Antiques add a little drama to contemporary interiors, undeniable. Introspective Magazine by 1stdibs has recently published an article where top talents reveal how they pull off this “something old, something new” balancing act.
“Antiques are the element of surprise in a contemporary space”, said Los Angeles– and New York–based interior designer Alexandra Loew. In fact, it wasn’t until the last few decades of the 20th century that mixing styles and periods became acceptable. What do you think about it?
Enjoy below some particularly successful examples of such a strategy and get inspired to do the same.
In a skylit garret under the roof of a London townhouse, Nina Hertig and Ebba Thott, of Chelsea-based Sigmar, coupled a pair of carved-wood mid-19th-century Biedermeier chairs with a cool icon of 20th-century modernism, Saarinen’s white pedestal Tulip table. Although produced a century apart, “both pieces,” points out Hertig, “are sculptural, clean-lined and simple for their time.” There’s a very basic psychological reason Sigmar includes antiques in otherwise contemporary interiors: the warmth and comfort they provide. Says Hertig: “Antiques make rooms feel loved and lived-in in a way all-new pieces will never be able to do.”
“It’s all about the mix of antique and contemporary,” says Jeffrey Alan Marks, who chose Lindsey Adelman‘s Knotty Bubbles chandelier to hang over a distressed-wood table from Coup d’Etat. (The table’s weight, more than 1,000 pounds, was an issue when the piece had to be hauled up a spiral staircase.) Marks picked up the folk-art rocking chair at Brimfield Flea Market.
Left: Jean-Louis Deniot designed this Manhattan apartment entryway, where a Louis XVI giltwood lantern hangs above a custom marble and bronze table by Deniot. Right: In the living room of the same apartment, characterized by clean lines and a neutral palette, an antique gilded clock sits on a sleek console table.
“It’s about being purposeful, restrained and selective,” says Caleb Anderson, of Drake / Anderson, who, with his partner, Jamie Drake, has decorated many high-profile Manhattan interiors. “If you have an ornate, eye-catching French antique mirror, pair it with a simple, clean-lined contemporary console to let the antique piece breathe and shine.” In this bedroom by Drake / Anderson, a pair of gilded antique tables flank the modern bed.
By looking for “commonality in color, patina or texture,” Anderson says, “you can thread pieces from different periods together and make a successful composition.” Case in point: the Manhattan high-rise apartment of a client who loves antiques and owns quite a few, including a set of Regency-style dining chairs, ca. 1880, with sabre legs and a Louis XVI–style gilt-bronze and crystal chandelier, both purchased from David Duncan Antiques. “We had to find a way to use them and not have them look out of place within this contemporary shell.”
A Beidermeier chest, ca. 1870, is a standout in Salvagni’s eclectic living room, which also features a Paolo Buffa card table and chairs, 1962, and the Salvagni-designed Vittoria chair, from a limited edition of 40 pieces, which is upholstered in Dedar velvet with lacquered wood structure and brass details.
In another part of the same co-op, Loew flanked an 18th-century Italian hall mirror from Mantiques Modern with a pair of mid-century velvet-upholstered chairs. The Pawlen console table, purchased from Wright Now, was restored in two shades of red lacquer with a combination of mirror and satin finishes. The Max Laeuger vase on the right side of the console came from Jason Jacques Gallery.
For the 2014 Kips Bay Decorator Showhouse, designer Juan Montoya created a plush, room-filling double-sided sofa, upholstered in velvet, leather and mohair. Hanging from the ceiling was another showstopper: a mammoth 18th-century crystal chandelier from a palace in Madrid, lent by Mallett. “I didn’t choose a modern chandelier, which was the obvious thing,” Montoya says.