Essential Vintage Pieces Joanna Gaines Thinks Should Be In Every Home

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Joanna Gaines has made a name for herself as a lover of farmhouse style and a proponent of bringing vintage and antique furnishings into the home. Take, for instance, the shop she opened that features vintage-inspired gems. It's perfect for those who like the look but don't want to scour flea markets for treasures. These types of pieces are also featured prominently in many of Gaines' home staging projects. So, it's natural for her to provide insights and resources for folks who are refreshing their homes and bringing a sense of history into their space. Her techniques apply whether it's a builder-grade house undergoing a farmhouse-style redesign or a historic home staying true to its roots.

Here are several items that Joanna Gaines thinks should be part of a home, from furniture pieces to home goods to architectural elements. Each item is worth consideration for those who are lovers of the star's iconic style. Plus there are many eras of vintage and antique goods on the resale market today. So, the right piece from your favorite decade can take your home in the design direction that calls to you, whether it's French country, boho, or modern farmhouse style.

Build new features with reclaimed wood

Gaines is no stranger to reclaimed wood, and when used judiciously, this material restores bygone charm in an old home or adds a sense of history to newer builds. Antique wood can also be used to add architectural interest with multiple pieces in one room. In fact, Gaines did just that in a "Fixer Upper" renovation where she added ceiling beams and a mantel made from the same wood. 

Finding reclaimed wood isn't hard if you know where to look. Clint Harp, a carpenter who works with Gaines, told, "A great place to start looking is in the salvage yards of demolition companies. When they go out to old homes and tear them down, some do it in a responsible way and try to keep all the old wood. You can sometimes find beautiful old wood like floor joists, rafters, ceiling joists, even 2-by-4s in the wall from houses built in the '50s, '40s, '30s." Prepare the wood before using it in your home, by cleaning, checking for and removing sharp nails or screws, checking and treating for pests, and finishing it.

Stage your space with candlesticks

If you're not ready to make large purchases of vintage architectural elements or furniture, smaller decorative pieces may be a good way to dip your toes in the style. Case in point: a vintage brass or copper candlestick. While small, these shine when styled on mantelpieces, shelves, or tablescapes for special occasions, whether they're holding candles or not.

The secret to using these accents is to layer in elements from different eras. Gaines' Magnolia blog offers the following tip, "When styling shelves, try mixing antique decor with newer pieces. Leaving space — or moments of pause — between pieces allows each one to speak for itself. And remember, it's ok to collect pieces slowly over time. A storied home takes time to build!" While some DIY decorators may be tempted to buy up a boatload of accent pieces all at once, it's best to curate your home wisely so you're left with a space that sparks joy, not buyer's remorse. 

Hang vintage prints or paintings

Good art may be a matter of perspective, but one thing's for certain: adding a well-chosen vintage print or painting to the wall can add a sense of history. If picking the right picture feels like pressure, resist the urge to overthink it. Relax and choose any print or painting that speaks to you. There are many to browse at thrift and antique stores, so take your time getting to know what you like.

Before you shop, ask yourself some questions to understand what you want and need. Take notes of the walls you would like to fill and how much surface area there is. Record the measurements on your phone and take pictures of the empty walls so you can visualize the art there as you're shopping.

The "Fixer Upper" star knows that art can take many forms. Gaines told, "I am always on the lookout for vintage signs." Gaines has even used smaller papers, like vintage sheet music, to display as art. If you see something unusual that speaks to you, even if it's not a typical photo or a painting, check the dimensions to see if it will work for your space. Then, find the right hardware to hang it properly. 

Give old cabinets and tables new purpose

Many of Gaines' kitchen remodels feature islands that started their lives as other pieces. Tables and cabinets make frequent appearances, as in The Castle project. Don't just choose any table or cabinet, though. The secret here is to consider what you actually need from your kitchen island, and what your space can accommodate. Gaines says on her Magnolia blog that her kitchen redesign process begins by "thinking through size, function, and form."

Once you understand your space, Gaines says, "Allow yourself to think outside traditional definitions. If you find a piece of furniture you love, add a countertop material that transforms it into an island." Maybe you already have a beloved vintage table or cabinet that doesn't seem to fit elsewhere in the house. If not, you'll find many options at antique malls and resale shops. If the construction of the furniture is solid, as many surviving vintage pieces are, it can stand up to daily use in the kitchen and will do well as an island.

Brighten a room with a vintage chandelier

Don't forget to look up when considering places to add vintage style. Gaines told Country Living, "When we're doing these renovations I always want it to feel like there's history there, and one way to incorporate that is using antique light fixtures that you [can] have rewired." While Gaines' name and the Magnolia brand became synonymous with farmhouse style, there's much more to her designs. This is evident in some of the midcentury modern masterpieces she installs in the form of vintage lighting.

When using chandeliers, particularly structural statement pieces like atomic or Sputnik lights, don't feel confined to using them only in the dining room. Take a cue from Gaines, who acquired a vintage Sputnik-style chandelier and installed it over a home office desk in Fixer Upper: Welcome Home episode 1. Vintage light fixtures can often be found at antique shows and stores. But, if you can't pin one down, you can simulate the look with a new fixture like this one from The Home Depot. While installing a light fixture is something that a savvy DIYer can do, don't be afraid to call a licensed professional for help if electrical skills are out of your wheelhouse.

Showcase statement storage pieces

When Gaines styles a home, she often uses filing cabinets, lockers, and other pieces outside of their original uses. In fact, it's that very old-school look that makes these pieces attractive to many people. Gaines even repurposed printer's cabinets as unconventional built-in shelving in her own home. The star is a collector of great materials but she waits to use them for the right home like these teal gym lockers she used in a bathroom remodel. Gaines explained on Facebook, "I've had these lockers for years and saved them because I knew one day I'd find the perfect project for them." 

