Category Archives: Art, Antiques & Other Collectibles

Antiques At Home #2: Living With Treasures

Reflection of a reflection - antique french louis mirror reflecting a rococo gilded antique mirror
Reflection of a reflection – antique french louis mirror reflecting a rococo gilded antique mirror

You did your homework, legwork and finally, you found “IT”…

You love it, but where do you put it?


There are two schools of thought on how to incorporate antiques with your current acquisitions. One school says, “Think in terms of contrast and juxtaposition.” This concept works best if you use pieces from different time periods.  For example, what if you placed a very modern steel and leather chair from the 50’s next to an antique Japanese Tansu? The design quality of both stands out in high relief.

How do you make that work? Pulling this approach off so it looks like you know what you’re doing is tricky. It can backfire to the point of complete discord.

Which brings us to the other school of thought, which takes a more deliberately harmonious stand.

Start here: Forget identifying the pieces by place and time, but rather just notice the color, shape, size, texture and/or design of the pieces you have chosen for your setting.

Look at the specific details of how things look together.

  • Where do you see repetition or similarity in shape, size, curve, angle, color and/or design?
  • How do the pieces reference each other? For example, you might have two lamps that are different but the same height and/or material. They could work flanking a sofa on either side if they both have the same type of lampshade.
  • How about patterns that relate to each other by design and/or color?

This visual process is how great designers manage to mix the best with the common to get a fabulous result.

When you work this way, the provenance of each item becomes coincidental. An unexpected combination of elements can elevate the aesthetic level from the “nicely decorated but ordinary” to “A Really Great Looking Room”.

Don’t forget the building blocks of good design.  The idea is to create a composition in three-dimensional space.

These are good questions to ask:

  • Put everything in place and ask yourself if your vignette looks balanced.
  • Does the scale work? A small delicate item sitting next to a massive heavy object just looks wrong.
  • Do all the assigned furniture and accessories work in relationship to each other, or is any one piece placed too far out of the picture?
  • Do you have a range of light, medium and dark tones?
  • Is there a color punch somewhere?

Don’t neglect to think outside of the box. Did you know that coffee tables didn’t even exist before the 1920’s? Be creative. That fabulous antique chest you just spied could also be used as a coffee table, and your living room will be more interesting for the addition.

An historically accurate room that looks and feels like a time capsule isn’t a living space. You want an environment that’s out of the ordinary because of judicious use of carefully selected, unique and special furniture and accessories. The final goal is to create rooms that you love to be in, the place you call “Your Home”. No decorating scheme should be so rigidly constructed that it can’t accommodate a “found treasure”. This is true even if it takes awhile for the “found treasure” to land in the place where it will fit in the best.

In the end, the provenance of an antique doesn’t matter as much as how it appeals to you.

Defining Your Home means your rooms are meant to be lived in with objects you love.

Related Posts

(Antiques At Home Two Part Series)

Antiques At Home #1: Investing In Time

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This original version of this article was published on It’s presented here as a foundation for further topic discussion and updates.