The Sustainability of Antiques

The Sustainability of Antiques

Welcome to Second Nature, a Q+A series with Jute founder, Ali Davin, that explores all things healthy living, with a fond emphasis on that thing she does best—interior design.

Lately, it seems like everyone is shopping secondhand. It’s a great way to find unique pieces, plus it lowers carbon emissions, keeps waste out of landfills, and saves energy. But it’s not just for clothes.

Fast furniture—the chemical-heavy stuff sold at mass-market retailers—is just as bad for the environment as fast fashion. Thankfully there’s a more sustainable solution. Antiques are made to last, plus they’re better for your health and the planet. Here’s how to incorporate them into your home.


Why do you recommend decorating with antiques?

Design-wise, they add character and depth when you integrate them into a space and mix them with newer items. Antiques are better for the planet because you’re not using new resources when you buy them and you’re keeping furniture out of the landfill. From a health perspective, they’re not off-gassing chemicals, so they’re better for the air quality inside your home.


What if you’re new to antiques?

Some people are apprehensive about them from either a cost or durability perspective, but I’ve found stools, side tables, consoles, and benches are a great place to start. Next, I’d try case pieces like dressers and armoires. In terms of decor, people are obsessed with vintage mirrors, light fixtures, and accessories. Pillows made from vintage tapestries and rugs are also huge.


What’s more challenging to source?

Everyone wants an antique farm table, but they are incredibly hard to come by. There aren’t a lot of antique beds out there either, especially in bigger sizes. Fully upholstered seating tends to be the least requested thing because the proportions are so much smaller. It works for an occasional chair or a chaise, but you don’t want to stretch out on an antique piece—it’s not generous in terms of depth or size.



What do you steer people away from?

There are no antique sectionals, and even midcentury sofas can be uncomfortable. They look great, but they were designed to seat a few people having cocktails, not laying down and binge-watching TV for hours. We’ve gotten so much more used to personal space and comfort that they just don’t work for how we live now.


How can you update antique furniture?

If you find something with an amazing patina or marks that give it character, you probably don’t want to do anything to alter the integrity of the original piece. Otherwise, be creative with how you refinish it. It’s generally easy and inexpensive to re-stain something. If you find a really cool occasional chair, you can invest in reupholstering it.


What are your favorite types of antiques?

I’m obsessed with pig benches, joint stools, and antique potty chairs. With their original functions adding to them being great conversation pieces, they also boast unique and quirky silhouettes.


What’s not sustainable about antiques?

It kind of defeats the purpose if you find something that you have to ship across the world on it’s own.  That’s not great for your carbon footprint, and can be incredibly expensive. It’s better to go online and find dealers in your area who can source things for you. They usually have a network of relationships and a pulse on the market. Try to stay local.


Find a favorite antiques dealer (or several) and work with them to find unique pieces you love.

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