home stories: the vintage sellers, part 3 Rachel Mckenna at Zebra Homeware
I met Rachel on Instagram after I spotted the most fantastic retro green floral tray she was selling (pictured above) but sadly I had missed out on it - you have to be quick to catch these special pieces. You might have also spotted Rachel featured in The Daily Telegraph recently talking about a revival in collecting vintage British pottery.
Rachel has a real love for the 60's, 70's and 80's and her love of quirky retro vintage homewares is evident in the pieces she buys and sells. Rachel is mid-house move she is sharing with us her vintage home business story and favourite retro homeware finds.
I set up my small vintage homeware business, Zebra Homeware, with my partner Tom in August 2019. I live in Essex and currently run Zebra alongside my full-time job in marketing. Since setting up the store, my passion for vintage and interiors has grown and I love nothing more than browsing through my favourite home accounts on Instagram and magazines like Reclaim and Homes and Antiques.
How I got into vintage
I’ve always had a fondness for old things and recall happy memories rummaging through jumble sales and boot sales as a child. When Tom and I moved into our first rented home together, we were on a budget and looking for affordable and sustainable ways to make it feel homely. We spent our weekends browsing charity shops and flea markets and quickly discovered that pre-loved homeware still has a place in the modern home.
One particular weekend, we came across a beautiful mid-century armchair that looked like it had seen better days. The lady who was selling it said it was a neglected project that had been knocking around for ages. Although we didn’t have the space for it in our house we were excited by the possibility of giving it a new lease of life, so we handed over the money and took it home with us.
That same weekend we bought some paint and fabric and got to work on up-cycling it. We were excited by the possibility of restoring a discarded piece of furniture and creating something unique that no one else would have in their home. We also loved the idea that we were saving it from ending up in landfill, much like a lot of furniture does.
The armchair marked the opening of our Etsy store and proudly became our first ever Zebra product. From that point forward, we continue hunting for more vintage pieces for the shop, curating a collection of both furniture and homeware accessories.
How do you describe your vintage home style?
I’d describe my vintage home style as mid-century modern. I love the idea of mixing old with new and curating a unique collection of items. Our rented home is quite modern so we
have tried to complement the interiors by subtly adding our favourite vintage pieces among newer items - for example we have an up-cycled 1950s chest-of-drawers in our living room, which we have styled with a mix of vintage brass and an old kitchen pot which we have used as a planter, along with a couple of decorative items from Oliver Bonas. My favourite vintage pieces have always come from places I have visited as they tell a story and remind me of a particular trip or adventure.
Your favourite vintage period
Anything mid-century, so 50s and 60s, however I also have a real fondness for the 80s. I love the teak furniture trend that took hold in the 50s, and particularly pieces made by G-Plan and Meredew. We have actually inherited Tom’s grandmother’s teak side table which we adore and keep in our living room. In terms of the 80s, I love the coloured glass trend that seemed to take hold, as well as bold kitchenware pieces made by Hornsea Pottery.
A piece you bought for your business but couldn’t sell
There have been a few pieces that we have bought for the business but couldn’t bring ourselves to sell. Last summer, we came across a vintage Hornsea Pottery dinner set that we decided to keep, however it was missing the large dinner plates so we’ll still on the lookout for those. We also fell in love with a red retro wall clock that we decided to keep for our kitchen.
A piece you sold in your business and always regretted not keeping
The piece that I have sold and have always regretted is a pair of tall gold tealight holders They were one of the first items that we bought for the store and I was very close to keeping them as I’d never seen anything like them before. However, I thought I’ll never keep the business going if I decide to keep all of our stock. I decided to list them but a year and a half later, I still think about them a lot.
Your favourite vintage find in your home
My favourite vintage find in my home is probably a little brass rabbit that I found on a trip with my sister. I have two pet rabbits so I knew I had to keep it when I found it and it now sits proudly on my bedside table.
My top tip for buying/ collecting vintage:
Don’t be afraid to mix pieces from different eras together. While I’m naturally more drawn towards pieces from the 60s, 70s and 80s, I’m also a fan of Victorian pieces too. By selecting pieces that bring you joy, you can curate a collection of unique pieces from different time periods that complement each other.