8 Ways to Decorate with Antiques and Collectibles

Get Maximum Impact Decorating with Old Stuff

Grouping of antique mirrors on solid wall.
Group like items together for added interest. Robert Nicholas / Getty Images

Adding antiques and collectibles to your decor offers a stylish, interesting, and often practical way to liven up a room. It can be affordable, too, when you shop wisely. Read more about eight different ways you can successfully decorate with antiques.

Group Like Objects Together

Whether you’ve amassed a striking collection of Roseville pottery, an eclectic mix of antique teddy bears, or a bevy of antique mirrors, grouping like objects together on a shelf, table, mantle, or wall can often make more of an impact than scattering them about a room. Vary the size and shape of objects in your collectible groupings to make them more interesting. This decorating technique works well with holiday collectibles, too.

See "Frame Your Collections" below for another idea for grouping like objects together on a wall.

Use Common Items Uncommonly

Have you ever considered using vintage aprons for kitchen window toppers? How about old pull-down schoolhouse maps as window shades in a study or boy’s bedroom? Bringing architectural antiques that usually reside outdoors to decorate interiors can often add an unexpected surprise to a room as well. The field is wide open when it comes to finding a way to use common items in uncommon ways. Learning to look at thrift store bargains and flea market finds in a new light can save you lots of money as well.

Frame Your Collections

Most collectors pick up a few antique postcards, hand fans, or pieces of vintage sheet music that speak to them here and there over time. Ephemera, or paper collectibles, like these can easily be framed for wall or easel display. Just remember to ask your framer for acid free materials to preserve precious paper goods and display them away from sunlight to avoid fading.

Sometimes "framing" a collection that wouldn't normally fit into a frame or shadow box can be another way of grouping like objects. This might mean using a traditional picture frame, or building a larger one out of molding.

Recreate an Era

Recreating an era through decorating can be visually stimulating as well as an interesting challenge for your inner shopper. Consider how an Art Deco bathroom, Victorian guest room, or mid-century modern living area might cleverly take your home from boring to fabulous. Look at old home and garden magazines or decorating books for authentic ideas and inspiration before setting out on a quest to fill that space with stylish collectibles reflecting your favorite decade.

Mix Old with New

Adding interesting antiques and collectibles to modern décor provides an opportunity to embellish a room with a conversation piece that stands out. Architectural antiques and oversized advertising pieces or signs are great options for this purpose, but anything old and unusual will do. Favorite family heirlooms can work well in this instance when they are showcased amid objects that make them stand out.

Embrace Monotones in Glass

Imagine a shelf filled with artfully arranged milk glass. Against a pastel or vividly painted wall it’s a fantastic look. Or perhaps you prefer the mirror finish of Mercury glass, which fits in well with crisp white furnishings. From boldly colored Blenko glass to eye-catching Depression era hues, the spectrum of glass colors available offers a beautiful way to accent any decorating scheme.

Rotate Your Collectibles

While they’re tons of fun, this idea goes beyond the usual holiday collectibles magnanimously known and loved. Perhaps you have a collection of Shawnee Pottery and a collection of Hall China, but you don’t have room to display both at the same time. Rotating them out a couple of times a year offers an opportunity to enjoy your collections while sprucing up your living space and keeping things interesting.

Some folks actually keep a collection cabinet at hand filled with favorite objects that can be rotated as centerpieces on dining or cocktail tables, mantles, and buffets. Knowing you're going to change things out occasionally is a good excuse to keep the hunt for your next great find alive even if you've been collecting for decades and don't really "need" anything new.