Sign up here

Antique, Retro or Vintage?

Have you ever found yourself in front of an old piece that reminds you of a style from the past, but which nevertheless has something that makes you think it was created yesterday? That’s when you stop and wonder… is it really an antique? Or is it a retro piece? No, it is vintage.

These three terms are today a commonplace, but we could assure you that they are as much heard as badly used, since we usually don’t know how to distinguish, especially when we buy pieces of this style, if we are leaving a store or an antique shop; we don’t know what we are taking with us, or maybe yes, but just because it is a beautiful piece… Nevertheless, it is clear that buying antiques is not the same as buying a vintage object.

Definition of these 3 terms by different experts

We don’t want to beat about the bush, and the best way to explain these terms is by the hand of four great specialists in antique collecting, such as Lorenzo Castillo, Jon Urgoiti, Hugo Portuondo and Julio Montero, so that they can tell us their true meaning and advise us on what to invest in.

1. Lorenzo Castillo: High Decoration Mentor

Lorenzo Castillo is a renowned interior designer and decorator, as well as an antique dealer, historian and art dealer, who, passionate about mixing the classic with the contemporary, has become one of the most respected Spanish interior designers worldwide.

Castillo assures that classic styles are back, and are therefore pieces where you can invest in; but they must be quality pieces, avoiding reproductions. Spanish style is flourishing and, to a lesser extent, the 20th Century.

He also emphasizes the importance of always consulting a specialist who can help, advise and ensure that what you are acquiring is good. “Basics are always, and without a doubt, the best purchase”, he concludes.

  • Antique: it refers to a piece that is more than 100 years since it was created, and it involves a certain quality.

Vintage: it consists of rescuing old furniture, or second-hand objects, to give them a new life. We could say that in recent years, this style was closely linked to young people from northern European countries, and to the economic crisis we were going through, which forced us to invent and recycle new aesthetic languages.

  • Retro: this term refers to style, regardless of quality or period, and it is used both to refer to a single piece and to an environment as a whole. The idea is to return to styles from the past.

2. Jon Urgoiti: Master of staging

Jon Urgoiti, often known as “Juan with no fear” for his determination in the search of new and original pieces, and for his taste in mixing periods and styles. His space, his antiques shop, is a reflection of this, although he specializes in decorative arts, which date from the late 18th Century to the present day.

He recommends buying only items “that you like, which are good, high-quality, that you can enjoy them during your life, and of course, that make you happy.” Jon, like Castillo, also stresses the importance of being advised by a specialist or a professional, as long as you are not one.

According to Urgoiti, buying a designer item only for investment reasons is a serious mistake, although he also says that “there are objects from the first half of the 20th Century that can be purchased at low prices, and that will undoubtedly rise over time.”

  • Antique: until about the 18th Century, talking about antiques meant talking about archaeology, Rome, Greece, etc. Today it has changed, and now a piece with more than 100 years is considered an antique. For Jon, even up to the first half of the 20th Century, although decorative arts from that century are already catalogued, by others, as designer pieces.
  • Vintage: it is a recent idea, applied as a decorative concept, which refers to used things, to which we have not paid much attention due to a lack of interest.
  • Retro: this term is widely used in the field of antiques and design. The retro, as such, is a recent creation, but it is inspired by the aesthetics and tastes from another time.

3. Hugo Portuondo: on the lookout for the 20th Century

As members of a family of antique dealers, Hugo and his brother Diego collect, in their different venues in Madrid and London, a mixture of styles and periods, but especially with regard to antiques, they focus mainly on Neoclassicism of the late 18th Century and early 19th Century, as well as on design of the second half of the 20th Century.

Besides furniture, in their antique shops you can also find artistic pieces by Evans, Giraudon, Buffet, Adnet or the great Fornasetti, which meet other contemporary works, including photographs by Diego himself.

Hugo recommends us to “invest in furniture and styles or periods that we really like, and not let ourselves be influenced by the fashions or trends of the moment.”

He also assures that there are certain key pieces that can be worthwhile today, such as coffee tables, office tables, chests of drawers, dining chairs, a pair of armchairs, photographs, mirrors, etc. But he stresses that “you have to bet on objects, because they dress up furniture, and they add personality to decoration.”

  • Antique: an object that is at least 100 years old is considered to be so.
  • Vintage: nowadays, this term is usually associated to creations by important designers of haute couture, although lately it has also been used by the world of interior design and new antique dealers to refer to furniture and pieces from the 50s, 60s and 70s.
  • Retro: this adjective refers to items that, although inspired by the past, are of contemporary creation.

4. Julio Montero: the new side of the old

After starting out in the world of antique dealers in Brussels, Julio Montero Melchor decided to open his own space more than 11 years ago: Modernario. He became an expert in the 20th Century design, of which he also says is the best period to invest in. Concerning pieces, possible options could be Memphis ceramics, crystal or lamps from the 70s.

Julio thinks that everybody clearly knows the terms “antique” and “retro”, but not “vintage”. Let’s see what he thinks about these terms.

  • Antique: pieces over 100 years old.
  • Vintage: this term has been on everyone’s lips in recent years, although the meaning is not very clear. In our opinion, something vintage is always associated, both because of its origin and condition, with high quality and designer pieces of the 20th Century, which are also signed and catalogued, that is, they have a printed memory, and their prices are not always high.
    In this respect, we do not consider vintage to be those objects that are simply second-hand, without pedigree or a creator or designer behind them; on the other hand, we believe that an anonymous object can be vintage if it has a perfect and flawless manufacture.
  • Retro: a modern piece inspired by the past.