One of the most stubborn misconceptions about interior design is that a room has to choose sides -- contemporary or antique, vintage or modern. The most livable rooms can’t be pinned to a decade or design period. Instead, they skillfully mix old and new pieces to create the impression of having been collected over time, a secret to ensuring that a room won’t look dated in a year -- or 10. Here are some simple strategies to help you get started.
Stick to a Neutral Color Scheme
Using a neutral palette as an organizing principle will help meld styles and eras. Choosing shades of white, black, gray, cream, beige, or brown will ensure that antiques and flea market finds will mesh with IKEA staples and transitional pieces, creating texture and subtle contrasts but adding up to a harmonious whole.
Consider Your Home’s Architecture
If your space has obvious period style -- be it Colonial, Victorian, or Craftsman bungalow -- choose a few key pieces from the era as a nod to the home’s provenance, then add contemporary lighting, rugs, or accessories to bring it into the here and now.
In a pre-war apartment in Manhattan with original casement windows and oak floors, hang vintage sconces, then add a streamlined mid-century sofa and a boldly patterned contemporary rug to keep the space looking fresh.
In a newly built condo with floor to ceiling windows, use antique frames on your favorite photographs, or artwork, or hang a Victorian crystal chandelier to create a sense of history and warmth.
Build character in a room without architectural interest using a vibrant mix of vintage and contemporary furniture and accessories.
Opposites AttractA simple way to make a successful marriage of old and new is to keep the idea of contrast in the forefront of your mind.
Found a rustic 19th century wooden farm table on eBay? Pair it with some iconic 20th century Panton dining chairs. Picked up a classic French bergère armchair on Craigslist? Upholster it in a modern fabric, or pair it with a lucite console and an industrial task light for a stylish desk. Got a thing for Mid-Century Modern? Keep it from looking too much like a Mad Men set by decorating the walls with 21st century photography and a gilded antique mirror.
Another way to mix old and new is to pair contemporary and vintage pieces in a similar style. A 1960s Venetian etched glass mirror will find a natural place next to ultra-contemporary lighting like the Bourgie lamp by Kartell, a plastic reinterpretation of an Italian baroque lamp. A polycarbonate Philippe Starck Ghost chair, modeled after a Louis XV armchair, will enliven and complement an antique French writing desk. Combine bentwood chairs from various eras around a sleek modern dining table to keep it from looking like a conference table.