Design Dilemma: Mixing Old and New
Nothing conveys a true sense of style like mixing vintage furniture finds with up-to-the-minute contemporary pieces. Mixing eras — let’s say an 18th century Spanish desk with an Antonio Citterio chair —Â feels unexpected, whimsical, chic, and always getsÂ a second look. The best thing about mixing up design eras is that it works so well in so many different contexts. A Victorian home with Victorian pieces as well as mid-century and contemporary pieces, feels hip and evolved. AÂ sleekÂ industrial loft with contemporary pieces as well as a few French colonial pieces, feels funky and cool. Even a 1950’s ranch home feels just a little bit more unique when it’s furnished in something aside from just the usual mid-century modern stuff. In the end, mixing design eras often makes a room feel more contemporary than a room locked into one design aesthetic — even a contemporary one. Problem is, it’s not always easy to mix things up, and at times, it can be disasterous.Â So here are a few tips to help you get started:
1.) Unify eras through color. There’s no reason that a Queen Anne chair can’t work with a sleek contemporary couch or a mid-century modern coffee table. The key is to use color throughout a room on divergent pieces to give the room a unified feel. In the picture above, red is used on a variety of pieces, from an IKEA credenza to traditional English-style pieces to convey a sense of unity.
2.) Use abstract and contemporary art to offset straight-lace, traditional furniture pieces. A contemporary painting can instantly transport a staid traditional room into the here and now, as well as provide an entree into adding more contemporary furniture pieces.
3.)Â Choose one object that will help link the traditional and modern. For example, if you’ve got very traditional furniture, consider Phillippe Starck’s acrylic Louis Ghost Chair as a way to add a modern touch. The chair’s traditional silhouette is also aÂ good way to bring in a bit of the past into a modern interior. Other objects that can tie together the traditional and contemporary include lamps, chandeliers and sculpture with either modern or neoclassical lines, depending on your furniture mix.
4.) Make the traditional modern by using colors that pop. What about an English settee covered in a lime green fabric? OrÂ how about aÂ Danish modern chair covered in a bright, contemporary fabric? How about painting a French classical chair in neon pink? An unexpected color instantly makes the traditional feel modern.
5.) Go for an eclectic furniture arrangement that is balanced but not matched. When your furniture style varies, a symmetrical furniture arrangement will emphasize the differences.
6.) Keep scale in mind. When mixing furniture styles, look for pieces that are more or less the same height or size. Look for styles that have a common design aesthetic, for example, Shaker furniture and many Chinese and JapaneseÂ and African antiquesÂ boast simple clean lines that could also work with mid-century and contemporary pieces.
7.) Don’t overdo it. Unless you’re an expert decorator, mixing periods can get tricky. So when it comes to mixing, the best effect is often achieved by focusing on just one or twoÂ divergentÂ pieces.
8.) Bring traditional pieces into a room in unexpected ways. Carved Indian doors as a headboard or a room divider can be a nice way to bring theÂ richness and patina of antique pieces into a modern interior.