One of the beauties of converted houses of character, is how they effectively combine antique pieces with modern ones, achieving authentic and unmatched results.
Every home is filled with unique design puzzles, from figuring out how to make do with a tiny room (or fill a giant one) to finding that perfect rug, wall-hanging artworks, or piece of furniture to bring it all together. And although our first thought might be to do away with them, and make room for the new, sometimes we are only missing out. Sometimes, it’s about being able to creatively combine your antiques with your modern furniture.
Creating a home means being surrounded by things that you love. The dilemma of how to successfully bring the old with the new together harmoniously is a common one. It’s either due to moving house and some of the furniture has to move to the new space too, or you are moving into your first home which is full of old furniture.
In some cases, you might just want to mix things up a bit – create that je ne sais quois – the tension that will energize the whole space.
The question is: What to keep or bring back to your home – old can sit comfortably and alongside the new, but how?
The Basics – Reupholstering
New fabric + old frame = one of a kind
Graphics – modern furniture tends to be slimline and clinical so adding some bold and heavy pieces of furniture will give the eye something to settle on as it streams through the things in the room. You can also add a bit more motion through artwork – think painting and sculpture.
Layer – this does not just apply to clothing and fashion. Do the same with your throws and rugs; layer your walls with a beautiful Persian carpet or a different rug…it will make your home cozy as well as give you something else to look at which might be more soothing than the usual picture frames or paintings.
Artwork – go big or go small
Fill some spaces or entire walls up so you can leave others clean and free.
Paint your walls – sometimes we can be afraid of adding colour, preferring to go for the safe neutral shades, but adding a dash of colour can be simply transformative!
Polished concrete floors – the ultimate in modern living
Apart from feeling cool underfoot, it looks gorgeous. The slate grey scheme goes so well with the white walls and splashes of colour.
Schoolhouse accents – go for the whole thing from wooden beams and ceiling accents to industrial lighting. This says modern without being too country-cozy.
Paint your ceramic tub: there is nothing to this. You can coat the exterior of a ceramic tub in paint that you’ve used elsewhere in the room so that it feels like it is a part of the overall design. If it’s not the tub how about the sink in the laundry or boxroom. The paint does not need to be a bold colour, just as long as it flows with the space and livens it up. If it’s going to look drab you might as well
Wallpaper – the unique way to do it
If you have modern furniture choose something detailed and fussy – an animal or floral print, a William Morris design would be a great touch. If you already have a lot of the old style furniture, venture towards something cleaner – go for straight lines, with spaced out prints, bold block colours, think simplicity.
A William Morris print…perfectly combining vintage wood with sleek modern shelving
Wood: To buy or not to buy
A few tips and tricks of the trade to buy the right wood furniture pieces for you.
1. Structural Condition: Is it well-made?
The beauty of considering ‘vintage’, ‘salvaged’ or ‘antique’ is that they do not have to be in perfect condition – that’s not the point of having them in the house. Those scratches and knocks add character to your space – they tell a story.
If the damage is extensive but you really love the piece then check about the possibility of repairing it.
What makes for a sound construction? Some tests:
- Wiggle it
Does the piece move back and forth when you touch it? That’s an easy way to know if all the connector points are solid or if they’re going to need be taken apart and re-joined.
- Check the drawers (if any)
You’re checking for the presence of wooden runners – those small projecting pieces that the drawer slides onto and off of. This is a good indicator that a piece was custom made. They are either going to be made out of wood or metal. Wood is preferable but then metal tends to be cheaper – just check they are in good condition, so that they aren’t rusting or bent. Check the underside of the drawers too, for any rubbing or wear from bowing in the drawer basin. If there is, and it’s minimal then a little sanding and waxing will do the trick.
- Look at the legs
Check and be sure they haven’t cracked and been put back together.
2. Construction: Is it solid wood?
It’s true, everything can be painted over but if you’re on the look-out for solid wood this is how you’ll find it out:
- Return to the drawers
See how they’re constructed at the corners. The dovetail joints are a telltale sign of whether it’s a solid construction or not.
- Don’t pass over veneered pieces
Mid-century and pieces from the 40’s tend to have a shiny veneer on the top. If it’s solid wood under the veneer you can always sand it off and give the piece a facelift.
- Check its weight
Is it heavy? Well solid wood is going to be. You’ll know if you’re looking at particleboard, which is made from tiny pieces of refuse (like wood chips or sawdust) and can become flimsy or even crumble over time. It’s often finished and painted to look like wood, you can also check corners to see if it’s chipping away.
