“Mixing one’s wines may be a mistake, but old and new wisdom mix admirably,” said Bertolt Brecht.
Although the famed playwright may not have had interior design on his mind when he made this claim, use his words as home decor inspiration and juxtapose cherished antiques with contemporary furnishing. These tricks can help you create a unique look in any room.
An antique desk may seem like a natural companion for a polished bronze lamp, but try setting it on a modern sidetable instead. The sleek lines of the contemporary item will accentuate the complex patterning of the older piece. In a similar vein, consider pairing industrial-chic lighting with rustic candlesticks, straight-backed chairs with oversized sofas, or a vintage roll-top bath with a modern heated towel rail. Traditional with a twist is the aim.
Mix but don’t match
An eclectic assortment of furniture injects personality into your decor. Instead of purchasing matching chairs for your dining table, consider seeking out an assortment of salvaged vintage seating in various designs instead. Using similar covers on each of the chairs will maintain a sense of harmony.
Keep it clean and fresh
Take care of your items. Marks of age may add authenticity to older fabrics and surfaces, but you can still ensure they're pristine and polished. Invest in beeswax to enhance the lustre of wooden objects and use olive oil to shine metals.
Pick a theme
If your home was built in a particular period, search for artefacts from the same era to complement its original proportions. A Bakelite telephone in black or cream will look whip smart in a 1930s home, for example. Choose the same hues for a sofa throw or rug to weave a common thread through your decor and tie everything together.
Opt for a neutral palette
Colour trends have varied widely throughout the decades, so a neutral background in creams, whites, beiges and greys will showcase your antiques to the best effect. A desk in dark mahogany will contrast pleasantly against a white wall, while a vivid modern print hung above it will draw the eye towards this section of the room.
Allow personality to shine through
Take stock of your personal memorabilia. Treasures accumulated from past travels, as well as photographs with sentimental value and family heirlooms, can bring individuality to a room. Search antique shops for collectibles by all means, but you may have period pieces hidden in the attic. A wedding portrait of your grandparents could look superb set on a sleek glass coffee table, for example.
Real-estate company Engel & Völkers has a vast portfolio of properties covering all eras and styles. We have decades of experience purchasing and selling period homes in 36 countries across four continents.