How To Blend Antiques In A Modern Home, According To 5 Interior Designers (2023)

For me, there are three different camps when it comes to antiques: enthusiasts that actively seek out treasures, DIY-ers who crave the thrill of a project, and anti-antiquers (these types often guffaw at the sight of a worn or non-new piece). I'm a combination of one and three. I'm all for an aged accessory and quite enjoy the dig at markets, vintage stores, and thrift shops. But the sight of a room filled to the brim with decades-old furniture brings an uncontrollable wince to my face. With a transitional taste in interiors, I'm very much here for the blend of old and new — clean lines and character for the win! Which got me wondering if there were ways to blend antiques in a modern home that I haven't yet embraced.

A necessary clarification: I'm not a DIY-er. I like to think that one day I will be and admire those who are. While I'm not about to sand down a side table or attempt a clever paint job, there are other ways to decorate a contemporary home with antique furniture than going in with a complicated refinishing job. Yes, painting, resurfacing, and reupholstering are all reliable tactics, but I can also trust my eye to arrange a storied piece in a way that feels right in my space. That is, with a few tips from design professionals.

After speaking with five interior designers, I've learned a host of savvy hacks for blending well-aged pieces with shiny new ones. It's all about balance and taking your time when piecing it all together, from knowing the best wood grains and design periods that complement each other to accent wall colors that give off an ultra-modern vibe. There are even a few DIY tips I'd be willing to take on for the right piece, like switching out hardware or a lampshade and oil-treating wood for a quick and easy refresh.

Whether you're already an antique fan or coming around to the idea of mixing some pre-loved pieces into your sleek space, ahead are 13 helpful tips from interior designs on making older furniture and decor items work in a modern home.

How To Blend Antiques In A Modern Home: Choose One Focal-Point Piece of Furniture

The wince I mentioned before? More easily avoided when you use antiques sparingly, as interior designer Alexander Doherty suggests. "Antiques can bring visual interest, warmth, and legacy into a contemporary setting," he says. His pro-tip: Choose one or two pieces, make them a focal point, and consider contrasting the furniture with lighter or more contemporary pieces.

Joy Williams, principal of Joyful Designs Studio, says simple furniture with clean lines is great for balancing an ornate antique. "A recent client wanted to keep some heirloom farmhouse style chairs that are rather ornate. Because the chairs have sentimental value and are not true antiques, we painted the chairs all one color and paired them with a more modern table with a sleeker profile," she explains.

"Desks are a great way to introduce antique furniture into a more modern esthetic," interior designer Kevin Dumais of Dumais (he and his lighting-designer husband, Charlie, also own a pottery studio, Dumais Made), tells TZR. "There's something about sitting at a substantial wood desk that feels empowering and academic." For Williams, a dresser is her top pick for an antique furniture focal point.

Interior designer Mikel Welch says credenzas and dining room buffets are often the simplest antique pieces to fuse into modern spaces. "These pieces are typically larger and scale — they command more attention and can hold their own in a room. This makes it easy for you to simply layer with modern accessories," he explains.

How To Blend Antiques In A Modern Home: Ease In With Accent Pieces

(Video) How to Use Antiques in a Modern Home | Decorating with Antiques to Complement a Modern Style Home

If a big piece of furniture feels like too much — space or investment-wise — Dumais and Williams both suggest a smaller antique piece like a chair, mirror, drink, or side table. "They can act as an accessory piece that pulls the room together," Dumais says of small antique tables. "These can also move around a room, depending on how [they're] being used."

Welch says that vintage artwork is a great way to introduce antiques into a modern space — a trend he says is resurfacing in the design world. "You can easily mix-and-match vintage paintings with updated frames. Or take a walk on the wild side and dust off the antique frame and mix it up with your modern artwork to create an eclectic collective gallery," the designer explains.

