How to style antiques in your home like an interior designer

Antique furniture and works of art can be styled in any modern home. Here an interior designer shows you how.

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Birdie Fortescue’s home in Norfolk. Image: Boz Gagovski, @boz_gagovski

Interior designer Birdie Fortescue, who runs her own homewares brand, has teamed up with auction house Cheffins to show how art and antiques can work in your own home.

Fortescue styled her home in Norfolk with some of the 700 lots coming up at Cheffins Fine Sale on June 22-23.


Fortescue explains her ideas on antiques for modern living and how she incorporated them into her own home.

She says: “Creating vignettes for this collaboration at home was an incredibly enjoyable exercise. The house itself dates from the early 19th century and is very well proportioned although not overly large. This meant that the arrangements we curated could quite easily be replicated in a range of home settings.

“The furniture we chose from the upcoming sale was very much in the spirit of the existing interiors but in a different vein to our own items. Much of the furniture here already is French and is a mix of polished and painted so it was easy to slot in the new pieces and create some interesting juxtapositions. Working with lots of brown furniture was a great opportunity to show just how versatile it can be when styled with contemporary soft furnishings and accessories.”

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The dining room at Birdie Fortescue’s home with furniture from Cheffins June auction. Image: Boz Gagovski, @boz_gagovski

Making a comeback

Although some people have felt antique furniture had fallen out of fashion, Fortescue says it is “finally making a comeback and bringing with it the intrigue of the heyday of English country house living”.

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A silk screen with furniture in Birdie Fortescue’s home. Image: Boz Gagovski, @boz_gagovski

She adds: “Rich mahogany, textural rosewood and soft walnut are all perfect bedfellows for the bolder colours that are dominating the interiors scene. The much-loved jewel-toned walls of Georgian architect Sir John Soane are popping up in modern interiors, both in the city and the country, alongside softer earthy pinks and warm naturals. This new palette not only provides the perfect backdrop for antiques, but also represents a better understanding of the ways we are impacted by our home environments.”

Mix and match

In interior design it is important to understand how pieces from different eras can work together. Fortescue says: “It is all about embracing character in order to achieve an overall scheme that brings pieces together from a variety of eras and styles. A 19th century bench might sit below an abstract painting or a polished mahogany bureau could be styled alongside a contemporary coffee table.

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The living room in Birdie Fortescue’s home in Norfolk. Image: Boz Gagovski, @boz_gagovski

“Adding unexpected touches and light-hearted accessories will keep the finished look firmly in the present day.

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How to style antiques in your own home. Image: Boz Gagovski, @boz_gagovski

“The art of the mix requires a light touch and whitisism. A fossilised crab or taxidermy pufferfish might not seem like the most obvious of finishing touches, but true eclecticism is rooted in personality so think character by the bucketload.”

Brett Tryner, director at Cheffins, says: “Our collaboration with Birdie Fortescue has enabled us to show these fabulous antiques in their best light at her stunning Norfolk home. In an auction environment, buyers can struggle to visualise how these pieces might look in their home, and by working with Birdie we were able to demonstrate the potential of these pieces.

“Many of the items featured in the shoot were consigned from Wood Hall, a large country house in Norfolk, and approximately a hundred items from the hall are now included in the sale.”

Tags: Furniture
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