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Bringing antiques into a modern setting

Antique 7

Anyone who possess a family heirloom will be aware of how difficult it can be to find a place for it in the home.

Whether it’s grandad’s armchair, your great aunt’s ornate mirror or a Persian rug that nobody can bring themselves to dispose of, these items often end up in the garage, underneath the bed or in the loft.

In many cases, they can be worth hundreds of pounds each, and so it seems a shame not to use them, but on the other hand having something from a bygone era in a modern-looking home can be a jarring contrast.

However, there are ways to successfully integrate both, and marrying the two styles can result in the best of both worlds where your family heirlooms are on display and yet the living environment is still a place of comfort and style.


Nothing gives an item of furniture a new lease of life like reupholstering it, and this is definitely true when it comes to antiques. Many older chairs and sofas are made from super sturdy wood like oak that can stand the test of time, but the same cannot be said for the fabric it’s covered in. Recovering seats with a fabric that’s in keeping with other furniture or the room as a whole can give it many more years of life. Although you might have to fork out a small sum to buy the fabric and have someone recover it, the outlay will be cheaper than buying an entirely new piece of furniture, plus you’ll retain the unique feel.

Art and colour

An ornate object set against some flowery wallpaper or a landscape watercolour can look jarring, but this can be avoided with the strategic use of art or wall colours. A sideboard positioned below a vibrant modern painting or a solid block of colour can create a nice contrast in keeping with the rest of the room, without it seeming like a relic from the past.

Rugs and carpets

Depending on the size of your rug, it’s possible to strategically position furniture on top of it to either mute the size or the effect. A particularly large rug can be concealed with a sofa so that only the edges are showing, creating a nice framing effect. Similarly, if the rug is heavily patterned then pacing a plain footrest or coffee table on top of it can form an effective contrast that again helps to mute the effect.

Mirrors and glassware

As well as giving walls an extra dimension, mirrors can also help to make a room look bigger, but only if they are situated in the right place. Antique mirrors can cause a problem if they have substantial edging or are super heavy, so first consider where they could feasibly be located in terms of the room dynamic. If you’re going for a statement effect, then a plain wall is likely necessary to prevent the jarring of styles. If the mirror is a little smaller, consider situating a plain looking sideboard, armchair or other item of furniture beneath it so it doesn’t detract from the overall look. The same can apply to glassware, with ornate pieces deserving their own table or sideboard to truly emphasise their transparency.

Unusual items

In addition to ‘regular’ furniture, we will often come into possession of items that are little more left of field, such as mangles, globes and typewriters that are unlikely to be used for their original purpose ever again. It can be difficult finding a home for these quirky and often cumbersome items, so instead think of alternative purposes for them – namely as statement pieces. Nothing says conversation point more than an old sewing machine in the corner, and you know that having an old iron on your coffee table will get people talking. Being deliberately jarring can work in these instances and also give your home interior an edge to separate you from the crowd.


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