Why antique furniture has become a major Instagram trend

Most customers who come to Mike Kollman’s Vintage Store in Brooklyn fit a certain mold: Millennials or older, perhaps even homeowners, with stable jobs and healthy paychecks. They’re looking for vintage stock, or they want Kollman to restore their well-loved Eames Lounge Chair.

But recently, Kollman has started seeing some new customers pouring in — customers 20 or 21 years old, curling up on a skateboard and looking for an old lamp.

“It’s amazing that they don’t just follow the easiest route to Ikea where you can get a lamp for $9,” Coleman told Insider.

Kollman’s new customers represent a new wave of millennials and Generation Z who are eschewing home decor in the massive market for vintage gadgets. These types of merchandise — from second-hand furniture to artwork, dishes or decor — are flooding social media sites, driven in part by the shadow economy of sellers running their businesses on the back of Instagram.

But the trend is bigger than the world of Instagram sellers — in fact, it’s the result of a combination of overlapping factors: the focus of younger generations on sustainability, persistent supply chain issues that make it difficult to buy new furniture, and the pandemic. The desire to make our spaces more elegant, or simply to make them feel at home.

All of these factors have collided to lead the latest trend in home decor, and it’s not at all new – it’s old.

Changing the way people shop

Woman wearing a mask walking by truck and moving furniture on the street

Immigration from New York City during the pandemic has been a boon to AptDeco’s business.

Alexey Rosenfeld / Getty Images

Kollman has been running his shop, I Like Mike’s Mid Century Modern, since 2009. While he sells vintage goods, he also restores, refinishes high-end furniture and repairs old lighting or clocks.

He describes the antique store world as “just a bunch of hippies trying to make a decent living, doing something we love to do.” But it also allowed him to have a front-row seat with the cyclical nature of home decor trends: for example, people used to opt for handmade furniture with a waiting time of 12 weeks or more. Then, the rise of offshore manufacturing led to customers getting a $300 sofa, and fast. All sudden, most expensive and quality furniture was out of favor.

“I mean, my God,” he said, “over the last 50 years, we’ve been more used to getting whatever we want, when we want it.”

He said the pandemic had created an opportunity for the cycle to turn again.

The shift was evident at AptDeco, a 6-year-old online marketplace for second-hand home décor that has seen a rapid acceleration in its business during the pandemic. Prior to March 2020, most of the company’s business was centered in New York City. But when people started migrating from Manhattan, Brooklyn or Queens, AptDeco expanded with them. The company now has operations in Pennsylvania and San Francisco and said it expects to make between 200 and 500 deliveries of furniture and home décor per region per day in 2021.

Reham Fegiri, co-founder and CEO of AptDeco, told Insider that customers began turning to its platform in search of home office furniture early in the pandemic as supply chain disruptions hampered the furniture industry. These problems have not been resolved after 18 months, so much so that Mark Schumacher, chief executive of the North American Home Furniture Association, an industry trade group, recently issued an appeal directly to President Joe Biden, requesting an exemption from “uncontrollable shipping costs” and other costs. Supply chain disruptions.

The International Houseware Association, another industry trade group, warned that disruption was likely to continue “at a minimum until February 2022.”

It has been a boon to AptDeco. The platform is similar to Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace in that customers shop for merchandise from sellers based on geographic location, which means a used desk can arrive at your home office within 24 hours, not several weeks or months. Because as a community, we’ve been anticipating two-day shipping, this immediacy has worked to the advantage of AptDeco: Over the course of the pandemic, the platform has seen an 89% increase in bookcase sales, a 72% jump in desks, and a 76% increase in lighting.

“I think the pandemic has definitely changed the way people shop,” Vagiri said. “It brought a lot of consumers online, it forced retailers across the board – furniture or not – to go online, and it really opened consumers to the idea of ​​used shopping.”

Decor “zigzag, colorful, eccentric”

Antique, colorful, floral armchairs, left, and antique white desk with matching chair, right

Millennials and Generation Z are drawn to the styles of the ’70s and ’80s when it comes to home décor, according to the CEO of Apartment Therapy.

Esteban Cortez for the treatment of the apartment; Jessica Isaacs for an apartment treatment

For many shoppers, buying used or vintage is about more than just immediacy — it’s about sustainability.

A huge amount of furniture ends up in landfills — about 80%, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. In 2018, 9.68 million tons of furniture and home furnishings were sent to landfill, up from 6.55 million tons in 2000. Materials such as carpets and rugs are unlikely to be recycled or burned for energy. The Environmental Protection Agency found that 73% of rugs are sent to landfill, which equates to 2.46 million tons in 2018.

Vagiri said that AptDeco has noticed that it is starting to attract a younger, sustainability-focused consumer base who are satisfied with “helping divert products from landfills.”

“By choosing a user, you’re actually helping to affect the environment in a positive way,” she said.

However, for other consumers, it’s about creating a space with personality, especially during the time when we’re confined to our homes. Used decor comes with its own history, either in a theoretical or physical sense, is more obvious, and can make a home feel like a home.

Moreover, the vintage is just elegant.

Maxwell Ryan, founder and CEO of lifestyle blog Apartment Therapy, told Insider in an email that he feels the old and used trend is mostly just about creating an “instant style stamp” in your home.

He noted that younger generations fostered a true love of the old, particularly the styles of the 70s and 80s, which he described as “curved, colorful, eccentric.”

Combined with sellers who recognized the importance of high-quality images on platforms like Instagram and easy ways to pay for items via Venmo and Shopify, the old movement took hold.

“The style, value and feel responsible for antique, plus ‘that’s not your parents’ furniture,’ is definitely in the making now,” he said. “Pair that with the uniqueness of ancient finds and you’ve got an elegant movement that finds its own soul.”

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