Mid-Century Antique Shopping: 8 Treasures I Always Look For

Do you like the idea of antique shopping, but you’re not sure what to look for? Take inspiration from my favorite mid-century treasures—from retro dishes and furniture to vintage jewelry and decor—or just enjoy the nostalgic eye candy!

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Favorite Mid-Century Antiques

1. Cathrineholm and Other Retro Dishes

Cathrineholm enamelware is the first thing I look for when antique shopping. These Norwegian dishes were designed by Grete Prytz Kittelsen. They came in a variety of colors and patterns, including the popular lotus motif by Arne Clausen.

Mid-century collectors like myself cannot resist that lotus.

You can find a variety of CH bowls, plates, tea kettles and other adorable dishes on eBay or Etsy. And if you’re very lucky, you might spot a lotus at your local thrift store.

It was a good day when I stumbled upon this chocolate brown lasagna pan at The Garage Sale Warehouse.

Cathrineholm brown oven dish with Red Wing quail salt and pepper shakers

While Cathrineholm is the top treasure I seek in antique stores, there are other retro dishes I get excited about, too. I love my Red Wing quail dinnerware. And I’m always looking for ultra-modern Copco enamelware and ultra-whimsical Arabia Finland pieces (see the charming fish trivet below).

With some hunting, you can find gems like this shelving unit packed with Cathrineholm and Lyngby Porcelain dishes, seen at Vintage Pink.

You might also want to start a Pyrex collection with seemingly endless color and pattern options. I can’t walk into an antique store without encountering a stack of eye-catching Pyrex.

Related: Make a lotus table runner inspired by Cathrineholm

2. Mid-Century Fashion Accessories

The mid-century era wasn’t just the heyday of home design. It was also a fabulous time for fashion. Luckily for us, retro jewelry is still readily available.

Through a combination of family heirlooms and persistent antique shopping, I have been growing a collection in my favorite colors.

Vintage jewelry collection of colorful necklaces, rings and earrings

You might also want to look for fashionable scarves, ties or purses. How magical is this 1960s floral tote bag that I discovered at Stars Antiques? Eric thought it was “a bit busy,” but clearly his analysis was way off.

3. Holiday Blow Molds and Decor

Remember blow molds? These plastic decorations have been lighting up holidays since 1938, and they are growing in popularity among today’s nostalgia seekers. There are lots of new versions available, but they don’t feel the same as the faded, chipped, well-loved originals, right?

We were thrilled to track down this little pumpkin blow mold and bring it back to life with a new light. Now it’s ready for many more Halloweens to come.

Pumpkin blow mold lit up in a Halloween scene with haunted houses, cats and Halloween trees

Vintage blow molds are still out there. I spotted a bunch on a recent trip to Phog Bounders Antique Mall!

I also like to hunt for Shiny Brite ornaments, old-fashioned Santas and other mid-century holiday decor. Our aluminum Christmas tree was a major score that we have enjoyed for years.

4. Mid-Century Modern Furniture

MCM furniture can be pricy but so worth it, with high-quality craftsmanship and design that stands the test of time. Our gondola sofa was a Craigslist find that just needed to be reupholstered to provide continued naps and comfort.

Dressers, coffee tables and side tables are fairly easy to find. I have also seen beautiful room dividers, like this one at Vintage Pink.

My goal is to find my dream mid-mod headboard in a reasonable price range (that’s the tricky part). I’m on the lookout!

5. Milk Glass Everything

While milk glass dates as far back as the 16th century, I’m partial to the 1950s pieces from when the style resurged in popularity. Lamps, goblets, vases, cake stands, soap dishes…most of us have admired these gems in Grandma’s house.

Milk glass is the perfect collector’s item for mid-century enthusiasts on a budget. This is one antique I have frequently found for under $10, at least in the more prevalent styles.

Displayed with all-white accessories (and on white SparkleLam countertops!), milk glass looks refreshingly minimalist. It is equally stunning whether you lean toward modern or traditional decor.

6. Vinyl Records

The right music can add a touch of authenticity to your mid-century home. Just try playing an Engelbert Humperdinck record while sitting in your Eames rocker under a Sputnik light. You’ll be convinced that time travel is real.

I love sifting through crates of vinyl records to expand my music collection. Thrift stores usually carry an eclectic variety for a few dollars apiece. One time I found the mother lode of Elvis records at 10 for $10!

7. Danish Modern Serving Dishes

If you’re going to entertain, do it in Danish modern style. Keep the cocktails flowing with a Dansk teak ice bucket. Serve candy and snacks in a stainless steel serving tray and spice up the party with salt and pepper shakers.

Danish modern salt and pepper shakers, serving tray, candle holder and Dansk ice bucket for mid-century style entertaining

I often see Danish pieces like this candle holder and tray in antique stores. Sometimes I spot a vintage Dansk, and I’m happy to report that Dansk has reissued many of their retro designs, so now you can take your pick!

You might also want to make this mid-century modern serving tray inspired by the Dansk surfboard.

8. Mid-Century Cats

Every room needs cats. Look for feline figurines, wall art, planters, dinnerware and bookends to sneak more cats into your decor.

I had the pick of the litter when I encountered this collection at the Cat’s Meow. The dapper black kitty came home with me.

Also don’t forget to check what I call the “whimsy aisle” at every Goodwill. That’s the aisle full of little figurines and trinkets, and it’s a gold mine for cat fans.

I never regret adding a retro cat to my collection, but I do have regrets for a few that I didn’t pick up. Here are the ones that got away at Stars. How did I resist these precious cat eyes?!

Have fun with your antique shopping!


Mid-century antique shopping guide - the treasures I look for every time
Mid-century treasure hunting - finding antique dishes, cat figurines, fashion accessories and more

4 thoughts on “Mid-Century Antique Shopping: 8 Treasures I Always Look For”

  1. Oh this H & H is so fun!! You have certainly found some real MCM treasures!! ( It was really fun going to all those antique stores in Sept. with you and Eric. Hopefully we will get to do that some more in the future! 😉 ) This is full of great information for the MCM/antique collectors. Love all your whimsies and treasures..you have a wonderful collection! Keep collecting!!!

    Reply
  2. Hi Tara,
    That ice bucket looks familiar! I remember when I scored that at a garage sale…$5, I think! I’m glad it has a home in your collection.

    Reply

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