Furniture Age Terminology

Have you ever been confused about what constitutes an antique and what is vintage?
Or what should be called Retro or Mid-Century Modern?
Furniture age terminology can be very confusing and a little hard to get a grip on.  Here is a quick and handy chart of the most common furniture age terms…


The word antique is usually used when you are referring to an item that is approximately 100 years old or more.  This word usually refers to a piece of furniture that is of significant worth and value because of its craftsmanship.  Antique not only refers to the age of a piece but also commonly its value.example of an antique piece of furniture


The word vintage is usually used to describe a piece of furniture that is older than 20 years but less than 100 (an antique).  Vintage does not commonly refer to a value as the piece does not necessarily need to be monetarily worth anything but rather from that period of time.  Vintage has become a very popular term to describe something beautifully old. example of vintage side tables


The word retro, like vintage, is usually used to describe a piece of furniture that is anywhere from 15-20 years old up to 50-60 years old.  Retro usually refers to something that was once popular and has come back into popularity.  It does not usually refer to value but rather a time period.example of retro coffee table

Mid-Century Modern

The term mid-century Modern (MCM) usually refers to a time period from about mid 1930 to mid 1960.  MCM furniture usually has very clean lines, bright colours and no distressing.  Furniture from this period has become very popular and has made a resurgence. The term itself does not relate to value.
example of a set of mid-century modern night stands


The word modern usually refers to a new piece of furniture.  It does not refer to the value of a piece but rather the age.  Modern pieces are usually less than 20 years old and these pieces tend to be more mass produced.  example of a modern piece of furnitureI hope this little furniture age terminology cheat sheet helps on your painting journey and remember that just because something is old doesn’t mean that it is also valuable.

Pin for later…a collage of furniture terminology

6 Comments on " Furniture Age Terminology "

  1. Lisa

    I love all of this! When I try to pin it, it says pinterest could not be loaded error not known. I have never seen this before. I love everything I have seen on Home Talk. Maybe they could get a program just for there site that would let u set up groups to save! 😉 love the Christmas tree! And The description for terminology. Thanks!

    1. Lisa

      Thanks Kerry 😉 Hmmm… and thanks for letting me know about the Pinterest error Kerry. I will look into that.

  2. Lisa

    Great post Lisa, I’m always getting my terms mixed up, especially Vintage and Antique. But now you’ve added Retro to my vocabulary. MCM is easy, I’ve got a house full of them, which I can’t wait to tackle and revive! Thanks for the lesson!

    1. Lisa

      I’m so glad you found it helpful Mary! I know I always got confused so found it handy to have something that I could refer to 🙂 Can’t wait to see what you do with all of your MCM pieces!! They have definitely made a comeback lately! Have a wonderful week, Lisa

  3. Lisa

    This is a great “go to” break down, Lisa. I have to laugh at times when I’m out thrifting and a vendor tries to call something antique when clearly it isn’t. I suppose they make some sales that way though!

    1. Lisa

      I totally agree, it’s ridiculous when they try to sell you an “antique” when it most definitely isn’t 🙂 Makes me feel bad for the person that believes them!

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