Storage solutions like these can be found at architectural salvage shops, antique markets, estate sales, and auctions. That said, due to their unusual nature, it may take a while to stumble upon one. If you'd rather shop online, you can get the same look with new pieces like this locker from Target.

Choose storied servingware

Gaines says one of her favorite things is setting a holiday table with antique and vintage tableware. She shared on Instagram, "I get to pull out all of my antique dishes, vintage cups, and napkin rings — most of which I got for under five bucks a piece. Over the years I've collected these items or as Chip would say "hoarded" them." By collecting dinnerware slowly over time, she curated a family set that was truly of her own making. She continues, "'s so fun to see all these mix-matched pieces come together on the table." 

One tip for emulating Gaines' dinner table is to choose items that are similar in shape and color. If you like the look of goblets, collect these in the same color and approximate size. If you prefer tumblers, find a sense of uniformity there. Plates of a similar size and color can be grouped together as well. The same goes for napkin rings and silverware. Another benefit of buying vintage dinnerware? If something breaks, you're not down one piece of a complete set. You can easily replace a broken item after taking a trip to an antique store. On the other hand, if you take a collector's approach you can shop vintage dishware by brand, focusing on a particular pattern and building out a full set.

Add architectural details

Many architectural heroes keep a house functioning. Details like windows, doors, shutters, and hardware each play their part, but usually without much attention. That said, these are the very details that remodelers should consider. For Gaines, that often means selecting from among many vintage treasures in her silo to fill her clients' homes. She told Country Living, "Anything that came out of an old house or building that's kind of its own story. That's the kind of stuff I'm always looking for."

"They don't make 'em like they used to," is an adage that's true of many vintage architectural details. And, it can certainly be applied to antique doors that contain carvings unlike anything you'll see at your big box home store. Gaines installed this antique door in one of her "Fixer Upper" homes, and explained on Instagram that it "gave what was once a bland space some character and charm." Details like this make a big difference, so if you're seeking something truly singular, check out an architectural salvage shop for unique finds.

Hold onto heirlooms

Some of the best vintage pieces, and the most meaningful, may already be in your home or in the storage unit of a parent or grandparent. When these pieces change hands, refresh them and find a new place for them in your home, as Gaines did with her client's grandfather's table. While the "Fixer Upper" team completely transformed the client's ranch-style house that was once their "Paw Paw's", the dining table that came with that house only needed a few modifications. 

Gaines says on her blog, "My carpenter, Clint Harp, was able to refinish and freshen up the client's grandfather's dining room table, where they shared many meals growing up." The table was then displayed prominently in an open dining area. Whether your family heirloom is a farm table, an antique sideboard, or even a pewter candlestick, you can likely find a place for it in your home. Not only will you add vintage charm and character, but you'll also inject meaning into your space.

Pull up a vintage chair

Many popular furniture manufacturers are making vintage style new again by offering chairs featuring nostalgic lines, from wingbacks to round mod-style chairs. But there's nothing quite like the original for lovers of true historic finds. Often made with longer-lasting materials than new furniture, these treasures from the past deserve a place in today's home. At least, that's what Joanna Gaines would like DIY decorators to know.

In a segment shared on HGTV Asia's YouTube channel, Gaines lets viewers in on one undeniable benefit of buying vintage chairs. You can often purchase them at a lower price in resale stores than you can buy new pieces at furniture outlets. She recommends taking advantage of those savings to pick up some upholstery fabric to recover a chair, in the event that it needs a refresh. Gaines says using these chairs "adds a lot of character and a lot of spice to the space." Don't be concerned if you can't find a set of matching chairs. You can mix and match various styles for a unique, curated look.

Bring in stoneware

Vintage and antique stoneware often feature prominently in Joanna Gaines' curated goods, available from Magnolia's Found & Collected line. These pieces typify the country-style decor that Gaines is known for bringing back into fashion. Magnolia is not the only place to find these pieces, of course. They can be purchased at many antique malls and vintage stores.

Suppose you're shopping for original stoneware from a reputable vendor. In that case, you can usually learn about its origins and maker from the seller. But, if you're scanning for goods at a rummage sale or digging through a cluttered roadside antique shop, you might want to brush up on how to spot a treasure. Stoneware and ceramics often feature a maker's mark at the bottom of the vessel. This signifies the maker and is often found on especially well-made pieces. A little research can tell you more about the company or designer who created the piece and may help you determine if it's the right one to add to your collection. 

Collect old books

When Jo launched her Found & Collected shop of curated antiques, she sourced from her own cache of vintage finds. Letting go of beloved pieces she'd collected over the years meant sending them out into the world and inviting other people to love them. It may come as no surprise to regular viewers of "Fixer Upper" that one small but impactful design element is featured prominently — antique books.

Although small, they bestow a sense of history and a lived-in look. If you're interested in the look, feel, or smell of old books but you're not sure how to style them, a quick look at some of Gaines' previous staging projects may provide some inspiration. Books can be placed on shelves, desks, and end tables in colorful vignettes. Or, a single book with a striking cover can be left face-up on a console table for an iconic design element.

As for where to find old books, there are several options. Many metro areas boast independent bookstores that specialize in them. Free little libraries are hit or miss but they can also be a wonderful resource. Estate sales can be a good place to find old books as well. Just steer clear of buying rare or first edition books, which are expensive and make a better prize for collectors or conservators. Instead, look for bargains with interesting colors.