Why You Should Be Shopping Vintage Home Goods on Instagram

My idea of heaven is a musty garage at an estate sale or an unassuming vintage store, rifling through stacks of vintage porcelain or blowing dust off of antique glassware. There’s a certain thrill to vintage shopping—especially the kind that necessitates a good amount of digging—that makes the finds all the more special. Of course, as the past few months have seen nationwide store closures due to coronavirus, many of those little shops have been boarded up, estate sales cancelled, and road trips that might involve a spur-of-the-moment detour to a yard sale put off in favor of at-home activities. It’s also led to increased time spent on the internet. Combined, these two things have greatly expanded my appreciation for a certain practice: Shopping vintage on Instagram.

I’ve long been an avid browser of Instagram accounts that sell vintage through the social media platform, but my enthusiasm has taken on a new fervor in recent months. For the creatives behind them, Instagram has gone from storefront and marketing tool to important business strategy.

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Lance Jackson and David Ecton got into the world of vintage selling over 10 years ago, when Jackson was working for an architecture firm and Ecton was in IT. “One of the things we love to do when we travel is go antiquing, go to estate sales, and things like that,” recalls Ecton. “So Lance said to me, ‘what if we were to do a little antiques booth?'”

Serendipitously, Jackson had the opportunity to buy a warehouse full of furniture from his former employer, and the business began. “We started selling out of our storage unit and selling to friends over the phone,” Ecton recalls. They soon opened an antiques stall at the famous Scott’s Market in Atlanta and started an Instagram shortly thereafter. “The Instagram really started blowing up,” recalls Jackson. “That was right at the time when Instagram was taking off.”

When the duo expanded into doing interior design, they spun the vintage part of their business off into PKL The Cellar (a reference to the basement where they stored it all!) and designed under the name Parker Kennedy. After more than a decade, though, they have decided to wind down much of their design work to focus more on vintage selling.

Ecton and Jackson attribute much of their success to their consistent schedule; they host two large sales a week on Instagram and after much trial and error (and many late nights filling out invoices by hand) have come up with a quick payment system through Shopify. Additionally, Ecton says, “We really want to keep our prices competitive.” To do so, the duo is constantly on the hunt for items from under-the-radar sources. “I love the stores that don’t even have signs,” says Jackson. “The dirtier the better.”

Lance and David’s Current Obsession: Anything equestrian.

While @PKLTheCellar takes a straightforward, minimal approach to its Instagram (everything is shot by Jackson against a white background), Ariene Bethea of Dressing Rooms Interiors (Instagram: @dressmyroom), goes the other direction on her account, which mirrors the setup of her Charlotte, North Carolina, shop.

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“I want to be able to show customers how to use the pieces,” says Bethea. “In my shop, I’m able to do that.” On Instagram, she replicates this, posting styled shots that display items in a livable environment. “I want you to feel like you’re actually walking into my home, and you’re buying the pieces off my wall or out of my house,” she explains.

Ariene’s Current Obsession: Vintage sectionals.

Bethea began her creative career when, while working in HR, she got so many compliments on her office decor that she ended up redesigning her boss’s office—and realized she had a knack for it. When she relocated to Charlotte from Boston, she started following the designer and blogger Dayka Robinson, who had a vintage shop on Etsy. “I was like, ‘oh my God—I didn’t know I could do that,'” recalls Bethea.

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She visited the famous 127 Yard Sale with $300 in her pocket and started her own Etsy shop in 2011, then went on to sell on Chairish and One Kings Lane before opening her own shop in Charlotte. On Instagram, she says, she’s able to share even more advice. “What’s great is, in the caption, I can give a recommendation on how I would have it in my house, or what else you could do with it,” Bethea explains.

Hana Nagel, the brains behind the account @wildfang_home, takes a third approach aesthetically, using the pieces she’s selling to compose artful imagery. “Setting up shots is a big part of my creative process,” she says. “I really love setting up vignettes in my own home and capturing how followers can style them in their own space, but I also like to decontextualize vintage decor pieces against graffiti and nature. It really makes them pop and showcases the timelessness of the designs.”

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Nagel, who works full-time as a product design researcher, started her account in January of this year—like many good ideas, it was born of necessity. “When my relationship with my last girlfriend ended, I needed to furnish my apartment from scratch,” she tells House Beautiful. “I wanted to find a way to furnish my entire home in a sustainable way that moves against the culture of ‘fast furniture.'”

Nagel is also passionate about supporting queer creatives, and often includes artwork from her own collection in her Instagram imagery for that reason. “This allows me the opportunity to show the fabulous art in my home from queer artists and makers,” she explains.

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As a newcomer to the vintage buying game, the platform also has allowed Nagel to find a community of likeminded vintage lovers and dealers: “Instagram is great because it allows me to connect with other vintage resellers,” she says. “We don’t see one another as competition. There are so many avenues and niches in the vintage resale market. We help one another source items, talk about our special nook of the vintage market and support one another from all corners of the world.”

Hana’s current obsession: All things burl wood (longterm: Murano glass and pink shells).

Bethea agrees: “A lot of us vendors are familiar with each other’s inventory,” she says—and they’ll often share intel. “I had a dresser once and I saw another vendor in Chicago had it, so I messaged her asking what price she put on it—and then she referred a customer who wanted it but missed it.”

That said, most vendors don’t appreciate customers haggling on Instagram. “Some places don’t post prices; we like to because we want to be transparent,” says Ecton. But if the price is listed, it’s safe to assume it’s final. “I hauled this thing from wherever and I lifted it and cleaned it and posted it,” Bethea explains—”I hate that [when people ask for a lower rate].” (Though Jackson and Ecton note that they are happy to make discounts on shipping for customers purchasing multiple items).

Nagel urges customers to start dialogues about the products for sale, though: “My advice for people looking to shop vintage through Instagram is to remember that sellers like myself are total nerds about our items,” she says. “The platform is also built for casual communication between buyers and sellers. I love teaching followers about furniture and sourcing very special, one of a kind pieces—I love questions!”

As Nagel sees it, this openness is a way of passing the baton, too: “The way I learned about home design was from accounts on Instagram, and now I am one of them,” she says.

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