You’ve probably heard the expression, “everything old is new again.” Antique collectors certainly know this adage to be true. Design is cyclical and the retro look is back in. But even if you’re drawn to a vintage-inspired aesthetic, you may not want your house to look like a midcentury home forever preserved in time. There’s good news, though: you can decorate with antiques without making your abode look like a museum.
There are around 300,000 items in the average American home, and decorating with too many antiques can make even the biggest room feel cluttered and confused. It may help to focus on one or two distinct collections, rather than on an infinite amount of knick-knacks. One popular method for decorating with antiques is to group certain objects together. You can do this by color, by function, or by era. Often, a little smattering of a collection can make more of an impact than scattering items throughout a large space. For instance, a wall of old and unique mirrors or a shelf filled with interesting pottery or dishware may be more visually pleasing than a room without a distinct focus.
If you own a historic home, antiques lend themselves well to those surroundings. But many of us don’t live in 18th-century domiciles. Since the U.S. construction market alone was worth approximately $1,162 billion in 2016, there’s a good bet that many Americans are living in new builds — and some families in Europe are, too. But no matter your style of home, you can use antiques to decorate. In fact, mixing the old with the new often works best. You can complement your more contemporary decor and furniture items with antique benches or old art frames. Since 57% of U.S. customers express a preference for vintage pieces, you might try an antique table paired with more modern chairs and rustic table settings to bring the look together. Alternatively, a contemporary glass table will look stunning with an antique vase and a midcentury sofa or chairs. Don’t be afraid to deviate from one specific era. By mixing and matching, you’ll create a unique space that feels like you, rather than something out of the movies.
Sometimes, antiques need a little TLC. As much as many of us would like to preserve these pieces in their original condition, it may not always be possible — particularly if you actually plan to use them as intended, rather than keeping them as mere show pieces. If a piece needs to be repaired in order to be functional in your everyday life, then, by all means, pursue that (or find a new way to use the piece!). You can easily reupholster a furniture item that doesn’t suit your tastes or that has seen better days. You can modernize the piece a little bit more this way too, like painting an old bar cart or putting new fixtures onto an older dresser. You could also reimagine the function for a certain item by making it into a custom, quirky piece (like turning an old medicine cabinet into an armoire or a sewing table into a vanity). As long as you don’t jeopardize the integrity of the piece, feel free to put your own spin on it to make it suit your style.
Although you might be intimidated by using antiques to enhance your decor, they’re actually an easy element to incorporate into any aesthetic. Whether you go all-out or use a few choice pieces in your home, you’ll be able to create a beautiful space if you follow these tips.