putting a fresh spin on your old furniture.

The Estate sale Queen
Morgan McCollum

The owner of Uptown-based Morgan Peyton Interiors, Morgan McCollum, 29, has a lifelong fascination with furniture. After attending East Carolina University, where she studied marketing and communications, McCollum — who as a young adult followed her parents when they moved to western Pennsylvania — began to buy, paint and then resell high-quality used furniture. This led her to open Shabby Maggie, a vintage furniture store in Lawrenceville.

Though she says she closed Shabby Maggie to focus on her interior-design business, McCollum — who has done design work for the Tipsy Cow Burger Bar in Shadyside as well as for Patti Stanger, star of “The Millionaire Matchmaker” — retained her love of vintage finds. Today, she scours estate sales, auctions and Craigslist to find interesting pieces for her clients. Some of her favorite communities to visit for estate sales are Mt. Lebanon, McKeesport and the North Side.

“Western Pennsylvania is crazy with what we have to offer as far as vintage furniture,” says McCollum. “There are pieces from the 1920s, ’30s and ’40s that are so valuable — and people don’t even realize it.”

Get Funky With It
For this guest bedroom in Aaron and Dianne Gander’s home in Upper St. Clair, McCollum designed the room around an eye-catching patterned Elitis brand wallpaper. To do so, she mixed the old (the colonial-style dresser belonged to Dianne’s mother) with the new (a mirror from Hot Haute Hot in the Strip District). Here’s how she pulled off the modern yet funky look.

Solid Gold
McCollum proves that end tables don’t have to be expensive to look glamorous. After finding nightstands for a low price on Craigslist, the designer — who noted metallics are on trend for 2015 — painted them a in a chic gold hue. “A can of spray paint can go a long way,” she says. She also added new hardware from Anthropologie, creating one-of-a-kind pieces.

Stack ‘Em High
After finding vintage suitcases at an estate sale, McCollum arranged them under the bedroom window to create an unusual side table. It’s a decorating trick McCollum has used before, and the result is different each time. “Stacking vintage suitcases is one of my favorite things to do,” she says.

Go Vintage Chic
The room’s vintage bedspread came from Accentique in Bridgeville, one of McCollum’s favorite haunts. She says she often finds interesting pieces of furniture, jewelry, flatware and cake holders there. The room’s old-fashioned looking spindle bed, designed by Justin Camlin, actually is a 1930s-inspired reproduction piece, but McCollum says you can find the real thing — often at a great price — simply by looking around. “You can get them on Craigslist for $100 or $200 and just paint them.”  

Her Best Advice
Don’t go overboard with the antiques, McCollum says. The result can make a room look outdated. Instead, use the vintage pieces as accent items. “You don’t want a whole room of vintage pieces. It just won’t work. Get your staple pieces first and then build off of that.” If you find a vintage piece that speaks to you, get it; it could become a future conversation piece. “It’s really special if you have guests come over and your furniture can tell a story,” she says.

All in the family
Bethany Williard

​Bethany Williard, 29, comes from a close-knit family, which means she often helps her relatives with their design choices. After graduating from Harrington College of Design in Chicago with a bachelor of fine arts degree in interior design, she worked in visual merchandising in South Carolina. She now owns Studio 1049, which she runs out of her house.
Nearly two years ago, she moved into her grandmother’s home in Bridgeville and promptly put her stamp on the sunroom while incorporating pieces of her grandmother’s antique furniture. She also recently helped her sister update her porch with a daybed she found in a thrift store and gave her cousin’s dining room a new look by repurposing an old china cabinet passed down through the family. 

To find other thrifty pieces, Williard hits up Finders Keepers in Mt. Lebanon, It’s New to Me in Peters Township and Goodwill stores. Construction Junction in Point Breeze also is one of her favorite places to snag items to repurpose.

“I feel if you have the right eye, you can go there and make something out of what they have,” she says. “A lot of the pieces were family-owned.”

Punch It Up With Paint
When Williard’s cousin, Kim Gullo, moved from Peters Township to Mt. Lebanon last year, the new home’s formal dining room didn’t match Gullo’s “modern-farmhouse” aesthetic. “She has three little boys under 6, so obviously the home has to be very durable,” Williard says. “But she still lives there, so she wanted it to look cute as well.” Williard used paint first to give the outdated room a fresh look. After painting the dark red walls a pretty light blue, she updated the wainscoting with a new coat of white paint, creating a lighter, brighter space.

Make It DIY
One of the room’s focal points is a china cabinet passed down to Gullo from her mother. Williard directed Gullo to strip and then repaint the cabinet in Cityscape, a light gray color by Sherwin-Williams. “Kim actually did the work herself,” Williard says. “It just goes to show that anyone can do this. [Kim] is not super crafty, but she wasn’t afraid to sand down the furniture.”

Include Some Interest
Having a china cupboard doesn’t mean you have to fill it with the wedding china you received decades ago. Williard decorated Gullo’s repurposed cabinet with objects of interest that Gullo picked up while honeymooning with her husband, Mike.

Her Best Advice
When it comes to redecorating, Williard also says a can of paint can be your best friend. Besides giving walls a fresh look, homeowners can use paint to update kitchen cupboards, doors and other surfaces. “I think a fresh coat of paint can go a long way, and it’s reasonably inexpensive. It can give you a dramatic new look,” she says. 

Categories: HOME + Design