I recently bought a house. If I had used a real estate agent (which I did not), they most assuredly would have listed it as “midcentury modern” – which is just real estate speak for “as old as the house you grew up in”. Being very excited about my recent acquisition, I quickly showed off pictures online to a friend. His brutal reply was but two words: “very dated”. I found this annoyingly ironic, given the popular home renovation shows will take a perfectly good house and embellish it with old doors and beat up kettles then call it “vintage”. So what is “vintage” anyway? Let’s take a look at some popular terms:
- Antique - According to the good people at Merriam Webster, an antique is “a work of art, piece of furniture, or decorative object made at an earlier period … at least 100 years ago”.
- Vintage – Vintage isn’t really a stand-alone term because it means “a period of origin or manufacture”. Instead, it needs a qualifier such as “vintage 50’s poodle skirt”. Typically “vintage” refers to items at least 20 years old.
- Retro - The prefix “retro” means backwards in Latin. According to Merriam Webster, retro relates to the fashions of the past. Thus, retro clothing or furniture might not actually be old, but rather are made in the styles of the recent past.
- Dated – Dated is a considerably less glamorous term and simply means “outmoded or old fashioned”. Typically it is used in the pejorative.
At the end of the day, you can call it what you like. They all just mean “old”. Whatever makes you happy is all that is important. I’m totally certain that floor to ceiling wood paneling and built-in bookcases are going to make a comeback, and when they do, I’ll be the coolest kid in town.
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