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  • Writer's pictureNatalia Allende

This week on The Woof! How to successfully incorporate vintage pieces and antiques in interior design schemes

In the past few years, there has been a surge in people’s interest in incorporating vintage pieces and antiques in interior design schemes. This is great, as for many years so many wonderful pieces languished in auction houses, depriving us from all the character and beauty they bring. But before we go into why using them is a good idea and how to do it, let’s define vintage and antique.

 

The difference between a vintage item and an antique is actually quite simple: a vintage piece was created between 20 and 100 years ago. (You can’t call a 10 year-old piece vintage. That’s just “used”.) An antique is anything created over a 100 years ago. But beyond that difference, there are other aspects of interest in that can drive one’s interest in choosing one or the other.


We understand vintage pieces as typically those that come from the 40s, 50s, 60s, or 70s. They usually draw our interest because they represent an iconic creator, manufacturer or style. If they were manufactured in limited quantities, then they can fall into the category of collectible design. They also may represent historical significance, such as a break away from an era and redefining of design, for example. One of the most desirable characteristics of these objects is that they were built to last, so a well-kept piece can often be completely functional too.

vintage clock
Patek Philippe Solar Dome Clock. Source: MS Rau Antiques

An antique piece is often valued for their high-level craftsmanship and handmade quality. In an era in which almost everything is machine-made (great for getting nice-looking pieces into everyone’s hands), there is something uniquely inspiring and comforting about a piece that has not only stood the test of time, but also was built by an actual person who put the knowledge and skills they developed over many years, or even decades of practice, into the piece one has the privilege to live with.

 

Antiques from different eras were usually made from specific materials (metals, porcelain, etc) and especially specific types of wood. These were used both to be able to create the design desired, but also to elevate the particular quality of the wood used. A well-preserved antique develops a wonderful patina over time, further enhancing this quality in the materials that the craftsmen of its day sought to bring to light.

Antique furniture with great patina and marquetry
Antique furniture pieces with great patina. Source: Robuck

So now to the question of why would one want to use vintage and antique items at all. Mixing in some antique or vintage pieces when decorating your home brings a lot of interest into the scheme. It creates contrast and depth in the overall design. It also brings a sense of history and timelessness that is always an appealing feeling of a lived-in home. It also can be used for a creative story-telling and artistic approach to design.

 

In all practicality, how can one do this right? How does one avoid the place feeling frumpy and old. Following are my 5 tips for incorporating vintage pieces and antiques into your interior design scheme.

1.     The 80/20 rule

Unless you’re an antiques collector, most likely your home will be furnished with predominantly contemporary pieces; art, furniture, lighting, rugs, decor. But if you want to bring in a bit of a mix, the 80/20 rule is a great reference to create a good, healthy balance. Make sure that about 20% of the furniture pieces are antique, and that they are on the larger side. You can also add in some smaller items to complement, such as some decorative pieces or mirrors. If you go toward a 50/50 distribution of modern and antique, then you run the risk of having a space that is undefined and more difficult to read. A well-selected 20% vintage or antique items will create 80% of the interest to your modern home!


Minimalist bedroom with vintage pieces
Bedroom with a couple of vintage pieces to complement the modern design. Source: Athena Calderone

2.     Reupholster

Consider reupholstering an antique piece with a great contemporary fabric to bring it into the modern day. If you have an upholsterer that understands and can use traditional methods and materials, do use them! It is often this contrast between the old and new that make a piece so unique.


Saffron colored wingback chair
Vintage wingback chair reupholstered in a contemporary fabric. Source: Kit Kemp

3.     Livability

Make sure your space doesn't become unpleasant!! When using antiques in a modern setting, it is good to keep in mind that using pieces that are so fragile they ‘ll collapse at your touch or too uncomfortable to sit on can make your space one you won’t want to truly inhabit. Get pieces that show off their great craftsmanship, patina and style but that also fit into your life.


vintage desk in modern setting
Vintage desk in a modern setting. Source: Rose Uniacke

4.     Accent pieces

Using antiques or vintage pieces as accents. The patina and the craft of an older piece will definitely stand their ground in a modern space. If your space is designed in a modern style, then adding an interesting mirror or a light fixture or even smaller decorative pieces that bring that old world feel will go a long way.

Modern living room with a few vintage pieces
Modern interior with vintage lighting pieces. Source: Rose Uniacke

5.     Star of the show

Using an antique or vintage piece as the central element or the starting point of the design can inspire you to build every other element starting from it. For example, a fabulous antique desk can be the central element of the design, taking center stage. In a case like this, the other elements of the space will serve the purpose of enhancing its beauty and serving in supporting roles. A beautifully aged rug can ground everything else and you can take colors from it to expand on the rest of the design.


antique table in neutral setting
Fabulous center table shines among neutral complementary pieces. Source: Robuck

Seamlessly integrating modern and vintage/antique pieces in home settings is one of our strengths at Natalia Allende Studio. Let us know if you would like help in designing your home in a livable manner with depth and a creative story to tell. To find out more, shoot us an email at natalia@nataliaallendestudio.com

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