Know the Rules of Mixing Period Piece Furniture
I run into so many people who have just “inherited” (for better or for worse) their parents’ antique and vintage furniture. The sudden windfall often turns into the daunting prospect of having to incorporate the old with the new. Can fine old furniture work within a more modern environment?
Although there are a few articles on-line demonstrating eclectic mix and match spaces, most authors neglect to provide mystified readers with the basic guidelines for successfully blending period pieces with modern furnishing. I for one do not agree with the saying, “a good piece will always go very well with other good pieces, regardless of era.” The only thing true about that statement is that the quality of your furniture should be consistent, that is, don’t mix cheap furniture with quality furniture. The fact remains; a room full of expensive furniture is just a room filled with furniture. It doesn’t become a successful living space if nothing harmonizes and it is poorly designed.
It’s All About Space
The most important lesson one can learn about mixing furniture styles is that in order to create a harmonic space where old and new furnishing look great you must address the entire space, even the air! All good design is really about balance and harmony. So how do you keep the space in balance?
Proportion is the Key
The size and shape of your furniture is one of the most crucial elements to consider when mixing period styles. Good balance and proportion between each piece of furniture, each light fixture, even each mirror is one of the first things to consider.
If you’re hoping to use your parents’ country French armoire in your modern kitchen, you don’t want it to overpower the space. First determine how much “visual” weight the piece demands. Is it so large that it crowds an area? Is it a lot shorter than your other cabinets? Does it stop the energy from flowing within the room or does it create good energy and balance? If you’re a natural designer, you’ll feel it!
Does the Color Work With Other Furnishings?
The color of the wood or other construction material must also be in harmony with the color of the other elements of the kitchen. Is it an unadorned country style (which would match the clean lines of your cabinetry) or is it excessively embellished with design elements that demand too much attention? These are the type of questions you should be asking yourself.
Colors don’t necessarily have to match, but they should not clash. Curves can blend with straight lines most successfully when there is a common element that “marries” the two piece such as a bit metal, a Greek key, or even a button.
For example, if your modern headboard has a lot of presence and weight it will harmonize with an antique tallboy that has equal presence and weight.
Good Design Sense
It’s not always easy to recognize the harmony between a modern sofa and a vintage coffee table. That’s why people hire designers, even if it is only for a consultation. Talented designers who understand good proportion and balance can make cost-effective suggestions as to how your antique or vintage piece can be made to work in your modern environment.
Another thing to consider is that it’s a lot easier to buy new furniture and furnishings that blend well with the vintage furnishings, than it is to suddenly have to add an antique to an already designed modern space.
This design principle also applies to choosing paint color. Always match your paint to your fabric. Read more about How to Create Harmonic Interiors.
Consider your options and remember to balance quality, color, proportion and weight as they are the keys to creating harmony when mixing the old with the new.
If you get overwhelmed, remember that there are other positive alternatives. There’s money to be made in selling vintage and antique furniture and furnishings! Check back with The Savvy Examiner, or subscribe to this site by clicking “Register” at the top of the page to the right and you'll receive an e-mail each time we post a new article. We'll continue to review some of the best selling vintage furniture and furnishings designs.