If you've been to my house, its no secret that I love antiques. Say the word antique in a certain crowd though and you might elicit shrugs from people who are picturing their Grandma's house. I'd like to offer a different perspective. Styled appropriately antiques can work well in any home, and often times they offer the perfect touch to tie a room together. I personally think it's so much fun to take something old and breathe new life into it.
When I'm working with new clients one of the first things I ask is what they want to keep in a room. Design isn't just about starting from scratch with a blank slate. Great design is layered and evolves over time.
I think antiques sometimes get a bad rap as being too serious or stuffy especially for a young family's home. (Side note since we're still getting to know each other. I keep referring to myself as having a "young" family which I guess is a self-appointed term. I recently was on the phone with my mother and called myself a "young mom" to which my mother, who is one of the sweetest people on earth, very bluntly told me I was not. Thanks for keeping it real Mom! I do however have a young daughter, so let's just say that counts as young family territory then. Ok, moving on.) The reality is, antiques can look really cool when you juxtapose them with more modern pieces. The picture below is of an antique secretary we have in our living room. I love the detail on the piece, but I wanted to find a way to have it mesh better in our home. I ended up adding two frames above the desk; one with a favorite photo of my daughter taken on her first birthday in front of the Brooklyn Bridge, and the other is a print of The Beastie Boys lyric "No Sleep Till Brooklyn". Classic combination? No. Do I smile whenever I see it? Hell yes!
So in the spirit of embracing the old and the unexpected, I want to share with you some of the major reasons I love designing with antiques and think you should too.
Antiques are full of character and make a home feel unique
The number one reason I love bringing older pieces into a room when I'm styling is because they can make a space feel so individualized. Back in the day, things weren't built in such mass quantities as they are today. Often times things were made in limited batches and with unique details. Bringing one or two of these pieces into a room can really help avoid the "cookie cutter" effect. People always want their spaces to feel pulled together, but the second you try to copy a page from a catalog you loose all personality. Antiques are the perfect remedy to that adding loads of charm and making a space feel all your own.
The quality cannot be beat
This point cannot be overstated. You know that expression "They don't make them like they used to." That idiom exists for a reason (and it isn't just Kenny Rogers). They literally don't make things the way they used to. From the high quality materials used to the craftsmanship in assembly, you really can get a superior product when you're shopping for antiques. We have a few family heirlooms in our house that are over a century old. Think of the amazing quality it takes to last that long! I mean, I love Target as much as the next red-blooded American (or maybe more), but I hardly expect my purchases to be around in a few years let alone a few hundred years.
It's good for the earth
We are a nation of consumers. I am as guilty as anyone on this, but the reality is there are things we can be doing to reduce our consumption rate. Buying used goods such as antiques can be good for our wallets and good for the earth. Natural resources have already been used to make these items; we might as well give them a good home instead of using up more resources.
They keep a family legacy going
While many great antiques can be bought, the best in my mind are ones that have been passed down from generation to generation. There is an obvious reason why these are great (hey, they're free!), but the true value is in the memories they carry. My home is a patchwork of my husband's and my families merged together and reinterpreted. When I look at the wingback chairs in my living room, I remember being a little girl and opening christmas gifts sitting in what felt like a throne. When I look at our brass coffee table, I imagine my in-laws traveling abroad when they were a young married couple. When I see my daughter playing the piano (ok, "playing" is a generous term, she's two) I think about all of the beautiful music made by generations of Smiths before me. I may be a total sap (ok, I definitely am) but I really think you can't put a price on these memories.
So, for those skeptics out there, I encourage you to go ahead and try mixing in some older pieces. You might just be pleasantly be surprised with your new look!
PS- If you live in the North East, here are some suggestions on where to start hunting for antiques:
Brimfield Antique Show- Brimfield, MA
Warning, this show is not for the faint of heart. It is the largest show out there and is so amazing, but it can be a little bit overwhelming. Go with a game plan in mind and if you see something you like, write down the vendors information and location. Despite the craziness it is worth the trip! Full details here.
The Trove- Old Saybrook, CT
The Connecticut shoreline is filled with so many amazing antique stores. I love visiting in the fall when the beach traffic has moved on, and goods are ripe for the picking. The Trove happens to be one of my favorite spots. You walk into the storefront and it looks like your average antique store, nice, but nothing too special. Then you realize there is a MASSIVE warehouse out back filled with even more goodies. I could spend an entire day roaming around this place. It is definitely worth checking out!
Good Will- Various Locations
If you like the idea of bringing antiques into your home, but you're scared of an antique price tag, check out your local Goodwill. As the saying goes, "One man's trash is another man's treasure." You can often find cool vintage ceramics and small furnishing. The best part is, you will be supporting a great cause. Click here to find out more information on local branches. This is also a great place to donate unwanted home goods and clothing of your own, and certain locations pick up larger furniture items you would like to donate.
Shameless Plug Time....
If you're still not sure where to start, consider hiring a decorator or stylist to do the shopping for you. Hiring someone who can help sort through the junk for you can be a wise investment. You can even hire someone to do the shopping with you. This way you can benefit from asking lots of questions and watching how they manage the process. If you already have a lot of antiques and you aren't sure which ones to save and which ones to toss, working with a professional can be hugely beneficial as well.