How to Shop for Vintage Furniture Like a Pro

The owner of Stylish Patina shares her secrets for curating an amazing vintage-modern home.

By: Michelle Thomas

Kelly Millspaugh Thompson has an eye for vintage. As the owner of the Falls Church furniture and decor shop Stylish Patina, she hunts down no-longer-loved old furniture and puts her magic spin on reworking each piece. The result? A collection of one-of-a-kind vintage finds sure to inspire instant home envy.

Stylish Patina owner Kelly Millspaugh Thompson.

This weekend—after years of hosting monthly barn sales in Frederick—Thompson launches a new curated market in Falls Church that she’s dubbed the Rough Luxe Marketplace. Expect a covetable mix of charming old finds, including rustic barn doors, elegant antique settees, raw pieces ready for a DIY, newly upholstered wing chairs, old books, vintage china, retro suitcases, refreshed tables, dresses, and other furnishings, and lots, lots more. This month features a Great Gatsby theme, spotlighting such glam ’20s-esque motifs as gold accents, jet black furniture, and glittering chandeliers.

So now we’ve sold you on your weekend plans. Next step: How exactly does Thompson do it? We checked in with the vintage master for her expert tips on creating your own vintage-fab home. Read on for her secrets, then click through the gallery to get a sneak peek at some of the fab finds available at this weekend’s market.

1) Find things you love! “This is my number-one rule,” says Thompson. “Don’t buy a room out of a catalogue. I am a firm believer in buying things that make you happy or have a special meaning to you and curating them with new and functional items. A house becomes a home when you fill it with items that have meaning to you and your family.”

2) Look for solid wood. “One of the reasons I love vintage is that the dressers, buffets, and tables are usually solid wood and durable. When you are out hunting at flea markets, estate sales, and thrift stores, look for dovetailed drawers and solid wood construction. It will take a bit more muscle to move them, but it will be well worth it!”

3) Refresh to fit your life. “Many times I have clients who have a house of hand-me-down furniture from parents and relatives. Usually they want to just get rid of everything and start from scratch. Part of my job is to help them evaluate what they have and how some of the pieces could be refreshed with a little paint and then repurposed in the home. Not only does this help with the budget, but it also keeps family memories in the home. My magic furniture transformation product is Chalk Paint by Annie Sloan. No sanding or priming required—just apply the paint and seal it with wax, and you have a new piece of furniture! I sell the paint at my shop in Falls Church.”

4) Use your imagination. “When hunting for treasures, think outside the box and get creative with how you use things in your home. Old crates and dresser drawers can become storage holders or bedside tables. Add a few casters on the bottom and they are great rolling storage. Chipped vintage doors and old mantels make amazing headboards for a bed. If you see something that resonates with you, buy it and then get creative!”

5) Some things should never be passed over. “On my list of items I can never say no to when I find them: vintage books in beautiful colors, vintage suitcases, steamer trunks, purple glass bottles, globes, blue ball jars, and chippy doors.”

Rough Luxe Marketplace. 138 W. Jefferson St., Falls Church. Open this Friday and Saturday 10 to 5. The market will also be collecting non-perishable food items to be donated to an Arlington food bank. Visit Stylish Patina for more details.