How to Mix Antique and Modern Decor Styles

Room with classical architecture and modern furniture

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Interior decorators are always talking about the importance of balance and proportion. It applies to color, shape, texture, and style. Mixing modern items with antiques is a great way to achieve these decorating goals because the approach keeps a room fresh, adds contrast and depth, and ultimately creates balance.


While some people prefer to decorate their home in a particular style (French Country, Shabby Chic, Mid-Century Modern), mixing different looks is a wonderful way to create a unique space and showcase your individual style. This approach adds a bit of excitement and an element of the unexpected, but filling a room with an eclectic, unplanned mishmash of styles is rarely a good idea. Before getting started, it's a good idea to know what you're trying to achieve. Here are a few possible directions to consider:

  • Modern or contemporary decoration with antique accessories
  • Antique decoration with modern or contemporary accessories
  • Paired or grouped items built around a particular contemporary or antique showcase item
  • Modern and antique decoration selected around a theme such as "simplicity," "shabby chic," "shades of blue," etc.

Whatever theme you select, you'll be able to use that theme to select, mix, and match contemporary and antique items and accessories.

Design Tips

Once you've selected a theme around which to select your items, you're ready to start exploring specific options. As you look through catalogs, websites, showrooms, and antique galleries keep these tips in mind for mixing old and new:

  • Put a modern, streamlined bench under an ornate console or desk.
  • An ornate Loius XIV gilt mirror (or any other decorative French mirror) looks great in an ultra modern room.
  • A modern Lucite or glass dining table surrounded by Lucite chairs is stunning when paired with an ornate crystal chandelier and antique silver mirror.
  • A rustic dining table paired with modern aluminum chairs creates terrific contrast.
  • Cover an old regency or Louis Bergere chair in an ultra-modern fabric.
  • A piece of modern art in a room filled with antiques creates a pop.
  • Put modern lamps on an antique sofa table, or vice versa.
  • Place modern chairs around a beautiful, round French or English wood pedestal table.
  • A fireplace mantel in a modern room can really become a focal point if there's a single, ornate, antique piece placed on it.
  • A modern light fixture hanging in a room full of rustic antiques is a powerful statement. Likewise, an ornate fixture in a modern room stands out and adds character.
  • In a reading nook pair an antique chair with a modern side table.

Reflect Your Taste

Creating a blend of any time period or design style in your space requires a critical eye. So, if you want to mix modern items with antiques don't just rush out and buy any items to fit the bill. You want to create a look that appears as though it's evolved over time. Wait until you find just the right items that will add the proper form and function to your home.

Although there are rules of scale, balance, and proportion in decorating, you should never sacrifice using items you love in order to follow the rules. Your home needs to look good to you, and if you truly love a piece, then there's a place in your home for it.