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Home design lines blur when mixing old and new furnishings

June 09, 2014

Having country-style beadboard on cabinet doors may seem incongruous when they're right next to sleek stainless steel kitchen appliances. Or, the colonial charm of Anderson's Chestnut Hill hardwood floors may not quite jive with mid-century artwork from the Swinging Sixties. But it's all part of how decor is blurring between vintage and contemporary home design.

The two play off each other as old furnishings stand alongside modern ones, with natural materials like wood floors warming up the starker appearance of metallics and glass. Whether the period chosen is 1880s or 1960s, an easy way to infuse a modern home with a particular era is to do it with accessories.

My Home Ideas called it "transcending" time periods - light fixtures, fabrics and rugs that express a certain period's style, for instance, can be offset by main furniture pieces of contemporary design.

In fact, mid-20th century furnishings have a colorful, striking look that enlivens virtually any room design, even if many of the pieces aren't of that era. It's a vintage look that brings back the hues of the 1950s and 1960s in flooring, plastics and fabric patterns. Home decorators can introduce bold geometric patterns in decorative pillows and other soft furnishings as one way to exhibit the style that was popular in that time period.

Mixing old and new
In today's design terms, vintage means more than elegant china teacups and floral prints. It may be drawn from any past era and combined easily with contemporary furnishings.

Shabby chic is one such vintage style, because one of its features is a distressed look that may be enhanced over time. It goes well with pastel shades and rustic canvas cloth as well as airy fabrics and contemporary sisal rugs in a light color scheme. But a white canvas sofa with simple lines would fit as well with the shabby chic style as an old-time settee with deep cushioned seating.

If homeowners are using real antiques and collectibles, they should treat them differently from newer pieces that are made of more resilient materials that can withstand stress.

To guard against unnecessary damage to their aged pieces, The American Genius recommended that homeowners plan well when they place heirloom furnishings in their rooms. Valuable pieces shouldn't be placed in direct sunlight unless they're protected by window treatments that filter light.

As long as those precautions are taken, combining old and new furnishings will convey the impression they've been treasured together over a long period of time.