Whenever I get asked about choosing art, I can give insight on what I find works and what I’m drawn to, but it’s difficult to say if the same will be true for another person. This is especially true if you’re just starting out and looking to decorate a new home or if you’ve finally decided to begin adding pieces to your already cozy space.
For these newcomers, the amount of art available may seem overwhelming and difficult to navigate. From prints or originals, drawings to paintings or mixed-media pieces, the choices can almost seem never-ending - especially when you’re on a budget! That’s why I always recommend starting your collection of art with vintage or secondhand pieces as a stepping stone to investing in artwork.
By purchasing vintage or secondhand pieces, there’s typically a larger selection of work that’s affordable and one-of-a-kind. If you’ve never purchased art before or are unsure of what you enjoy, browsing vintage art is a great way to find pieces that fit within your budget and within your home. It not only allows you to not break the bank, but it provides the opportunity to experiment with various styles you may not have considered.
When I moved into my current apartment, I purchased two secondhand bird prints for less than $35. Over time, these two prints evolved into my current collection of nature/landscape art pieces that adorn my apartment walls. I never would have thought to purchase landscapes if I hadn’t started with the two bird prints I picked up at a thrift store!
After finding a set of bird prints for $35, Matthew slowly began his collection of nature/landscape art pieces - including this vintage painting of a bird.
Another reason I always recommend starting off with vintage or secondhand is because I truly believe it’s just as good as new or original art pieces. Many times, vintage paintings are created by novice artists or someone who may not have been as well-known. However, that doesn’t mean these are any less special than what is found in the store or by an artist you admire. There’s usually a certain charm that can be found in vintage artwork that you aren’t able to find with anything new. For example, this watercolor interior painting that just sold, has a great patina and warmth that’s hard to replicate.
Sometimes the artwork doesn’t come with a frame and that’s ok! The print on the left was purchased for $15 and the frame separately for $40. Don’t buy a piece of art because it’s not ready to hang - you can alway find a frame later!
Lastly, when buying vintage art from a thrift store or an auction, there isn’t as much pressure to buy a piece that may seem overpriced. Collecting and adding art to your home should be an enjoyable experience. However, when you begin to worry about the cost, you’re less likely to purchase a piece of art that may not fit into your aesthetic or may seem a little too eccentric.
This charcoal drawing is a perfect example of something I would have bid on but it isn’t something I would immediately be drawn to. By browsing auctions and vintage shops, you’re likely to find various styles and types of art you wouldn’t find at a store that you’re comfortable buying because it’s not as expensive.
One of the few original pieces Matthew has in his apartment. After spending 3 years collecting vintage pieces and understanding what he looks for in art, he was able to find an original piece by an artist that fit in with his aesthetic.
By collecting vintage pieces of art, you’ll be able to slowly acquaint yourself with unfamiliar styles and types of artwork to help identify what you’re drawn to while also allowing the freedom to build and experiment with your collection. Soon you’ll be able to discern what artwork you like and be able to take risks the more familiar you become with your preferences! You never know what you’ll come across!
Matthew James is an avid-thrifter, collector of vintage pieces and loves to play with color, which can be seen in his pre-war Brooklyn apartment. He’s currently using these passions to slowly renovate an 1890’s farmhouse in upstate NY. You can see more of his apartment and follow along during his renovation journey on Instagram.