Balance, contrast, and scale are critical elements of interior design. Expressing your personal style, while avoiding a haphazard, chaotic look requires forethought and an overall design concept to guide your selection of colors, textures, and accent pieces for any room. There are many reasons you should mix modern furniture with vintage design. Consider these points before redecorating an old room or furnishing a brand new one.
Modern Furnishings Defined
“Modern” has a specific meaning to architects and designers. When these pros use the word ”modern,” they are usually referring to mid-century modern designs from the 1950’s and 1960’s. The design aesthetic of furniture from the mid-century modern era is sleek, unfussy, and utilitarian. The furniture of the era is often made of wood with no ornate, carved flourishes – just elegant, clean shapes and silhouettes. Stains ranged from natural through toast to warm chestnut and maple-syrup browns. Upholstery colors that combined with these designs tended to focus on earth tones, with greens, oranges, dull red or rust, and shades of blue.
Some designers may also refer to other decades of the 20th century as “modern,” to include the art nuvaeu and art deco and art nuveau eras, up through and including the seventies and even the eighties.
So, What’s Vintage?
Many people use the word “vintage” to refer not to antiques, but to items from specific decades of the 20th century, which could include anything from the twenties through the eighties. Something might be referred to as “vintage” when it is immediately idenfiable as coming from a particular moment in time. It’s pretty easy to peg a 1970’s light fixture, a 1940’s dress, or a hairstyle from the 1980s.
Generally speaking, “vintage” is something that is older than 40 but less than 100 years old.
“Antique” is something that’s 100 years old or more. Items that are several hundred years old that get dug up during construction of new buildings are most often referred to as “antiquities” or “artifacts.”
Here, we’ll be discussing reasons you should mix modern furniture with vintage design, where “vintage” may stand for design elements that were prevalent anytime from the 1970’s back to antiques that are much older, from the 17th, 18th, or 19th centuries.
Think About Why Before Deciding How
We’ll get into how to mix pieces from different design eras, but it’s the reasons you should mix modern furniture with vintage design that we’re really here to discuss. Among the many reasons to create a mix of modern and vintage pieces include:
- Inheriting family heirlooms with sentimental value
- Saving money
- Filling in the blanks
Your grandparents may have owned a lot of mid-century modern furnishings, but they also may have kept older pieces that came to them from their parents. Some of these items may be the bearers of special memories of family gatherings at Grandma’s house. Others may be things you took with you to college, like an old steamer trunk, that you just can’t part with. That’s ok; you can find ways for pieces from different eras to co-exist in your current space.
Among the tricks of the design trade when it comes to mixing modern and vintage items are:
- Pairing modern furnishings with antique or vintage accessories, like mirrors, lamps, or vases.
- Adding modern accessories to a room furnished with antiques.
- Using groupings of similar items to highlight a contrasting showstopper item from another era.
- Using a unifying “theme” of color, texture, or “feel” to unite the room.
Principles To Keep in Mind When Mixing Eras
Scale, proportion, color, and texture are still the pillars of design that can help unite an eclectic collection of items from different eras. So is the overall purpose and feel of the room. Decide whether the room you’re working with is meant to be formal or casual, relaxing, or energizing, or whether it is for enjoying conversation and company or for solitude and contemplation. Keeping the purpose of the space in mind as a guiding principle will help you choose which pieces to pair together.
Contrast is going to be a given in a room that mixes modern pieces with vintage design or antiques. The contrast of the design eras is what makes the room interesting. So, try to avoid being too “matchy-poo” with groupings or color. You should choose a color palette that unifies the room and the pieces in it, but you’ll have more success pairing a modern chair with a vintage desk than you would filling the room with similar looking items that are too close together in era.
All your pieces should be individual enough to be admired on their own, and different enough from each other to let the contrast stand out.
Stick With Pieces You Like
Start with items you know you want to keep. Allow your design to evolve over time by adding pieces you genuinely love. Take a look at your living room, bedroom, or office, and get a feel for what’s missing. If the room has too much “sameness” to it, you could look for modern chairs for sale. Or you could draw attention to a magnificent antique sideboard or credenza with a modern floor lamp placed next to it.
When choosing pieces from different eras to mix together, keep in mind that you’ll be living with these pieces; they’re not just there for looks. You’ll be using tables, chairs, and lamps in your everyday life. It’s important to choose items that make you smile, or to mix newer items with those that hold special memories for you.
Consider Floors and Walls
Your floor is as much a part of the design of the room as your furnishings are. Likewise, what you hang on the walls has a major impact on the overall appeal of the room. A space that’s heavy with vintage or antique pieces benefits from a pop of modern art on the walls. A mid-century modern coffee table looks great atop an antique decorative rug, while some antique furniture really stands out against a modern tile or parquet wood floor.
You’ll find your own reasons to mix modern furniture with vintage design, and the result will be a unique vibe that expresses your own personal style.