Are you looking for something to ‘lift’ and add something a little different to a modern home? Incorporating antique furniture into your home decor might just be the answer. Mixing antique pieces with modern furniture creates a unique look and is also an environmentally friendly way of shopping. We have suggested some ideas for mixing the old with the new in ways that seem fresh and original.
There is usually little interest or story behind modern furniture. Eye-catching it may be but it is often all too obvious where it comes from. It certainly doesn’t invoke interesting questions such as, ‘Is there a story attached to it?’ Very often your favourite antique find has seen history actually take place around it! A piece of antique furniture probably took many hours, if not weeks, to skilfully craft it while its lines, fabrics and colours bring the past into your home.
The best examples of antique furniture were usually crafted in Britain, Belgium, France or Italy and you are just as likely to find a period French chair in a London antique shop as you are a finely worked English table in Brussels. Sourcing Chinese antiques, particularly cabinets, is also a great way to lift the look of your home decor.
Where to source your antique furniture
If you are lucky enough to live in London or a large regional town, you will find plenty of opportunities to indulge your love of antique furniture. Antique, second-hand and curio shops along with flea markets are great ways to indulge your passion and add an antique or two to your decor. Away from the cities, country houses sometimes have estate sales while antique auctions are often regular events.
Prices will, of course, vary widely with antique shops charging more than flea markets. The best way to find out if you’re getting a good bargain is to attend a few auctions and estate sales as well as researching your favourite period online. Once you have attended a few, you’ll have a fair idea of the market price of the antique furniture you want.
Online shopping is another good way of sourcing a piece or two for your home. While sites such as Craigslist, eBay and Etsy are good places to find pieces at affordable prices there is a downside. Without actually seeing a piece of furniture, it isn’t always easy to gauge its exact size and colour.
How to successfully add antiques to your decor
When decorating with antiques it is best to mix and match your styles rather than stick to just one. Pair the sleek lines of an Italian sofa with the over-the-top extravagance of a Baroque side table. Bear in mind that different periods of history also showcased different colour schemes. The Victorians preferred earthy tones, bringing the colours of the garden and moors indoors – ginger yellows, heather purples, moss greens and mulberry reds. In contrast, colour in the Elizabethan period denoted stature. The well-to-do showed off their wealth with an exuberant use of gold, blue, crimson, white, red and purple. When planning the decor of a room, remember the 80/20 rule beloved of interior designers. If Victoriana is your passion, match 80% of it with modern pieces. In contrast, pair 80% of contemporary design with a few well-chosen antique touches.
Can I get the antique look on a limited budget?
Yes, most definitely. If your budget doesn’t stretch to large pieces of antique furniture then think laterally. Can an antique door be turned into a table? Or, an old window into a picture frame? Antique side tables can become charming bedside tables. Scour flea markets for vases, sets of china or snuff and jewellery boxes in marble, malachite or onyx. They all add an authentic antique feel without breaking your budget.
Tips for success
- Only buy items you truly love.
- Research before you buy so you know the price is fair.
- If you can’t afford genuine antiques, go back a few decades and invest in some retro pieces from the 70s and 80s.
- Always keep a balance – remember the 80/20 rule.
With a little research both online and on the high street, your knowledge and eye for antiques will rapidly grow along with a home full of interesting settings that combine practicality with historic interest and aesthetic appeal. Not only will you have a new decor but also a new hobby.