Treat of the trade

Tricks of the Trade: 6 Tips for Antiques and Vintage Designs Shopping

vintage interior

In a recent post: '7 tips to style your interior like a Parisian', tip #5 was about mixing up styles: antiques, vintage and modern pieces all in one room. So first things first: let's redefine what is antique vs. vintage:

  • Antiques are furniture or accessories of 100 years old or more.
  • Vintage pieces are more recent pieces, this term being used for fashion and interior design alike.

In most recent years, the come-back of the Mid-Century Modern style saw the word 'vintage' being overly used for pretty much anything related to that era (70's) while this is a little restrictive. On the other hand, European-looking items also tend to be easily qualified as 'vintage' (I am thinking of old fashion clocks such as the ones in the picture above) while they are technically antiques. Either way, we are not the Nomenclature Police so feel free to call it whatever resonates with you - but beware when you are talking to a professional about it, they tend to make the distinction (as they should), especially as antiques come at a higher price point than vintage pieces.

As mentioned in the previous post, in Europe - and in France in particular - furniture is a part of the family's heritage in the same way real estate is: pieces were often ordered and made by the local carpenter (as wedding gifts for instance), with locally-sourced wood and were meant to be passed on from one generation to the next. In the US, given the size of the country and its very culture, family heirlooms are less common so here are a few tips for sourcing and purchasing vintage pieces and antiques in the US.

  1. First of all, define what you are after: real vintage and antique pieces? Or brand new, modern designs, inspired by past eras? Are you really open to searching for something in, at times, dusty stores and pick up an item that might not be the cleanest? Do you have the patience? Some people love it, some don't - just be clear on what you are after. If you are after real vintage, read on - if not, read on (some tips are applicable to any purchases) and feel free to contact us or comment and we will give you additional resources.
  2. Take your measurements. This may sound rather obvious but NEVER omit to have your measurements with you and we mean ALL your measurements: your ceiling height and depth or width available for a piece (especially if meant to be a storage piece): Both are critical so you do not end up with something that is out of proportion. Also search what are the standards used today for the piece you are after, to define your ideal proportions: people may have been smaller back then and chair depth may be uncomfortable for a long dinner or the width of the table may just be too small: all those details count and can vary greatly, especially when you shop for antiques. The reason it is important is that whether online or in stores, the return policy for antiques and vintage pieces is often very restricted so be sure you know this will fit (your space and your needs). 
  3. Know what you can fix. Prior going shopping, be aware of what you can or cannot repair. A nail that came off can be repaired, an entire sofa to upholster is a bigger project to take on. Of course, you can often get it done by someone else, but be sure you have an idea of how much this will cost you (upholstering can be very expensive for instance) and how easily you will find that person to do it for you. If it is a big piece, do not forget to factor in the transportation budget that will add up.
  4. Pay regular visits to the stores. We have nothing against online retailers (we will give some links further down) but as Europeans, we tend to be attached somehow to the story behind the piece, and this story often can come only from an actual shop owner who sources his/her stuff him/herself. So get the story, understand who made it, get down to the fine details of the material: not only you will have a better idea of where it comes from but you, yourself will have a better story to tell when people comment on it. (Extra tip: the shop owner will also be more inclined to negotiate the price down with someone he/she sees is genuinely interested in what the piece is about). Plus, if a piece does not sell quickly, chances are, the price will be reduced at some point so be sure to check it out regularly.
  5. Search for quality. In other words: if you do not feel you can sit on that chair or put your elbows on that table, you may just need to pass - even if you are a big DIY fan who can rebuild anything. During your search process, it is important to focus on 3 aspects:
    1. Look at whether the structure of the item is sturdy: sometimes, a wobbly table can be fixed with a simple wood chip under the right leg (not very pretty option) but if this has been going on for years, chances are, the entire structure is compromised (remember that wood expands and shrinks depending on humidity levels so nobody knows how it may have affected the whole shape). 
    2. Check out the quality of the material: is it good, solid wood (if so, check out for bugs) or is it veneer that you can see chipping on one corner? Search for signs of water damage, knock on the material to see whether it is hollow and may break anytime soon. Small scratches may give character, but poor quality does not.
    3. Signs of good craftsmanship can be identified on corners as this is where bent nails live and poorly done joins so check them out carefully to see if anything seems off. If there are ornaments as well: inspect them to see whether those have been done properly and consistently throughout. If not, don't purchase it.
  6. Google is your best friend. Yes, even for old items, if you happen to know what is the name of the designer (especially for vintage items) or the maker, just Google it to see whether what you are about to purchase is legit.
Shopping selection

Above is a selection of items we particularly like in stores we typically go to when in need of some antiques or vintage items (in the New York area). Of course, this list could go on - feel free to add your own suggestions in the comments or ask us for more details! 