How To Blend Antiques In A Modern Home: Liven Up Older Furniture With Trendy Accessories

An incredibly hot tip for making an antique piece of furniture feel more modern if, like me, DIY isn't your thing? Modern accessories. "Give new life and energy to hand-me-down furniture by styling and layering them with trendy decor," Welch suggests. "You can never go wrong with vases and objects in bright white, brass, or even a small burst of color."

Williams echoes this sentiment: "I also recommend using contemporary decor items and complementary textiles that enhance rather than detract from the lines of the antique in question."

Welch also swears by a 70/30 balance (70% modern and 30% vintage) when blending the old with the new. He says, "Make sure that the older pieces aren't riding solo. [The 70/30 balance] will ensure that the vintage pieces aren't sticking out like a sore thumb."

How To Blend Antiques In A Modern Home: Incorporate A Modern Rug

Interior designer Olivia Stutz recommends a modern rug to counterbalance antique furniture in a space. "I used two vintage Milo Baughman leather chairs in a recent project on top of an uber-modern and almost futuristic custom rug by Alex Proba Studio," she shares. "The contrast paired so well together because we reupholstered the leather to look new, which is, in my opinion, the most important step when bringing a vintage chair or sofa into a modern space." She says a furniture piece with metal, like the Milo Baughman chairs' shiny steel arms, will blend more seamlessly in a modern space, too.

How To Blend Antiques In A Modern Home: Mix Up Wood Finishes

(Video) Interior Design: How To Mix Traditional And Modern Decor

When blending various wood pieces, Dumais says to avoid having the same wood finish in one room. "Mixing wood species and finishes, just like metals, will help the space feel unique, as if you curated everything over time," he explains. The designer adds that, because wood pieces are celebrated for their color, texture, and warmth, they easily define a space. With gray or taupe walls — two popular choices for a contemporary look — he suggests golden teak and rich dark walnut wood finishes.

How To Blend Antiques In A Modern Home: Focus On 20th-Century Pieces

Doherty recommends concentrating on pieces from the 20th century when procuring antiques, including European designs from the '30s and '40s and Scandinavian pieces from the '50s. "They are still highly valuable and collectible today," he says. Strong architectural lines are best for a modern look, according to the designer. "Desks and sideboards work really well in most spaces," he adds.

How To Blend Antiques In A Modern Home: Style Against A Matte Black Wall

Not into painting furniture? No problem! Instead, try a black matte accent wall to help an antique mingle in your modern space. "Let's say you get a sideboard handed down to you from your parents, but it's in a not ideal color or just doesn't go with much in your modern place," Stutz says. "By painting an accent wall matte black and placing that item in front of it, you've just created an amazing contrast that is both eclectic and contemporary."

How To Blend Antiques In A Modern Home: Change Out Hardware And Lampshades

(Video) 3 Ways to Mix Vintage & Modern Home Decor

An across-the-board tip from all five designers: changing out hardware on an antique piece of furniture. "A quick hardware change goes a long way towards updating and blending an antique," Williams says. Welch recommends matte brass or matte black hardware for an instant modern upgrade (Rejuvenation is his go-to source).

Dumais warns about a common mistake: choosing hardware that's the wrong scale or style for the piece of furniture it's complementing. "Be sure to choose new hardware that works with the lines of the piece," he says.

Stutz says lampshades are another quick fix. "If you have an antique lamp, change out the lampshade to something more neutral and modern. That way, you get to highlight a vintage item in your space, but with the modern twist you're after," she explains.

How To Blend Antiques In A Modern Home: Paint In A High-Gloss Finish

For a low-key DIY project, Williams recommends a good old coat of paint. "A design trick I love to use to modernize antiques is to take something like an antique dresser and put a high-gloss finish on it with new and modern hardware," she says.

How To Blend Antiques In A Modern Home: Refresh A Finish With Danish Oil

If you don't want to take away from the aged feel of an antique but would like to improve a dull finish, Dumais says to apply Danish oil with a soft cloth to refresh it. "The oil will give some moisture to the wood and bring out the richness of the original color," he says.

