The term vintage comes from the old French vendage, a term used by wine merchants in the past to talk about the wine produced with the best harvests. A long time after, the meaning of the expression has been extended to any antique product of quality, thus creating a market of refined items in a good condition that offers clothes, albums, video games, decoration ornaments and anything that survives the effects of time well, including of course, furniture.
The growing interest in the grandmother’s purse, the aunt’s vase or the parents’ orphaned gramophone has awoken our curiosity. As Barcelona is a city with an enterprising and bohemian spirit, it is not strange to expect the proliferation of vintage furniture stores. We decided to visit two of them to discover this new antique market from the inside.
As in every market, there are many components of the chain. Among them, Jorge, Antonio and Gerard, enthusiast entrepreneurs who opened El Recibidor with their eye on the marketing and sale of vintage furniture, moved by the passion of the revival of and interest for the aesthetics of previous decades. “Coming from advertising, we aim for our strong point to be the way we sell it”, they assure.
Gerard and Antonio met five years ago working for an advertising agency and they were quickly brought together by the search of an alternative to their activity. Jorge and Antonio are old friends and he only had to join them to be united by the interest for the boom of this movement. “The store opened in June 2012, but not before an introspection of the market was carried out, finding the suppliers… Turning over the business model we wanted to build a thousand times. At the end, we had to find a place, renovate it and since then things have been falling into place”, they recall.
Admitting their weak point, they decided to focus on the marketing, apply themselves to the search of quality furniture, and import it from countries such as England, Germany or Italy. “We do find it. The hard part is managing to find the furniture in the condition we want… that is in a very good condition and very well restored”, they explain. But once the furniture is found, it arrives at the store shortly after; a big space filled with furniture they have pictured in their own houses more than once. “A lot of people are surprised by how new the furniture seems, asking us if the pieces are reproductions or originals of the period. That is our sales philosophy, what we have here is what we would like for ourselves.”
That is where their passion for vintage fashion is mobilized and their efforts go into showing their furniture like someone introduces their son on a Facebook profile picture. “We do short-films. Jorge is the one who draws the line because he studied cinema, he has done short-films before. Beyond showing a product and putting a price on it, on a video we try to give it a story and a bigger value than the product itself, according to our view of things”, Antonio comments. “It is about bringing out a little bit of the soul of the piece of furniture. It is 30 or 40 years old, and there is a story in it and it is very interesting, because you do not only buy a piece, but a part of history as well”, Jorge adds.
But they do not stop there. At El Recibidor, the arrival of a new piece of furniture is taken with a lot of enthusiasm. They organize special meetings to show new purchases, together with vermouth. “There are also a lot of people who just come for the drink (laughs), but the one who drinks also has friends. People who know us come, or people who have bought something from us, or friends of people who know us or have bought something, which means, everyone is a potential client.”
As for the products, Antonio is clear when he says that “mostly it smells of teak, which is the wood par excellence of the time, but you can find everything here. The 50’s, 60’s and 70’s are comprised within the same period of time, but each decade has its own characteristics. The plastic revolution, the shapes… They go with each other rather well, and we focus on a time period, not on a specific style.”
“We love old sound systems, televisions, but what is sold most is dressers, which go from 500 to 2,000 euros”, Jorge adds, once again inviting all who want to come and discover the shop and the exclusivity of their products, from Monday to Friday from 4pm, and Saturdays all day. Street Viladomat, 9 (Barcelona).
However, someone has to restore the furniture that is later sold in this increasingly popular market. That is how we met Fusta’m, a 50’s, 60’s and 70’s furniture and objects shop that also has its own workshop where they do projects with wood and restore furniture.
“It all began in 2010, working on a project. My partner Oriol had been working with wood for many years; I started studying furniture restoration and I had some errands to run, so we went to several markets, we loved all that “bric-a-brac” world, and from then on we carried out our own project: a store with a workshop right below it; in the end, we found this place, began studying the possibilities and here we are”, Lidia recalls, with the emotion of someone making her dream come true.
Unlike El Recibidor, Fusta’m was born with the idea of being a workshop where furniture is restored: “We restore it all ourselves, the lamps, everything. We work in the restoration of furniture. We change wires and alter pieces when necessary. Everything”. And when it comes to finding furniture to be restored, they also opt to look for it abroad. “We usually go to France, or in the proximity. Afterwards we go to Berlin, Cologne, London and this coming November we are going to Copenhagen”, Lidia says, not hesitating to add that the main difference with Spain is that here, in Spain, there is a smaller restoration culture and a bigger waste and renovation of home furniture.
One of the strong points of the vintage market is the exclusivity of each piece. In the last decades, mass production has considerably increased, which emphasizes this point of contrast, “We do not have a catalogue because every piece is an original. And on top of that, when we go buy them, we never know what we are going to find. In France, we always find the coloured lampshades from the 60’s, but it can happen that we go there and do not find them. In Denmark we are going to get a desk and chair, because it is what we want. Depending on where we go, we already know what we can bring”, Lidia says, and she adds: “Fusta’m is a shop and works as such. But the projects are all made to order. We get orders from a lot of bars… For example, 20 different lamps. So we make use of our trips and we get 20 lamps or 20 stools, or three pieces of furniture that are of a specific style already agreed on with the client.”
Although exclusivity is a strong point of vintage fashion it is also a fundamental characteristic of its target group. The added value that well-preserved antiques have is often perceived as expensive: “It depends on how you look at it. In reality, you cannot put a price based on the number of restoration hours, because it would be worth a price that it does not have. We try to adjust everything so that the price remains affordable. With that in mind, in front of a 70€ lamp, you have people who say “you sell it cheap!”, and others who say “but I can find it at the local hardware store for 20€!”. Some furniture is almost perfect, but there are some items with which you cannot really take into account all of the work put into them, because it would be way too expensive and it would not be worth it.”
Their work has not gone unnoticed: they have even worked with several television shows, such as Bestiari Il.lustrat on TVC: “We lay out their set and in exchange they advertise us. During the program they show our work setting everything up”. They also have a very active Facebook page, where you can follow their projects, watch short-films of the shows and enjoy the products available at the shop, located on the street Joaquim Costa 62, local 2, in the Raval (Barcelona).
Just like plastic surgeons determined to tighten the wrinkles of a beautiful woman of an advanced age, the people who devote themselves to the art of restoration offer a rebirth to the sad and melancholic pieces of furniture of times gone by. And if there is something more attractive and seductive than youth, it is the maturity of youth; this shows that vintage fashion has come to stay, or maybe to go and come back again, who knows; maybe next it will be found in your living room.