Treasures like an heirloom dining table steeped in the history of generations past, vintage artwork, or an array of collectible antiques are design delights for me. They infuse a home with distinct character and weave a rich tapestry of stories into a space, enriching it with meaning and a sense of history.
Yet, without a balanced approach, vintage pieces can quickly result in spaces resembling a museum or a movie set from days gone by. The true artistry lies in seamlessly incorporating these cherished pieces into your home’s design while maintaining a fresh and modern ambiance. Here is how we achieve the feat…
Step 1. Start by Establishing the Overall Balance
Whenever our clients have vintage or antique pieces, we consider them first. These elements will inform the rest of your home decor and should be balanced with more contemporary pieces. For example, rather than overcrowding a single space with an excess of pieces from the same era, we effectively distribute them throughout different rooms.
In the dining room (left), we blended our clients’ heirloom sideboard and antique table seamlessly with the rest of the space. The couple also had an antique glass cabinet, but rather than place it in the dining room, which would have overwhelmed the space, we situated it beside the fireplace and paired it with wood tables in a similar tone for cohesiveness.
Step 2. Create Cross-Genre Style Continuity
Once we have identified the appropriate balance, we consider the overall style of your interiors next. This part is always personal. We have had clients who want their home to lean more traditional, transitional, or contemporary, and yes, vintage pieces can be integrated to beautiful effect within any of these genres.
The secret to making it feel intentional and organic — versus forced — is to bring in elements of both genres to create cohesiveness. Again, the Dollarton home is the perfect example:
Their antique sideboard and table have a more traditional lean, with ornate detailing, intricate woodwork, and defined curves. If we wanted the whole space to feel traditional, we could easily have paired the dining table with equally ornate chairs and an elaborate chandelier.
Instead, we chose transitional pieces, which are a mix of modern and traditional. The chairs have a wingback style, but it’s subtle. The legs have a slight curve, but they feel more contemporary. Even the chandelier has a more modern, svelte shape. All of these pieces help blend old and new beautifully.
Step 3. Consider the Colour and Finishes in the Room
With style and shape considered, we refine the overall colour palette next. Surprisingly, creating a space that feels modern does not always mean it has to be light and bright. In the dining room pictured above, we paired our clients’ traditional heirloom table with transitional upholstered dining chairs, modern brass accents, and moody grasscloth wallpaper in dark blue.
Again, it’s all about balance — every colour should be repeated more than once (usually in a ratio of 30-60-90) and spread naturally throughout the room. This allows each to stand out without competing with each other. These small but significant details make the design work.
Step 4. Embrace Creative Alterations
Vintage chaise lounge upholstered in a modern menswear-inspired fabric.
There are several scenarios when we may discuss ideas for creative alterations for your beloved antiques. If we can see that a piece is in disrepair, we may suggest reviving it with new springs and padding or a fresh fabric to make it feel and function like new. The same is true if the existing colour and fabric are simply no longer (or never were) exactly to your taste.
That said, the decision to alter an heirloom piece can be sensitive, particularly if it holds significant monetary or sentimental value. We recommend this method only when it aligns with your overall design vision and will not compromise the piece’s integrity.
For example, our clients in Kitsilano were determined to incorporate their beautiful, antique chaise lounge, which had been passed down through generations. We happily embraced the opportunity by selecting a textured linen and pale blue cut velvet. We oversaw the reupholstery and now the piece not only fits the design seamlessly, but it also adds a delightful pop of colour and movement into the space.
Step 5. Add a Touch of the Unexpected
Everything we have discussed so far has been about creating balance, harmony, and cohesiveness between the well-loved and the excitingly new. However, we also believe there is unique value in embracing an unexpected item or two. These are the pieces that catch the eye, add a pinch of whimsy, and feel like you.
In our Collector’s Condo project, for example, we set the foundation with an antique armoire, vintage desk, heirloom rugs, paired with a slim contemporary sofa and a mid-century coffee table. The unexpected touch? The iron pig, located top-left. This specific piece is not vintage (though it very well could be), but it adds a lighthearted touch to the room. We have done the same with other animal art, vintage pieces, surprise splashes of colour, and more. It is all about that extra pop of creativity to make you smile.
Do you have antiques or heirlooms you love?
If so, I hope I have convinced you that they absolutely can have a place in your modern-day home. In fact, I would go so far as to wholeheartedly encourage it. When carefully integrated, they can transform your interiors into a timeless, eclectic, and meaningful haven that unites your past, present, and future.
Whenever you’re ready for a renovation, redesign, or home furnishing project, we’re here for you.
Until next time,