If you consider yourself a hardcore modernist but you’ve recently — unexpectedly — fallen in love with an antique, you’re likely wondering: is it possible to decorate with antiques in a modern style? While finessing an antique into a modern space can take some planning, it’s definitely possible. Here, we give you some key tips on how to combine antique pieces with vibrant and contemporary rooms. 

RELATED READ: 10 Rooms That Mix Modern and Contemporary Styles

Suit Up Your Antiques in Color  

Best suited for antiques that aren’t pristine or don’t possess noteworthy provenance, painting one in a showy hue is a reliable way to modernize it. Furniture rehabbers are fond of saturated colors like fuchsia, navy — and even kelly green. If you’re placing your antique in a kid’s room, you might also consider painting the drawers in a range of ombre hues. 

Partner with Reinvented Classic Patterns

Textile brands like Schumacher and Scalamandre are pros at reinventing classic patterns. This makes them ideal for incorporating into rooms where you’re trying to bridge old and new. Scalamandre’s iconic “Tigre” pattern, for instance, showcases a traditional tiger print, but comes in 21st century hues like chartreuse. Try reupholstering antique dining chairs in a Schumacher or Scalamandre fabric to give them new life. Or back a Federal buffet with a funky Chinoiserie wallpaper.  

Sync with Abstract Art

They say opposites attract, and in the case of abstract art and antiques it’s 100%  true. Designers frequently pair brown wood antiques with abstract paintings. To bridge the stylistic gap, designers like to opt for elaborate, antique-leaning frames. (Think: chunky, decorative molding frames.) If you’re still hesitant, consider abstract art in a limited color palette. For instance, a monochrome cream-on-white abstract.

Choose Colorful Antiques

If you haven’t yet chosen an antique but you’re dedicated to the idea of integrating one into a more modern room, work in reverse and seek out an antique that already expresses bold color. Some examples of antiques that typically showcase daring color? Turkish Oushak rugs. Moroccan Berber rugs. Chinese Art Deco rugs. Rustic Chinese cabinets.  

Lead photo design by Robin Gannon Interiors / Photo by Michael J. Lee


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April 20, 2022

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