Hunting for vintage treasure, from high street to car boot

Our love affair with vintage style has settled into a long-term relationship bringing character and a warm glow of nostalgia to our homes.

Proof that the trend is still going strong is Cath Kidston's new 2,000 sq ft "megastore" in Leeds city centre that is doing a roaring trade with its staple homeware collections and Fifties inspired frocks.

Cath launched her first shop in 1993 and now has a 32-store empire including one outlet in Kuwait and eight in Japan.

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She says: "There's something really cheerful and friendly about vintage style. Plus, there's often a cheeky little twist to vintage-inspired prints and products that helps to set them apart.

"Vintage style evokes a sense of nostalgia and cosiness that people seem to really respond to together with a familiar quality that makes people smile and reminds them of their childhoods. It's a relaxed and approachable look that is easy to dip in and out of."

Cath's most popular products at the moment include sewing and knitting ranges that reflect the resurgence of interest in craft.

She says: "We make sweet little pin cushions in funny shapes, cute tins for buttons and pins, a sewing box shaped like a cottage, fun things like that. Our core kitchen products always do well too. Customers always like aprons and oven gloves and our rose print china has been flying off the shelves this season."

While many love the new designs with old-fashioned appeal that Cath Kidston excels at, others prefer the real McCoy.

Old vintage pieces are not mass-produced, often well-made, offer something different and they all have a past that inspires the imagination.

Part of their appeal is the thrill of the chase and hours of treasure hunting everywhere from specialist stores and auctions to

charity shops, car boot sales and eBay.

Janet Stevens, of vintage emporium Red House in Bedale, which specialises in the quirkier end of the business, says the recent TV series Cracking Antiques has helped to create more vintage devotees.

"The programme was great at showing how you can mix old and new and create something special on a budget," says Janet,

whose shop has a global following with customers

in America, Japan and Australia.

Her best sellers, hunted down by her intrepid husband Kevin, include large scale maps and kitchenalia, but she is seeing a trend towards slightly more industrial design.

"Anything with an industrial edge like old work benches and drawers and anglepoise lamps is popular at the moment," she says.

Meanwhile, Polly Medley, of Country Chic, at Burnt Yates, near Harrogate, says the afternoon tea and cupcake revival is fuelling demand for old china teasets, cake plates and original Lloyd Loom.

Polly specialises in reworking old pieces and transforms "brown" furniture with her painting techniques, makes cushions using old fabrics and is now upholstering chairs in vintage quilts and patchworks.

"It gives me great pleasure working with the quality and craftsmanship of old materials to create a contemporary piece," she says. "People appreciate the beauty, comfort and function, and you get something totally unique."

VINTAGE HUNTING

Real Vintage:

Red House, Market Place, Bedale, tel: 01677 424076, www.redhouse.co.uk

Country Chic, The Workshops, Clint Bank, Burnt Yates, Harrogate, www.country-chic.net

His for Home www.hisforhome.com

Space, The Ginnel, Harrogate for clothes and homeware www.spaceharrogate.com

Car boot sales. A vintage hunters favourite is at York Racecourse www.yorkcarboot.com

Auction sales are a great place for bargains.

Vintage Fairs are becoming coming commonplace and the following hold regular events

Discover Vintage www.discovervintage.co.uk

St Gemma's Hospice www.st-gemma.co.uk

Rose and Brown, Saltaire. www.roseandbrownvintage. co.uk

New Vintage:

Cath Kidston, Harrogate, York and Lands Lane, Leeds. www.cathkidston.com

Emma Bridgewater pottery www.emmabridgewater.co.uk

n Olive Branch, Addingham and Easingwold www.the-olive-branch-co.uk

n Angel in Easingwold www.angel-lifestyle.com