How To Blend Antiques In A Modern Home: Refinish Wood

(Video) How to Mix Modern & Vintage Home Decor

If you have an antique piece you aren't attached to, but like the scale, function, or basic shape of, Dumais suggests painting or refinishing it, followed by a change of hardware. For diehard DIY-ers, Williams recommends stripping or bleaching wood antiques for a more modern look.

Welch says a new coat of paint is another age-old trick. "Sand, wipe, paint, repeat! You can magically transform most outdated furniture by choosing to refinish them in current trending paint colors," he explains.

Patience is key when updating a piece of furniture. Before coating a piece, lightly sand away old varnish, wipe off any loose debris, and then finish off with your new paint color. "Don't try to rush the process," Welch adds. "Most older items may require several coats of paint or a couple of layers of new stain." It is also important to allow things to properly dry and cure to avoid messes when placing them in your space.

How To Blend Antiques In A Modern Home: Reupholster Textiles

What refinishing is to wood, reupholstering is to textile pieces. Williams says a vintage couch with great lines, such as a curved sofa, is instantly modernized when recovered in unexpected textiles like bold colors and patterns. "If the sofa is particularly ornate, I might use a deep velvet with fringe," she says. Stutz says chairs and ottomans are also great to recover.

Reupholstering pieces like a side chair in a new print or textured fabric will help transform family heirlooms that otherwise don't fit into your space. "This will easily help you transition that vintage piece into your home without sacrificing your own style," Welch says.

How To Blend Antiques In A Modern Home: Embrace Patina And Style Around It


Refurbishing antiques is a toss-up, but in many cases, it's best to leave a piece as-is to appreciate the well-aged charm or "patina," as many design buffs say. Doherty and Dumais most often recommend leaving antiques as they are and styling around them, especially if they're of high-quality or a noteworthy piece of furniture.

Stutz says, "If you look at the well-known furniture stores of today, they're always trying to make new furniture look old, but there is nothing like a vintage find with the perfect patina! You can't replicate that."

Similarly, Williams says it's best to leave the original patina of valuable antiques in the four-figure range to not only preserve them but as a way to add character to a room, suggesting an ancillary space such as a sunroom, den, or guest space. "The owner gets to enjoy the sentimental value of the pieces with no impact on her desire for modern furnishings in the rest of the home," she adds.


How do you mix antiques with modern living room? ›

A great rule of thumb is to group contrasting periods together. For instance, you might have antique bedside tables with modern lamps, or antique lamps with modern bedside tables. In the office you could have an antique desk with a modern chair, or perhaps antique art with a new sofa in your living room.

Can you mix traditional with modern? ›

Combining traditional and modern furniture may seem like a challenging blend to perfection. However, when done correctly, the mixture creates a unique, multi-layered space. One of the perks of blending traditional and modern interior design styles is developing a personal style that you won't see in other homes.

How do you display your antiques in a way that feels modern? ›

"I tend to use contemporary furniture and lighting elements to give a space a more modern feel. These pieces take on an artistic quality and have energy against traditional backdrops. Another way to modernize an interior is to incorporate a bold paint color or even use graffiti on the walls."

How do you make antique furniture look trendy? ›

Updating your furniture is now easy with our simple and creative ideas:
  1. #1. Strip Old Painted Finishes. ...
  2. #2. Clean Stain from Your Chairs, Dresser or Tables. ...
  3. #3. Add a Fresh Coat of Spray Paint. ...
  4. #4. Re-Cover Dining Chairs with a New Cushion. ...
  5. #5. Refinishing Furniture. ...
  6. #6. Go For Milk Paint.

What style is between modern and traditional? ›

A transitional style decor blends well with both contemporary and traditional style. traditional spaces are known for their neutral foundations of cream, beige, and gray. Transitional style mixes a combination of classic and modern furniture and finishes.

How do you add modern touches to a traditional home? ›

8 Ways to Add a Modern Touch to Traditional Decor
  1. Declutter and reorganise. ...
  2. Replace the flooring. ...
  3. Go for neutral walls. ...
  4. Go for recessed lighting. ...
  5. Reupholster the furniture. ...
  6. Introduce a transitional-style sofa. ...
  7. Mix-and-match the old with the new. ...
  8. Install modern art on the walls.

