Mixing Antique and Traditional Furniture Styles

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If one of your design resolutions this year was to stir up your furniture styles, remember that mixing and matching modern, contemporary pieces with more traditional antiques can be a daunting task for even the most seasoned designer or decorator.

So why do it? Why try and mix and match modern pieces with their design counterparts, antiques?

Because when it’s done right, combining contemporary furniture and accessories with antiques creates authentic, multi-layered and fascinating spaces.

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Remember, you should always design a space according to what you truly love. That being said, there are a few steps you can take to make things easier on yourself when tackling a project like trying to infuse old and new in one room.

The first thing I suggest is to decide whether or not you want a modern space with antique accents or a traditional space with contemporary accents. It sounds too simple, but deciding this early on will help you create a space where the two styles combine harmoniously, not fight each other.

(In a perfect world, no one would have to choose between modern or antique, and the two could live happily ever after in a harmonious balance. Unfortunately, more often than not the attempt to mix the two design styles leaves your space looking more like a bohemian college dorm than a stylish and chic eclectic combination.)

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In deciding early on whether or not your room will lean toward more modern or more antique, you’ll be able to construct a list of attributes with which to judge any possible incoming furniture pieces. If you go with a modern room first, take cues from the modern pieces you love and look at their details. Do you love a piece because it’s streamlined? Or do you love it because of the material or texture used?

By making a list of your favorite attributes of your modern furniture, you’ll know to take notice of comparable attributes in antique furniture.

While there’s no formula, it’s pretty standard that the more opposing in detail two pieces have, the more individual pieces will stand out from one another. Take for instance a big, rustic old farm table as a dining table. If you want a very harmonious look, you might choose very simple modern wooden chairs with a more vintage feel. If you really want to create excitement and interest, you would choose chairs with sharp, metal lines and popping contemporary colors and fabrics.

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It’s all about what feels right for you, but you can have an easier time if you sit down before you design and decide whether you want to really showcase antique pieces, or if you’d rather be a museum of the modern. Take note of what materials your favorite furniture is made of, if they have curvy lines or straight lines and what colors and textures they feature. Keep this list with you when you shop and only purchase things that fit your design plan (unless of course you see something you just can’t live without!)

Some great books to check out that will give you information on all furniture styles and their attributes:

The Complete Guide to Furniture Styles by Louise Ade Boge
Furniture: World Styles From Classical to Contemporary by Judith Miller

What do you think?

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Comments

  1. 2

    I bought a beautiful traditional (Early American) dining room set 25 years ago, and I love it. More recently I purchased contemporary living room and sunroom furniture that I also love. The problem is that I recently moved from a big house into a condo and you can see each room when you first walk in. It does look like a hodgepodge, but the furniture was all very expensive. So I am looking for ways to make it work.

  2. 3

    Great post. I often feel that I am the Queen of ‘mix and match’ – not as much now as I don’t have as much time to visit auctions and pick up bits that I love and then have fun working out what it will ‘co-ordinate with’.
    Lorna