Decorating Tips: Mixing Old And New In Your Home

Have you ever walked into a home and said “Wow, where did this piece come from?”

Older objects tend to come with a story, whether it was your grandmother’s, you found it in a shop while in Italy or took it off the side of the road. Bringing these charming pieces into a new, more modern space immediately brings character, inspiration and personality to the room. It makes the house a home.

Incorporating antique or vintage pieces into your home is one of the easiest ways to warm up the space. It becomes livable, inviting and tells a story. You may have a handmade rocking chair that was passed down through the generations or a vintage rug you found among your travels. Whatever the piece may be, you can incorporate it into the style of your home.

Living in Newfoundland, we are surrounded by a lot of these older heirlooms. Our province is full of old handmade furniture passed down through the generations: washbasin stands, sideboards and trunks, to name a few. We love these pieces but wonder how to incorporate them into our newer, more modern homes. Whether it’s an old desk paired with a modern chair or a contemporary nightstand with an antique lamp, this look can easily be accomplished to bring character and personality to any home.

Consider the architecture and period of the home

Newfoundland is known for its saltbox houses and colourful jellybean rowhouses. Why not complement the design of the home with the furniture and accessories? While it’s nice to modernize these older homes with new kitchens, bathrooms and furniture, pair those new kitchen chairs with an antique dining table. Pair a vintage rug with new, modern-style furniture and some antique candlesticks. A fresh coat of white paint in an older home will clean it up and make individual pieces pop. Remember not to take away from the character of the older home. Not everything has to be new to make it comfortable.

Everything doesn’t have to match

You don’t want your house to look like a thrift shop. It’s not about matching the pieces; it’s about having them complement each other. If you buy a Queen Anne chair you aren’t married to that period of furniture. You might not put it next to a 1960s teak credenza, but that piece could be put in another room.

Contrast is important when mixing old and new

Pair round with square, hard with soft, smooth with rough and so on. Texture always helps with this. Soften hard wooden furniture with textured rugs, big soft blankets and fluffy pillows.

Keep everything else simple

You don’t want the room to look like you’ve stepped back in time. Some antique pieces can be quite ornate. You want these beautiful pieces of furniture and accessories to make a statement and be noticed, without overwhelming the space. If, for example, you have an antique ceiling fixture, rug and art piece you want to incorporate into your space, keep the walls neutral and the sofa streamlined to let those unique items be seen.

Repeat elements

Carry through similar colours, textures and finishes. If you are trying to incorporate a pair of brass candlesticks into a living room, perhaps hang a picture or piece of art on the wall in a frame that also has brass. If you have a vintage rug with lots of rich colours, pull some of these colours from the rug into your pillows, throws or pieces of art. Having a pair of items such as candlesticks, pillows or table lamps also helps balance the new with the old.

There are no real rules

In my first home I had IKEA pieces mixed with my grandmother’s 80-year-old dining chairs painted the traditional robin’s egg blue. I found pieces I loved and made them work. Your home has to make you happy and be a sanctuary at the end of your day. To me, design is really all about making a space that makes you feel at home.