- Look for wood grain
Another way to be sure a piece isn’t made of particleboard is to look for a wood grain. Besides cherrywood – which can be a nightmare to paint since the natural tannins in it somehow seep through any top coat of paint (save for one that’s got a primer in it) – any solid wood is a good choice: oaks, maples, and pines…
3. Age: Has the piece been cared for?
For all its merits, wood pieces can be neglected to the point of no return and still look half decent in a store window. So these might be some pointers to help you:
- Smell it
If a piece reeks of smoke or has mildewed then you should probably pass on it. Wood is porous, so the smells that seep into it are hard to remove and will likely transfer to anything that touches the piece (like your clothes or your linens or moreso your room).
4. Style: Do you even like it?
If you like it, you like it. It’s enough to try to figure out where you’re going to place it in your house. When it comes to price, it’s a good idea to Google the time period and check the average prices. Try not to rely too heavily on what the tag says.
Repurposing a Credenza Bar
Sometimes all you need with American-made furniture is windex, brass polish along with furniture polish to spiff it up. If you love entertaining and celebrating with cocktails then the credenza is for you even more so in a modern home. Make it the highlight of your living or dining room.
The bottles, the glassware, the paraphernalia…all tell a story…and you need perfect piece to stash them in, though it has to be said that some decanters, pitchers, coupes and bitters are worthy of display.
The credenza is your problem solved.
Incorporating Vintage Design
I’m not quite sure why but whenever I think about cocktails and home-bars, crystal drinkware comes to mind instantly. Sometimes modern design is in need of some vintage hints – in any form. Balance is all you need – you don’t want your home to look like a museum. Look for pieces that have stood the test of time.
Vintage home goods have a built-in insurance policy—the fact that they’re still around is an indicator of quality materials and craftsmanship.
Purchasing vintage can be a good investment: For the most part, the value stays the same or hopefully increases. Mixing in vintage ensures that your home doesn’t look dated, but evolves.
1. On your table
Think of starting with neutral dinnerware and mix in vintage salad plates – the layering effect comes in handy here again. Keep an eye out for French transferware – for its intricate and delicate patterns – and ironstone (popularized in the 19th century as a cheap alternative to porcelain) – for its neutral base.
Don’t be afraid to mix – patterned vintage flatware, delicate patterns for an elegant touch and bolder ones to go with a rustic design.
To dress your table you can never go wrong with linens.
2. In Your Kitchen
It’s not all about the looks with vintage, it’s also about practicality. Cast iron pans give a certain flavour to your cooking, they develop a seasoning which makes them non-stick and easier to use with time. It can also become an heirloom piece if you don’t want to cook with it.
Copper also looks gorgeous and cooks like a dream. It is an excellent heat conductor which makes it the best material for whipping egg whites into stiff peaks and melting chocolate. It’s rosy hue has a way of fitting into any space and blending with any colour.
Wooden accents – the darker the better – are beautiful pieces to add too.
3. In Your Living Room
Odd shapes like bentwood chairs compliment modern designs. Going for the actual vintage is usually cheaper than buying a modern replica of it – even if you have to reupholster.
Having a vintage touch on your bookshelves is also a great option. You may have to dig deep and far but searching out vintage is well worth it – so get out there. Go to those flea markets and antique shops.
Classic furniture that works in any space
Classic is anything from antiques to something more familiar like Shaker and possibly classic Scandinavian design.
Think of the understated frame and slim wooden rods of a spindle-back bench. Investing in a spindle-back is never a bad idea. When it the weather gets warmer this bench is the perfect solution for your porch or backyard as it is made to withstand the elements – as opposed to cushioned or iron seating.
Besides its airy quality means that if you’re leaving it inside it won’t clutter your space, so you can always create an element of interest with it in your dining room. It could even lend a unique look if you place one at either side of your square table! If you have a rectangular dining table style your benches with chairs that match on the shorter sides.
You can pair this chair with more elaborate pieces like the American Empire style or pieces from the Art Nouveau period and something more contemporary.
You’re safe with mixing chairs – that’s their beauty. In both construction and aesthetic they are timeless, with humble linear frames.
Go from classical to eclectic with ease!
When you’re designing your room keep your original idea and flow in mind – or more efficiently our interior designers recommend creating a mood board. Place all the colour schemes, pictures of pieces of furniture and put it all together; it will look different when all in place but preparing the look like this will ease the process and help you to see if you really want the pieces together.
Combining classic with modern is all about nostalgia. Even if it’s not an antique and you don’t want that kind of mood in your home, wood and curvy designs lend structure and coziness – how can’t you just love that!
Go for sentimental. Make use of our interior designer services for help when it comes to designing your new home and property development, they know all the best suppliers on the island. They will there from you from the design process to installation!