photo of entryway with antiques and contemporary art

Uniting Vintage and Contemporary Design Styles

Interior Designers love to incorporate antiques and vintage pieces with contemporary design styles! Some clients get excited about the idea. Some, however, are intimidated by the array of unique antique and vintage finds and how to mix the two. When antiques are mentioned, they recall the days of Great Aunt Bessie’s hideous armoire covered in cobwebs, or a hand-me-down collection of gauche crystal collecting dust in an attic. It is at that point when we, as designers, try and open the client’s mind to the limitless options of antique and vintage furniture and accessories. There are some fabulous finds out there! The reason for wishing to combine the old and the new is simple: When it is done right, it brings together one’s individual style with history and substance to create a genuine, multi-faced and interesting space.

Even the most experienced Interior Designers face a challenge when bringing the old in with the new. After consulting with the client and determining their needs, likes, and dislikes, we must decide which design style will be the dominant one. Maybe it will be modern with vintage accents. Or traditional with antique accents. Eclectic with a dash of mid-century finds. A contemporary and art deco mix. There is such a wide variety of combination possibilities! Combining styles so that a mutual detail echoes through the room looks dazzling once done. Once this is established, we are on our way to great design!

Tips on How to Combine Vintage or Antique Pieces in Contemporary Designs

I like to sit with my clients and make a list of attributes that attract them most from the dominating design style. If they like modern design, I ask what features stand out the most. When choosing antique or vintage supplements for the room, this will come in handy. Unifying the room is easier when I know to search for the elements that the old and the new pieces have in common. Perhaps a particular texture or shape is related. Maybe it is a type or tone of wood that is shared. Whatever the detail may be, I seek out complimentary pieces so the room is in balance.

Some of my favorite combinations of old and new are items that are unexpected together but play well. Such as an old rustic farm dining table with white Verner Panton “S” chairs. A streamlined, low sofa with square chrome legs paired with a vintage Arco lamp. A modern Louis “Ghost” armchair matched with a mid-century George Nelson desk. An antique crystal chandelier in an entry foyer, over a contemporary Bernhardt console, anchored by a colorful Jonathan Adler area rug.

Color is also important to consider when mixing styles. A traditional interior sprinkled with a few modern accessories comes alive when the room is painted a rich, unexpected color like eggplant or peacock blue with bright white trim. Color can make heavy antique upholstery lighten up as well. Using modern fabric patterns in punchy hues for the cushions can make for a lighter feel. An old world room lightens up by bringing in a few sleek, modern sculptures, light fixtures or accessories in bold, fun colors.

Always remember that less is more! Too much mixing and the eye does not know where to settle. Mixing in a few items from another era can become a point of focus, and a great conversation starter! You want a room that entices people to keep looking, and ask many questions about the origin of its contents. A room where your personal style is highlighted and given depth by the history and roots of antique and modern furniture. A mix of yesterday’s and today’s designs to create perfect harmony!