How to incorporate Antique Furniture to compliment a Modern Home

It’s wonderful to be given an old artwork, some heirloom textiles or cherished ceramics. Antiques have a history and quality worth showcasing, but it can sometimes be hard to make them work with your modern décor. Here are some effective ways to incorporate inherited pieces into your home and show them off to their full potential.

  • Celebrate antique style
  • Make the most of scale
  • Punctuate a white room
  • Display a collection
  • Use the piece to drive a new colour scheme
  • Mix it up
  • Create something new
  • Give it a facelift
  • Get creative

Celebrate antique style

Antique oil paintings with rich, layered colours look stunning when paired with grey-blues and crisp whites. Here, the pale blue wall contrasts beautifully with the dark tones of the canvas. The red cushions pick out the dark roses in the painting and tie the modern bed and antique artwork together.

The smaller pieces rested casually on the floor are a relaxed way to show off the art. The room has an ‘undone’ feel to it that’s stylish without trying too hard. Resting artwork on a floor, shelf or mantelpiece can take away the formality of it and give it a modern look.

Make the most of scale

If you’ve inherited a large artwork, show it off by giving it pride of place on a plain wall. Using a vivid colour will really lift the piece and make a feature of it. This painting could have looked quite formal on a neutral wall, but the bright teal behind gives it a contemporary twist.

Be brave with your colour choice and perhaps pick out a hue that appears in the painting. These homeowners have added to the gallery effect by placing a wall light above the canvas.

Punctuate a white room

If the painting you’ve been given is immediately striking to you, consider hanging it in a white room to make it truly stand out. Here, the stunning mustard painting is one of the only elements of colour in the bathroom and has consequently become the focal point.

You could add to the look by choosing one or two accessories in the same shade. If you’re going to hang your painting in the bathroom, however, make sure the space is well ventilated to avoid steam damage.

Display a collection

Inherited an old clock or ornament? It could look a little lost if plonked alone on a modern mantelpiece, but it’s a different story if you gather a few pieces together to create a display.

Hunt for items of varying heights, perhaps a few with a theme, as these homeowners have done here with the giraffes. Visit charity shops and flea markets to find items that will complement your new addition, and arrange them until you’re happy with the vignette.

Use the piece to drive a new colour scheme

Rather than finding a room where the art fits, why not fit the room to the art? Be inspired by the beautiful tones within the painting and create a colour scheme around it.

Here, the painting on the wall has inspired the colour palette of the living room. The inky walls form a dramatic backdrop, while the soft furnishings and ornaments pick out the greens and yellows within it.

Mix it up

If you’ve been given a few items that feel unlike anything else you own, you can still incorporate them into your interior. A collection of vintage belongings, such as art, plates, frames, clocks and mirrors, can look great when hung together on a wall.

This is a beautiful way to enjoy random things you’ve inherited. Even an old tennis racket or theatre programme could be part of the display – anything goes with this one!

Create something new

What do you do if you have Granny’s beautiful old scarf or embroidered tablecloth? If you won’t use it in its current form, there’s absolutely nothing sacrilegious about turning the fabric into something like a cushion cover or quilt. It’s far better that it’s used and loved, and one day passed on to the children in your family, too.

Another option is to cover a lampshade. Search online for kits that contain lampshade rings, panels, adhesive and finishing tools, as well as instructions that will talk you through the process.

Give it a facelift

If you’ve been given a large piece of family furniture that you like, but can’t find a home for, you could always paint it. This is assuming it’s not a highly valuable antique of course!

Highlight its contrast to your décor by painting it in a bright colour. Rub down all wood with fine sandpaper and cover any glass panels with masking tape around the edge and newspaper in the centre. Brush on a layer of primer/undercoat then top with eggshell paint to protect it. You can then add the finished colour.

Once you’ve painted it, turn your attention to the details. Handles, for example, are easy to change.

Get creative

You could take the room colour scheme a step further and paint a piece of furniture to echo your new painting. It works particularly well if the painting is small and modest, like the one propped on this painted sideboard. The unusual paintwork has created a modern, eye-catching piece that contrasts with the antique canvas.

To paint a similar sideboard, work from the top down and start by painting the pale blue sky area. Let this dry, then apply the lilac. Continue working down, one colour at a time, until complete.

I shop a lot more for furniture than I do for clothes. I much prefer going to an antique shop full of obscurities.

Erin Wasson