How do you mix Mid Century Modern with modern furniture? ›

The rule of 60 30 10 can be applied when mixing two styles together. If you're leaning more toward Mid Century Modern, then that would be 60% of the space. Go for the main pieces of furniture as MCM inspired and reserve the 30% for touches of farmhouse. Think area rugs, accent furniture, accessories, etc.

Can you mix Mid Century Modern with traditional? ›

If you have a traditional space, employ a super contemporary or Mid Century Modern lamp to add an element of surprise. Lighting makes for striking combinations of style from different eras.

Are antiques Coming Back in Style 2022? ›

Introducing a historical, heirloom, antique, or vintage piece can quickly change the mood of a room, imbuing it with depth and a focal point—which may be why this trend has lasting appeal in 2022.

Why are antiques not popular anymore? ›

Another reason antiques in general are not selling as well, is because baby-boomers are downsizing their homes, and flooding the market with antiques and other furniture. Add to that, the fact that many more people are buying open concept homes which don't require as much furniture.

Are antiques no longer popular? ›

By some estimates, antique furniture has decreased by 45 percent in total value over the past 15 years. Once-hot commodities struggle to find buyers and, when they do manage to sell, can see up to a 70 percent drop in price.

What are modern rustic colors? ›

If expanses of bright and bold colors are your thing, this is not the style for you. Modern rustic style trends toward whites, warm neutrals, and earth tones. Fabric choices lean toward solids rather than prints, with materials emphasizing natural textures.

How do you blend a modern and farmhouse? ›

Typically with Modern Farmhouse, cool tones should be mixed with other cool wood tones, but to achieve that next-level look, don't be afraid to try mixing deep, rich tones with the lighter tones for tone-on-tone contrast, or branching out into some warmer tones.

How do you mix modern farmhouse and boho? ›

One easy way to easily combine the two styles is to subdue the bright tones of bohemian interiors. For your boho farmhouse style, turn orange into rust, pink into a faded ochre, yellow into mustard, and blue into navy. Then use gold accents, which work for both styles.

What gives a rich antique appearance? ›

Enamel gives woodwork and furniture a rich, antique appearance. 2. Varnish is another finishing material that beautifies and preservesa project. 3.

What is it called when you make old furniture look new? ›

Furniture restoration generally involves light cleaning and cosmetic repairs, like sanding away scratches, repolishing wood, and washing fabric. Think of your job as making that thrift store chair look fresh-off-the-shelf again—during restoration, you're not making any dramatic changes or adjustments to your furniture.

How do you make something look timeless? ›

How to achieve a timeless look in your home
  1. Consider your floor plan. Source: ...
  2. Focus on functionality. ...
  3. Be inspired but not bound to interior trends. ...
  4. Decorate in a classic style. ...
  5. Stick to a neutral colour palette. ...
  6. Modernise with art and decorative elements. ...
  7. Avoid overcrowding. ...
  8. Mix old and new.

What antiques are trending now? ›

Here, you'll find a list of the most popular vintage items that are currently in demand.
  • Records. Records are a popular collectible item among various age groups. ...
  • Vintage Advertising Signage. ...
  • Vintage Books. ...
  • Automobilia/Petroliana. ...
  • Vintage Toys. ...
  • Jewelry. ...
  • Mid-Century Modern. ...
  • Art Deco.
1 Mar 2022

What trends make you look older? ›

9 Fashion Mistakes That Make You Look Older
  • too many pastel outfits.
  • too much black.
  • baggy everything.
  • out of date glasses.
  • the wrong lingerie.
  • out of date and too many new trends.
  • fast fashion.
  • matching accessories.
5 Nov 2021

How do you modernize traditional furniture? ›

How to Modernize a Traditional Home
  1. Mismatched furniture helps keep a space light. ...
  2. Leave some bare space to keep the look clean. ...
  3. Use color to highlight architecture. ...
  4. Use contrasting colors to create sharper lines. ...
  5. Choose one piece of art for more visual impact. ...
  6. Ditch heavy drapes for sheer or natural textiles.
13 Jun 2022

How do you soften a modern house? ›

"Adding in throw pillows or blankets is an easy way to bring in textures, patterns and colors that play a role in making a space cozy, warm and comfortable. We also love plants and flowers! Bringing in elements of nature, whether they are faux or real, can make a big difference in how cozy a space feels.

