Vintage decor is becoming a popular way to give gardens a unique charm – and transforming your garden into a dreamy, rustic space is simpler than you might think. If you already have an abundance of eclectic bric-a-brac lying around your home – or have a passion for digging through second-hand shops and antique markets – now is the time to let it shine.
So many vintage garden decor ideas hinge on reusing pre-loved items in imaginative ways. This kind of upcycling not only reduces waste, it can help you find new uses for sentimental items that are just gathering dust around your home!
That’s why we’re going to be focusing on beautiful vintage decor that you can create by upcycling common household items (as well as some tips for creating a generally “shabby chic” vibe at home). From lighting options to planters and centrepieces, we have plenty of vintage garden decor ideas for gardens of every size.
Quirky Pots and Planters
One of the best things about putting together a vintage garden is that a lot of its charm comes from old, well-loved items. If you don’t have the right kind of things lying around your home or shed already, you should be able to find lots of inexpensive options at charity shops, car boot sales and second-hand markets.
Baking trays, biscuit jars and serving dishes can easily be repurposed into whimsical pots and saucers for your plants. Simply remove their lids, drill drainage holes (for pots) and pack them with compost. If you don’t fancy drilling, why not use something that already has plenty of holes, like a vintage metal colander? Use them as pots on the ground, or make a simple DIY plant hanger to show them off.
Milk cans lend themselves particularly well to the vintage garden style, especially as planters or vases for fresh-cut flowers. Get creative and repaint them, or simply enjoy the patina of the old metal.
On a very similar note, old teapots can make beautiful planters. Look in charity shops (or your granny’s attic) for ones with bold, retro patterns or brightly-coloured coatings that are starting to wear off.
Vintage teacups are the perfect size for succulents, and can look incredibly charming if you have several displayed together. You can look for second-hand cups that are the same colour, or mix and match different cups for a more eclectic, Alice in Wonderland vibe.
Worn buckets and baskets
Curating old buckets, baskets and clay pots is a perfect way to add character when it comes to flower planters in your vintage garden. Stack a variety of pots on shelves, or hang them from a pergola or porch. The shine of plain, galvanized buckets can add visual interest, but you could also paint them to match the flowers in your garden for a romantic aesthetic.
Retro watering cans
It seems the majority of watering cans are plastic these days, but if you can get your hands on an old metal one, you’ll find it makes a very cute planter. Of course, if it’s still in good working order you might actually want to use it for watering your plants – but if you find it’s missing its head or handle, go ahead and plant some bulbs inside.
Shabby Chic Furniture
When you’re curating your vintage garden decor ideas, don’t forget to include your outdoor furniture in the rustic, romantic style. Here are some of the ways you can use salvaged and upcycled furniture in your garden plans.
Cute, cottage-style furniture in pastel shades
Traditional English gardens and cottage gardens share a lot of style elements with vintage garden design. Look for cute wooden benches or curly metal seating that fits with these aesthetics, and then blend the furniture into your garden by painting it in pastel shades that match your flowers, pots or the woodwork of your home.
Weathered effect paints and coatings
If you want a shortcut to the vintage look, the secret is to make your furniture (and decor) appear old before its time. You can leave it in the sun, take some sandpaper to it, or use a paint, coating or varnish specifically designed to crack and peel as it dries. It can be a bit messy, so start with something small before you do your whole patio set.
Ah – my favourite DIY material (of course pallets would pop up at some point)! If you can get hold of used pallets, you’ll probably find they’re already delightfully battered; perfect for making a cheap table or shelf in your garden. The chickens are optional, but highly recommended.
Check out all of our DIY pallet projects for more inspiration.
Old drawers, dressers and armoires
Ladders as vertical plant displays
You can make an understated plant display simply by stacking mason jars, old cans or glass bottles as small planters on the steps of a ladder. Mix in fresh flowers and fairy lights to make it look more magical!
Vintage garden decor ideas: Lighting
The right garden lighting can add the finishing touches to a vintage garden. Avoid modern fixtures, and aim for more atmospheric lighting, or reuse homely objects as lanterns.
Enchanting fairy lights and festoons
Soft, warm-coloured fairy lights look completely magical in any garden, but really add to the charm of a vintage-styled outdoor space. Wrap them around trees, or house them in jars or glass vases.
Festoons (larger light bulbs on wires like on this gazebo) offer a similar effect, but are a little bit more practical if you need to see what you’re doing.
Candles and lanterns
Can you get a light source that says “vintage” more than candles? Their warm, inviting glow is the perfect accent for a romantic vintage garden, especially if you keep them protected from the wind in mason jars or lanterns. Of course, you could cheat a bit and use solar-powered candles so you don’t have to worry about lighting them or replacing them… we won’t tell!
Focal points for a vintage garden
Creating a focal point in your garden usually pulls the whole design together. A single fixture that is cohesive with your other vintage garden decor ideas makes it clear what style you’re going for, and helps visitors navigate your garden visually (and physically). Here are some focal point suggestions:
Archways wrapped in flowers
There’s just something romantic about an archway, right? Whether you build one over your garden gate, around a seat, or across a path, as long as it’s covered with climbing plants, you can’t go wrong.
A water feature will add a tranquil ambience to your garden with the cooling effects of water and the gentle noise it makes. Classical tiered fountains are often top of the list when it comes to vintage garden decor ideas, as they create the kind of timeless sophistication found in formal French gardens. Try positioning one in a bed of gravel in the centre of your garden design.
Make your old wheelbarrows into mobile flower beds by turning them into a planter. Even if you have no other vintage objects, this will immediately add a rustic touch to your garden and save space! Alternatively, you could place several smaller planters on top of a bed of soil or pebbles inside the wheelbarrow.
Dutch-style bicycles have such a lovely design, it’s a shame when they eventually get jammed up with rust. You could give an old bicycle a new chance at life, repurposed into a whimsical planter. Grow flowers or herbs in the basket, and hang smaller pots from the handle bars and frame.
If your garden is only small, sometimes a large planter can make enough of a visual impact to act as a focal point. Raise it up in the middle or your garden, or in the centre of your border flowerbeds.
Combining your vintage garden decor ideas
You don’t need to spend a lot to create a beautiful vintage garden with these ideas. Sometimes all you have to do is find the right pieces in your own house. Whether you’re upcycling well-loved household antiques or scouring stores for second-hand gems, a vintage garden has a timeless aesthetic that you can recreate with these ideas.