Sunday, May 16, 2021

Special Publications

In with the Old


Perhaps you recently bought a contemporary home, or you were swept up in the wave of streamlined, achromatic interior design and now you're wishing for something more. Either way, if you're looking to add a little antique charm back into a modern home, here are a few tips from local experts.


Wood Trim

Installing wood trim in a room adds a warm, natural element. The appropriate details depend on your architecture. "If you have the height you can make full use of your ceilings and do coffered ceilings, which is a beautiful way of adding detail," says Lesley Finch, a color and design consultant in Madison. Options range from elaborate moldings to subtle colored accents and door trim. You could also add a wood accent in the form of a reclaimed beam for a fireplace mantel, or a heavy dining room furniture set.



In a typical contemporary home, "It's almost like a sterile existence," says Finch. "Everything is hard lines—just lines, very straight, very simple—so people are starting to add layers." One easy method is adding drapes to windows. "It's adding warmth, it's adding texture, it's adding visual interest," says Finch. She recommends wallpaper as another way to add layering, along with fabrics or rugs.


Touches of Color

The grey, industrial look might be popular, but adding a touch of color to your home can make it more welcoming. "I think that's what's been taken out of those houses and made them ultra-modern: they lack warmth and color," says Finch. Colors can clash and overwhelm, so take care. "If you add a little bit at a time, you're not overdoing it," Finch says. It's also easy on your wallet. "You can always throw in some color, whether it's a throw on a sofa or pillows, adding an inexpensive rug under a coffee table. You don't have to break the budget to do it."



Modern recessed ceiling lights are certainly popular—but don't have a whole lot of character. "People are starting to add more centered chandelier-type of lighting," Finch says. "That's another way of adding some age or some older elements into homes. They're much more ornate." If chandeliers aren't your style, other vintage pendant lights might fit your taste.


Wall Paint

Colonial paint colors—such as Benjamin Moore's Williamsburg Collection—are another way to give your home an antique feel. "That's probably the biggest difference you can make to a home for the least amount of money," says Finch. "You can change a whole room and personalize it." Choosing a color is a major decision; it has to complement other elements in the room, from the furniture to your décor. "You've got to put the right tone on the wall that goes with everything," says Finch.


Fittings and Fixtures

From doorknobs to faucets, fittings and fixtures are objects you interact with daily. Swapping them out is another way to get a big bang for your buck. However, you'll want to make sure they're a good fit with the rest of the home. "It really depends on the architecture of the home," says Sally Scott, an interior designer in Guilford. "They can use unusual doorknobs or change the door hardware on existing kitchen cabinets." If you're into DIY, you can even build your own, such as a towel bar made of copper pipes.



Sometimes adding an antique touch to a home is as easy as pulling an old family heirloom like an oriental rug out of a closet and placing it somewhere eye-catching. "If you have a contemporary home but an antique chest from your grandmother, or a funky lamp, or an interesting silver tea set, the contrast of those things makes both of the different styles stand out more," says Scott. "People usually hold onto a few things, whether they're pieces of furniture from their grandparents, or their parents' collected art or vintage china or silver."



If you don't own anything appropriate, maybe it's time to visit local antique shops and art galleries. In a contemporary home with minimal décor, an unusual item catches the eye and adds interest. "You just add things that are a bit unexpected, a piece of artwork that has a more ornate frame than you might expect. You want to warm it up," says Scott. "It's really easy to introduce things from all kinds of periods and have them work."

If you worry you've chosen something that doesn't fit a theme, remember that it's your home and you're the one who gets to dictate style. "Our goal is to always have things be somewhat eclectic," says Scott. "If you love it, it works."

Jen Matteis is the Editorial Assistant for Zip06. Email Jen at

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