How can I make my house look classy? ›

10 Ways to Make Your Home Look Elegant on a Budget
  1. 1 ) Crown Molding – Details Matter. ...
  2. 2) Paint – Color Matters. ...
  3. 3) Pillows – Comfort & Elegance. ...
  4. 4) Window Treatments – A Must-Have Accessory. ...
  5. 5) Hardware Finishes – Opt for Unique. ...
  6. 6) Lighting Makes a Difference. ...
  7. 7) Hardwood is Preferred Over Carpet. ...
  8. 8) Accessorize Your Home.
13 Jun 2022

What is modern classic style in interior design? ›

Modern Classic style, also known as Modern Traditional, is the perfect blend of modern + traditional… aka timeless! This style features the sleek, simple, contemporary lines of the modern design style paired with traditional furniture, finishes, and accessories to take what was "then" and make it "now".

What is modern interior design style? ›

Modern interior design refers to a sleek and uncluttered style that began in the late 19th century. In its purest form, modernism reflects a fuss-free approach to life. As a result, designers kept décor minimal while emphasizing industrial materials. In addition, patterns are also few and far between.

What is transitional decorating style? ›

Updated June 13, 2022

The term “transitional design” is often used by interior designers to reflect a room's meshing of modern and traditional elements — essentially, combining two styles in one space, resulting in a cohesive design.

What style mixes well with mid-century modern? ›

Two of those unexpected styles that look amazing together are rustic and midcentury modern. It turns out that a room covered in reclaimed wood looks just right when it also has Sputnik chandeliers and a Jonathan Adler couch. Bringing these two styles together makes it unique and unlike other rooms out there.

What colors go with mid-century modern? ›

For our midcentury modern color palette, we love ochres, browns, soft whites, warm neutrals—and a signature spike of red. Explore the quintessential hues of this streamlined, sophisticated style. Warm, natural materials and soft sculptural lines are synonymous with midcentury modern interiors.

What wood tone is mid-century modern? ›

The wood most synonymous with mid-century modern furniture is teak. Rich, dark, durable, and recognized as a sign of quality, teak paired well with the bold colors associated with the era and was often used for tables, desks, and storage. Oak was another commonly used wood and, like teak, is strong and durable.

What is replacing mid-century modern? ›

Postmodern contemporary designs take the minimalism of the Mid-Century Modern and classes it up a bit. The 1960s brought an explosion of color and pattern back into the world.

How do you mix bohemian and mid-century modern? ›

Bring the Room Together with Plants

Adding green plants into your room will be the key to mixing mid-century and bohemian together. The result is a single style thriving with life. The sleek mid-century pieces with their attention to form suggest a collapsing of the indoors and outdoors.

How do you soften mid-century modern? ›

Natural elements like house plants, wood decor, jute rugs, and rattan or wicker baskets that house blankets or books are another way to create a cozy environment without giving up the midcentury modern feel of the room. Mix and match warm metals with wood to keep it interesting.

What are the three basics of decorating? ›

So before you start on a home decorating project, familiarize yourself with these three basic elements:
  • Element 1: Function. Interior is not just all about aesthetics. ...
  • Element 2: Personality. Always give a room character – a personality that's consistent with yours. ...
  • Element 3: Mood.
29 Jun 2015

What is the 60 30 10 decorating rule? ›

It's a classic decor rule that helps create a color palette for a space. It states that 60% of the room should be a dominant color, 30% should be the secondary color or texture and the last 10% should be an accent.

