Vintage interior design is tricky. On the one hand, it’s easy to see why some would long to re-create the feel of elegance that is synonymous with homes of the past. On the other, it’s all too easy for a design to come off looking like it belongs in Grandma’s house. This is one occasion where striking the right balance is crucial.
We’re here to help you find that balance. We’ve compiled our best advice for pulling together vintage interiors that still feel appropriate for today. Read over these tips and incorporate them into your own design. We have no doubt you’ll be able to reach the perfect equilibrium between modern and traditional.
Choose well-made antiques
Antiques are the backbone of any vintage home. Regardless of which decade is your personal favorite, they are the key pieces that help cement the vintage feel in your design. Their unique sense of history transports viewers back in time in a way that newer creations simply can’t match.
That said, just because a piece is older doesn’t mean it’s worthy of being included in your design. If you’re going to include an antique, it needs to be in decent — if not excellent — condition. As a rule, if you don’t think the piece will stand up to daily wear and tear, keep looking for a sturdier option.
When evaluating condition, there are a few signs that let you know a piece was built to stand the test of time. Keep an eye out for the following:
- Weight: Heaviness is often a sign the piece was made from real, natural materials rather than a more modern, mass-produced variation.
- Sturdy joints: Pay special attention to whether the joints feel secure. If they feel shaky, look into the cause. A loose nail can be replaced, but wood rot is not as easy to fix.
- Rust or other discoloration: This often needs to be determined on a case-by-case basis, but while a little rust or fading due to light exposure can be dealt with, too much may not be worth the restoration.
Make them your focal point
When you do find antiques that fit the bill, make them the focal point of the room. A focal point — for those who need a refresher — is the first thing a person’s eye is drawn to when they enter the space. Putting a true antique into this role will help set the tone for the rest of your design.
For this reason, furniture becomes the perfect candidate. As always, we recommend allowing the furniture in a room to take center stage because it helps make the function of the space crystal clear. Consider allowing a vintage dining table, accent chair or bed frame to take center stage.
If that’s not your style, larger decorative items are also a solid choice. You may want to think about searching for a larger mirror or piece of wall art to help carry the room. Well-kept rugs are a good option to keep in mind.
Add in vintage-inspired details
Though antiques are lovely, it’s unrealistic to assume you’ll build the entire room around them. Plus, in all honesty, doing so may end up making the space feel like more of a relic than a nod to the styles of days gone by. The best vintage designs are the ones inspired by tradition, yet still feel appropriately tired to present day.
To pull this off, you want to round out the room with modern-day acquisitions that showcase vintage-inspired details. For example, you may want to look for a piece with contemporary, clean lines done in a weathered finish. Alternatively, you could find an item that’s done in a trendy color or finish, yet is also more ornate.
When mixing and matching modern and traditional design elements, consistency is key. Unless you’re a fan of truly eclectic styles, you want your vintage and your vintage-inspired items to fit well together. Make sure to carry similar detailing throughout the entire room, so the space feels both cohesive and intentional.
Copy vintage patterns and colors
Finally, color and pattern are great ways to really drive home that vintage aesthetic. There’s nothing like some polka dots to transport you instantly back to the 1950s or rich, saturated reds to harken back to the Victorian era. Including these elements in your design often has a large payoff for comparatively minimal effort.
Doing this right does require a little legwork. You want to research your preferred time period to really get a sense of the styles that were popular back then. If you can, try to find an image from the era to use as design inspiration so you can truly see how these trends were utilized at the time.
It’s not hard to see why people love vintage interior design. There’s something so appealing about paying homage to the elegant aesthetics of the past. That said, there’s a fine line between paying tribute and creating a time warp. With the help of the suggestions above you should be able to create interiors that are reminiscent of the past without feeling frozen in time.
What do you think of vintage interior design? Would you ever consider including this style in your home? Tell us in the comments.