By Tamara Eaton
Even within modern living environments, antique furniture can have a place, if crafted and displayed properly. Frequently, when clients purchase a modern home, their comments focus on the space feeling cold and void of personality. Incorporating antique furniture into your home is an easy way to add depth and layering into an otherwise modern space. There are two ways to do this:
- Use the antiques as an object or piece of ‘art’ in a room.
- Modify the antique (painting it a different color, for example) with the goal of using the antique to create a design element with a modern twist on a traditional form.
Here are some tips on how to use antiques in your modern space:
An antique can be used to create a room full of art. Huh? What I mean by that is that you can work an antique into the design of a room so that it complements the other art in the room, whether it’s wall art, sculptures or any other accessory art. This way the antique acts as part of a collection of art rather than existing as a singular piece. In this Upper East Side bedroom shown above, I mixed a client’s existing antique dresser and chair with brightly colored linens, contemporary art, and graphic drapery. With two antiques in the room, the other pieces selected had to be very modern and funky to balance the space. The result is each piece in the room feels like art within a well thought out collection.
Altering antiques to have a modern twist can also have a profound impact on a modern space. As you can see in this Union Square loft (photo above), the antique sculptural chair acts as a statement piece in this clean lined, tonal room. This black framed chair was a found antique and updated by the new bright orange leather upholstery. This illustrates how adding an updated touch to a traditional piece can break up the monotony of the simple forms and the subdued palette that you usually find in modern spaces.
Sometimes antiques feel extraordinarily out of place and including them in the room can appear contrived. In this case, altering the antique is a practical solution. For instance, if you have an old dresser, you can paint it a high gloss color, such as a timeless bright white or a bold color, like grass green. To modernize it further, you can change out the existing hardware for an oversized glass knob. If a traditional piece like a Queen Anne chair or camelback sofa is clearly out of place with modern decor, find a decidedly trendy fabric like an ikat or overscale geometric print to cover it. To take it a step further, a bright coat of paint to match the fabric would make the chair feel fresh.
People generally find altering antiques rewarding as they have the flexibility to create something new and personal by using furniture they already have. Regardless of the age or type of the antique you already own, there are many ways to incorporate it into a contemporary home without the antique looking like a shabby hand me down.