5 Ways to Mix Modern Furnishings with Vintage Touches
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CREATE AN UPDATED LOOK WITH ANTIQUE ROOTS
By Heather Bien
The most eye-catching rooms often have one common thread—they blend old and new in a way that’s collected, curated, and perfectly styled. These designers don’t go out and buy an entire room from a showroom. Instead, they purchase modern furnishings that provide a base for a beautifully designed room and accent it with vintage touches that lend a sense of age and place.
Andrea Bushdorf of Inner Space Designs explains this design mentality, “The beauty of mixing modern with vintage successfully lies in the balance and composition of the piece and how they create layers and visual tension. Whether you're a maximalist or a minimalist, curating a meaningful collection of vintage is what gives a space soul.”
And, while there’s no right way to do it, and the best approach is to gravitate toward what moves you, here are five places to start if you’re just beginning to mix modern and vintage in your own home.
Layer in Fabric and Textiles
Mixing and matching modern furniture and vintage fabric and textiles is how Alida Coury of Alida Coury Interiors blends old and new. “Mixing in a few vintage pieces of furniture with modern fabric or textiles is what makes a modern design feel more connected and collected. It pulls you away from the space looking like you just ordered it all from a showroom,” explains Coury. That could mean reupholstering a decades-old Chesterfield sofa in a vibrant, modern print, or having pillows made from a textile found in the depths of an antique store.
The result is something that feels collected rather than store-bought. “It brings you more towards a curated room that speaks to the client who lives there,” explains Coury.
Create a Cohesive Aesthetic
While vintage and modern may be from different eras, they can still be grounded in the same general style and aesthetic. “Introducing vintage pieces into a modern space makes the space look as though it has evolved over time. To do that successfully, first, determine the aesthetic that you want to achieve to ensure cohesiveness in the space,” says Ashton Acosta, Lead Residential Designer at In Site Designs. That means maybe you’re going for a midcentury modern look with a tulip-style table and cane chairs, and then you introduce a dramatic vintage painting by a 1960s graphic artist. Or, if you’re looking for a more industrial look, opt for a leather sofa and stone coffee table, then bring in sculptural, minimalist vintage vases as decor.
Once there’s a guiding design force in place, Acosta recommends adding vintage pieces that are consistent with the overall design plan, but using them as subtle accents and touches rather than diving fully into vintage. “It’s easy to go overboard and you’ll find that too many vintage pieces mixed with modern furnishings can come across as confusing and mismatched,” explains Acosta, “It is important to find a good balance!”
“Introducing vintage pieces into a modern space makes the space look as though it has evolved over time.”
Add Small Vintage Touches
"Because the immediate need for key items like a couch and bed doesn’t allow for time to curate vintage pieces, my favorite way to incorporate these touches is through accessories and decor,” says Dora Leigh Maddux of the Instagram account A Brooklyn Home. You might not have time to wait to source the perfect vintage dining table, but the incredible modern table may catch your eye. Spring for the sleek new piece, but style it with incredible, unique vintage finds.
Plus, that means there’s always the opportunity to continue to switch things up and restyle as your taste changes. Maddux explains, “Less committal pieces, such as lamps, mirrors, and vessels, add that unique, lived-in touch without breaking the bank or causing too much drama if you make a design misstep.” For her, that’s meant incorporating a striking beehive lamp from an Instagram vintage shop or finding a vintage Rosenthal paper bag vase on Etsy, then pairing them with her Industry West Compass chairs in a boucle or a classic marble bistro dining table.
“Less committal pieces, such as lamps, mirrors, and vessels, add that unique, lived-in touch without breaking the bank or causing too much drama if you make a design misstep.”
Remember Less is More
“The trick is simple,” says Anthony Rodriguez of 136 Home, “Just remember that less is more. Select three or four pieces and strategically place them where they can shine.” In his spaces, he uses high-contrast black accents and furniture as negative space. That allows him to use vintage items to create a focal point—and each focal point gets a breather thanks to those negative space moments. Paired with stark white walls and black furniture, the result is a gallery-worthy look.
“The easiest vintage pieces to fold into a modern home are art, planters, books, and brass, and stone oddities,” explains Rodriguez, who uses these beautifully in his modern spaces for styling in bookshelves.
Use Vintage Pieces to Show Personality
“I often choose vintage pieces to compliment our client’s personality and to add character to a space,” explains Brendan Mahoney of Prime Projects. While modern furnishings provide a clean, new palette to use as a foundation to create a well-designed room, you can think of the vintage touches as a way to add jewelry to the space. It’s what makes a space feel custom to the person who lives there, and lets them explore their sense of style.
Maybe there is a painting that catches your eye. You can’t quite put your finger on it, but something about it feels like it represents who you are. Or perhaps it’s a set of vintage glassware on display that you use every evening and it brings you a sense of sophistication. These items add something extra. Mahoney adds, “These vintage pieces are such a nice way to layer in colors and warmth. I’m always looking for that perfect patina!”
While modern furnishings provide a clean, new palette to use as a foundation to create a well-designed room, you can think of the vintage touches as a way to add jewelry to the space.