How to incorporate antiques into modern décor

It is an old-fashioned idea that only contemporary items belong in a modern interior.

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Even the most traditional or ornate antiques can set off a modern interior, giving it depth, texture and personality. 

The best interiors will make use of furniture and objects of all ages to create a cool, comfortable space. You can definitely plump for antiques, even chintzy ones, without creating a tired or dated-looking space.

Antiques are an easy way to give a room texture and character without overwhelming it. 

Here are some top tips for how to incorporate older pieces into a modern space:

Start slow. Antiques don’t have to dominate the room. You can start small by purchasing an antique or vintage rug, mirror or lamp or some other accent piece and continuing on from there.

Mix and match. Once you feel comfortable, you can start incorporating larger pieces. Keep an eye on balance in terms of the size and colour and balance of items in the room.

Antiques often come with a reputation for being dark or fussy. Does that matter? If you have a larger or more dramatic space, dark is no problem. Or you might favour, say, a cottagecore look, in which case fussier pieces might suit your style. Otherwise, there are plenty of pieces out there that will enhance a modern home from simple vernacular folk art pieces to Arts & Crafts furniture to mid-Century modern items.

Make a statement. A single well-placed antique item such as an imposing sideboard or dresser can be a great way to add texture and interest to a bland interior. If you’re just starting to consider antiques in the home, why not go for a statement piece. This can also work by taking an old object (spinning wheel, helmet, architectural fragment, etc) and treating it as a sculpture.

Reupholster soft furnishings. Mixing an older shape together with a contemporary fabric is a great solution. This can work for hard furnishing too, which can be refinished or even revarnished (though this is not recommended with higher-value fine items as it can affect price and quality).  

What makes furniture antique?

“Antique” refers to an item that is 100 years old or more. There are also “retro” items (20-40 years old) and “vintage” items (40-100 years old). More generally, items can be considered antique when they have a weighty history, and often when they represent a particular style and good quality craftsmanship.

What makes décor modern?

Modern and contemporary décor emphasise clean lines, uncluttered spaces, and an airy feel. Generally, the pallet is light with dark or colourful accents. “Modern” décor really refers to interiors up until about the 1970s, while contemporary broadly covers anything since. There are plenty of similarities between modern and contemporary – for example, we still have a tendency to steer towards exposed woods and beams and celebrate metal and glass. However, older trends, such as the Victorian fondness for overstuffed interiors, have yet to make a convincing comeback.

Where can I buy antiques?

Plenty of places, but one of the best is at auction via Here you will find a wide selection of pieces at competitive prices. New to the world of online auction buying? No problem. 

To find out more about buying at auction, check out our how-to guides

Find more about different kinds of antiques with our buying guides

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