Brooklyn Reclamation: (metal tins* to be found here)

Repop New York: (Eames office chair* to be found here)

Eclectic Collectibles and Antiques: does not have a website and no picture policy but worth the trip (store on 285 Metropolitan Avenue, Williamsburg) - it also got reviewed by the NY Times 

Wynne City Works: (Mid-Century School Chairs* to be found here)

Collier West: (Mid-Century Crystal and Iron Chandelier* to be found here)


Olde Good Things: (Antique Bronze Cash Register* to be found here)


1st Dibs: - our favorite to start browsing would be this Brass and Mahogany chandelier by Hans Bergström* here.

Krrb: - an upgraded version of Craigslist, specialized in vintage and antiques (so you can see before you buy). We LOVE this mid-century red chair* for instance.

Flea Pop/Polyvore: - we really like the little arrangements they make to get you a sense of how things go together as in this example here.

* availability on items cannot be guaranteed given the nature of the business.

Small Change for Big Impact: the Art of Rug Flipping


Quick post today as we know everyone is wrapping up everything before going away to celebrate or getting their home ready to host parties. So this post is about a quick trick (it literally takes 10 minutes) to make your home feel like new, for FREE (as all your money is basically under the tree now, right?): rug flipping.

We all know that at times, a small change can have a big impact. Considering how large area rugs tend to be, they often set the tone of a space pretty dramatically and changing them can make a big difference. If you happen to have a wide variety of rugs throughout your home, swapping them out between areas can be an excellent idea to get the feeling of change in various rooms. But if you live in a small space (like most New Yorkers), you probably do not have the luxury to own several area rugs, so flipping it upside down should do the trick. Have you ever noticed how pretty the weaving patterns at the back of a rug can be? In term of texture, it will often be rougher than the top side but it will bring an interesting new texture to your area as well as a more natural - and somewhat distressed (think ABC Home) - look. All of this, for FREE. 

One word of caution though - especially if your rug is very soft to begin with: it may slide on a smooth wooden floor if you have nothing to maintain it in its place, so be sure to also flip your rug pad so that it does not get slippery (especially for kids).

A few last words: we sent yesterday our last newsletter of the year, wishing everyone a beautiful, blissful and peaceful Holiday Season. So enter your email address below to subscribe and receive monthly news on our projects, trends and discounts in 2017. 

Lastly, you can see on the bottom right corner of the screen a little pop up, inviting you to schedule a FREE 30-min call with us (and we can cover A LOT of ground in 30 minutes) so we can help you solve your design challenges. This offer will expire on Dec 31st so feel free to go and schedule some time (even in January or February if you like) so we can connect!

Have a wonderful Holiday!

Treat of the Trade: How to Make your Holiday Decor Magazine-Worthy?


Amongst all the expression renamed in the USA with 'Holiday' rather than 'Christmas' in the USA, I came across the other day its only exception: the Christmas Tree. But after 7 years in New York, I have noticed that this nomenclature does not really matter: even people who do not celebrate Christmas tend to have somewhat some glitter added to their interior one way or another during the festive season. 

Whether 2016 was a great year for you or rather chaotic, decorating for the Holiday is an occasion to ornate our homes with joyful things before bidding farewell to the ending year and welcoming a new one. So for this season: tree or no tree, I wanted to give you some ideas for making your home more festive: traditions from across the world, personal ideas, trends we have observed so you can start thinking about what look you want to create for your home this Holiday season (those ideas can pretty much work in any interior, with any styles).

  • Idea #1: Decorate with colors: this one is the rather traditional approach and gives the most elaborate results in term of design: traditional red and gold, colors matching your interior, unexpected color combinations. Possibilities are endless and decorations are abundant for you to gather. 
  • Idea #2: Decorate with a visual theme: flowers, animals, stars, figurines: pick one theme and find some decorations illustrating it.
Animal decors by  West Elm  (currently on sale)

Animal decors by West Elm (currently on sale)

  • Idea #3: Decorate with a concept: following the natural living trend, decorate 'green' by making all your decorations yourself (your kids will love it) or decide on a material for your decorations you will stick to (we strongly recommend avoiding plastic for obvious reasons). If you lack ideas, check out other countries Christmas decoration traditions: did you know in Romania, Christmas trees decorations are made of goodies to eat? This opens up  a great deal of possibilities!
  • Idea #4: Decorate with memorabilia: this one is a very personal approach with beautiful results in their authenticity: use lovely vintage portraits of family members, place in toys your kids no longer play with, or souvenirs from places you have visited (this is my personal way to decorate). Virtually anything can be used to decorate a tree and this is a great opportunity to use and display things you might no longer see on a daily basis.
Left and center: handmade decorations ( source ) - right: family portraits.