What is the 80/20 rule in decorating? ›

It's called the 80-20 rule and it's very simple: if you decorate 80% of a room in neutral colors, you can get very colorful with the other 20%.

How do you modernize antique furniture? ›

Ways You Can Modernize Antique Furniture
  1. Clean It Up. Sometimes, the simple combination of a cleaning solution and elbow grease is enough to turn the years back on an antique to complement your modern space. ...
  2. Replace the Paint. ...
  3. Apply Furniture Wax. ...
  4. Update the Hardware.
17 May 2022

How do you mix traditional and contemporary styles? ›

Aim to emphasize the contrast among different shapes, materials, textures or decorative details. For example, mix a sleek, minimal, Mid-Century Modern dresser with ornately patterned wallpaper. Pair a rustic wooden table with clear acrylic chairs, or lay a textured antique rug over a smooth tile floor.

How do you blend Victorian and modern? ›

Instead of combining items from different time periods, look for décor that alludes to two eras at once. A freestanding tub might suggest a Victorian silhouette, while its sleek, contemporary color palette feels much more modern. The same can be true of marble floors, metal chandeliers, and more.

How do you mix classic and modern furniture? ›

Modern lighting and art can help you incorporate more traditionally styled pieces into a modern interior. A contemporary light sitting on an antique desk for example, can make a dynamic combination. A vintage dresser with a modern painting hung above will help the two styles come together.

Does refinishing antiques decrease value? ›

Refinishing valuable American masterpieces can diminish the value, or painting over or removing hand-painted techniques can reduce the integrity of an antique. However, in general, cleaning and restoring old furniture can add value and help bring it back to life.

How do you modernize a dated home? ›

10 Ways To Update Your Home Without Major Renovations
  1. 1) Create Open Space In Your Home. ...
  2. 2) Add New Lighting To Your Home. ...
  3. 3) Cabinetry: Update Drawer Pulls and Door Handles. ...
  4. 4) Update Window Treatments. ...
  5. 5) Create An Outdoor Room. ...
  6. 6) Landscape Your Yard. ...
  7. 7) Add Easy to Install (And Remove) Wallpaper. ...
  8. 8) Spruce-Up Your Bathroom.
27 Jun 2022

What are 3 characteristics of a contemporary design style? ›

Defined by a sense of subtlety, simplicity, and elegance, this style focuses on the space rather than the things in it. Contemporary style interiors are bathed in muted neutrals, along with black and white. They make use of a sophisticated color palette to create a space with a dynamic atmosphere.

How do you blend interior styles? ›

Try these tips to mix styles effortlessly and create a room that appears cohesive and unified.
  1. Choose a Limited Color Palette. Too many colors can detract and make each piece in your room feel like it stands alone. ...
  2. Choose a Unifying Pattern. ...
  3. Match Wood Types. ...
  4. Choose a Few Stock Furnishings. ...
  5. Go With a Theme. ...
  6. Decorator's Hint.
19 May 2022

How do you mix mid century modern with modern furniture? ›

The rule of 60 30 10 can be applied when mixing two styles together. If you're leaning more toward Mid Century Modern, then that would be 60% of the space. Go for the main pieces of furniture as MCM inspired and reserve the 30% for touches of farmhouse. Think area rugs, accent furniture, accessories, etc.

What is it called when you take old furniture and make it new? ›

Refinishing or reupholstering: Furniture refinishing (for wood furniture) or reupholstering (for fabric) is a total remodel. You remove the existing finish or fabric, make repairs, and then add a new finish or fabric.

How do you mix bohemian and mid century modern? ›

Bring the Room Together with Plants

Adding green plants into your room will be the key to mixing mid-century and bohemian together. The result is a single style thriving with life. The sleek mid-century pieces with their attention to form suggest a collapsing of the indoors and outdoors.

What are 3 characteristics of Victorian design? ›

Steeply pitched roofs. Plain or colorfully painted brick. Ornate gables. Painted iron railings.


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