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How to Mix Vintage and Modern

Updated: May 3, 2022

When it comes to mixing antique and modern furniture it can feel daunting getting it right. But there are some key rules of thumb worth considering when you mix, which we will take a look at here, that will make it all seem much simpler! Mixing vintage interior and modern styles creates an enduring space.

The most liveable interiors are those that can’t be pinned specifically to a decade or era. By mixing old with new you can make a space that looks like it’s been evolved over many years. The creation of a vintage interior with multiple layers will transcend time and move your home away from being a one dimensional space into a fabulous and interesting home. By mixing in vintage, you inject personality and character to your rooms. The new pieces will add a shine and crispness to the vintage pieces, and the vintage pieces will bring soul and unity to your space.


Finding your balance

When combining old and new you want the room to feel cohesive, to ensure your rooms are stylish, not chaotic. While ‘worn’ and aged pieces can be a lovely addition, too many can give the effect of a junk shop rather than the elegant vintage interior look you’re trying to create. It’s all about getting the balance right and using quality pieces.

Antiques were made to be used in different ways and in different spaces than those we call home today. So there are things to consider when choosing your vintage interior items or where to place that beautiful heirloom piece you’ve inherited.

For example larger darker pieces of furniture don’t ‘float’ well, they need anchoring in the room. So placing them nearer or against a wall will help to ground them. Tall or ‘leggier’ pieces need something to sit next to of a bigger mass to give them something to show off against.

You can also look at the shapes of your furniture and by repeating those shapes in the vintage interior and modern items (such as round globe lights next to round coffee tables) then you can force a sense of balance in the mixes you choose. Aim to make sure your pieces have at least one mutual attribute.

As well as placement, think about form and function when you are trying to integrate a piece into your home. How can the piece be used best? Can you repurpose your item, for example, a vintage stool as a bedside table.

Or can you refinish the item giving it a modern twist, such as reupholstering a vintage chair with a modern fabric. This can really help you bridge the gap between styles in a room.


Seeing your space

There’s something else equally as important as the actual items you choose; and that is the way you use them in a space.

Getting the proportions of each piece right impacts how furnishings relate to one another. To allow each to be appreciated, combine and group pieces in your space. Oversized designs are generally better than undersized for impact. So if you want to make a bold statement with one vintage piece in a modern interior then go big! A huge farmhouse table, or an oversized painting in a neutral or modern space can provide the focal point (and the talking point!) of the room.

Or if you want to add history back into your space then this can be achieved in less architecturally interesting spaces by adding raw elements such as exposed brickwork, weathered textured wall finishes and classically styled fireplaces. Pendant lighting, as another example, can be hugely impressive when you combine vintage chandeliers and classical mirrors within a contemporary setting.

If you are nervous about going big with your vintage interior items, then why not start by grouping together smaller item; such as antique mirrors on a wall or a collection of earthenware ceramics on a shelf. Use the rule of 3 or 5 pieces with your groupings to really show them off. Look to harness the power of repetition and symmetry here for a balanced feel.


Find your colour and feel your texture

One of the absolute simplest ways to make a mix of furniture styles feel cohesive is with a unified colour palette. It’s a really quick and easy way to find balance and harmony in a room and unite all the pieces.

All those beautiful vintage interior pieces can be a great addition, however too many can create chaos. To get it right, think about mixing them with smooth, unblemished surfaces, such as your tonal colour palette on the walls and then think about how to add textures sympathetically. Try a mirrored tray on a worn timber coffee table or a new silk cushion with a pop of colour against a worn leather chair. Or add layers of fabrics from throws, rugs and cushions in tonal colours to drench the room.

To create a more relaxed feel, introduce natural textures, such as leather, faux-fur, wool, and linen. To bring the look to life and achieve a warm, inviting environment, layer sumptuous throws and cushions and incorporate a range of lamps and lighting options. Lighting is everything! But that’s for another time…

You don’t have to shy away from colour either. Mixing vintage interiors and modern ones are all about contrasts. Just remember to stick to a defined colour palette such as two vibrant colours like blue and orange or stick to a single colour with multiple tones to make your finds sing.


Find your style

It can be quite daunting deciding on what your style is but these days there are so many helpful sites out there. Try looking on Instagram or Pinterest at room styles you like and see what the common things are. Once you get a feel for the styles you like, try counting up the vintage interior and modern elements in the room to help you find your balance.

Do you err towards a more bohemian look? This usually uses a mix of 75% vintage interiors and 25% modern.

Or maybe you like the more Rustic Modern look which strikes a 50:50 balance of old and new. Or the Industrial Modern look is more your style with 25% vintage interiors and 75% modern.

Still at a loss? Then go for the guaranteed 80:20 rule of decorating. Unless you are a vintage collector then in all likelihood 80% of your furniture and decor will be modern. So the remaining 20% can be vintage. This does not need to be all large items but can be a selection of smaller items such as vintage books, classic posters, botanical drawings or vintage maps framed simply that can be grouped around the room for impact.

The architecture of the home you live in can also play a part in defining styles. You can go with the architectural elements such as loft living with industrial elements or mid-century modern in 50's or prefab housing. Alternatively you can look to go against the architecture for contrast such as modern minimalism in a Victorian home where your vintage elements are maybe just the ornate cornicing and the rest is slick modern and streamlined.

But whichever you choose, just remember to have fun with it. To put to good use those inherited pieces from our loved ones or get trawling boot fairs and antiques markets because there’s simply no budget to buy everything new. You have the added confidence these days with sustainability on radars and so many re-sale apps then you can buy at a relatively low cost and when you’ve had enough you can move on and re-sell again.

Go get mixing!

DEN LIFE interiors focuses on making homes that work perfectly for you. A space where you can enjoy your lives with ease, have fun and relax. Spaces that work for everyone. Spaces that show your personality. Here to help and support with a broad range of styles and specialties that will make your project stand out. To find out more about my services, get in touch today to book a consultation.

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1 Comment

Unknown member
May 21, 2022

Great advice!

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