Left and center: handmade decorations (source) - right: family portraits.

Lastly, as promised, some tips to make it magazine-worthy. In the same way you design a room, there are a few details to think of, that greatly contribute to make a Holiday decor look very polished. Review and make decisions on those prior purchasing your decorations and you should be all set!

  • Tip #1: Placement: think about where you will have decorations: on a tree, a fireplace, outdoors, a centerpiece on your table, everywhere? If the latter, ensure you remain consistent and stick to your theme throughout so it looks 'put together'. While you are at it, think on how this will be spread across your home and how it will fit in your day-to-day activities.
  • Tip #2: Density: consider the density of your decorations: if you are going to place decorations everywhere in your home, you may want to decorate more lightly. If you decorate only your tree, you can ornate each branch with something.
  • Tip #3: Texture: think about textures: fluffy/furry, transparent, solid, shiny... While we often think of textures as things to touch, they play a great role in the visual ensemble of your decor. It should often reflect textures you already have in your interior to subtly blend - but nothing mandatory!
  • Tip #4: Scale: If you have a massive fireplace, then a mini-tree will look even smaller - similarly, if your tree is very big, use rather large decorations, otherwise they will look insignificant. As for your interior: use different scale to create a harmonious mixture. Be careful not to use items of a similar scale throughout: in that case, going with obviously different scale is best.

That is all we can recommend for this Holiday season. Feel free to share your pictures so we can admire what you made of our suggestions!

Happy Holidays!

October Treat (no trick!) of the Trade: DYI Artworks

At Maison KoduZen, we have noticed along the years that artworks are either what lead the decoration process as the starting points - OR come in at the very end, along with accessories and other finishing touches to complement what is already in place. Either way is fine by us as both approaches get great results.

Now, if you are finishing with artwork you also have to pick something that works well with your design: colors, style, patterns, overall design and... Budget. And this is where things get complicated: you may have splurged on that particular sofa, thinking you would cut down on other areas of your budget - and more often than not, you did not cut on budget anywhere else and you end up with very little to spend on the final touches: accessories and artworks. The good news for accessories is that it can be reasonably cheap so you can buy little by little over the next coming months - but artwork can come in at a high price.

So we thought, we would give you a little 'treat of the trade' for this month of October with a method to create stylish and cheap(ish) artwork you can hang until you have secured more funds for proper artwork purchases or keep for ever if you like it (some fabrics are not that cheap and you may just want to keep it).

STEP 1: The basic criteria when picking artwork - whether at the beginning or at the end of the process is the size, so it fits the area where it will be on display - which can already be rather difficult. The basic thing to do here is to check with a piece of artwork you already owned, get someone to hold it on your wall so you can establish how much larger (or smaller) the new piece needs to be in comparison - and how high it should be on your wall. Once you have determined this, make your way to an art store and purchase a canvas the size you need - or simply the wood trims you will assemble yourself with glue and some nails to create your frame. 

STEP 2: Go online and browse various fabric stores (yes, fabrics. We have put our listings below) to find one pattern you truly like. Be mindful to filter by width so only one piece will be sufficient to cover your frame: unless you are a sewing master, assembling pieces without messing up the pattern can be a real headache. If you have the chance, we recommend to go to the store itself to check how the color and pattern actually look like for real - as at times there might be a difference. We recommend selecting patterns that can easily be mistaken for paintings for best results.

NOTE 1: Be careful with the fabric you pick: velvets, leathers and sturdy interior/upholstery fabrics do the job rather well but avoid at all costs stretchy materials and delicate ones that will rip easily. You can also select severals to layer on top of each others if you feel creative!

NOTE 2: You can do the same with wallpaper for small artworks if you like but width options can be limited.

STEP 3: Once you have bought your fabric, get a large upholstery stapler and align the pattern perfectly with one edge of your frame/canvas before stapling it onto the wood. Do the same thing with the opposite side, then with either perpendicular sides. Be careful to stretch the fabric as much as possible when you staple it to make sure it does not get wrinkled anywhere as it can ruin your pattern and give away the trick. 

Below is a short selection of fabric stores where we would typically go for searching artwork options. (this is a really short selection, in alphabetical order, offering a wide range of styles and colors - feel free to suggest your own in the comment section). 

Designer's Guild

Ikea (yes, Ikea: they actually have a very cool option here)

Kathryn Ireland


Liberty of London


Mood Fabric

Have fun creating artwork and do not hesitate to share your own favorite fabric stores and the results of your artworks!