Decorating old-world in a modern home

Ever walk past those big old houses with the old furniture and the old glassware that sits prettily in the shelves? Their garage sales must be something, right? To have a similarish feel in your own house, you don’t really have to look too far, go look into your attic you might find something super cool as well!

One of the reasons antiques have become particularly popular is that people are looking at the past when things were made with the intention of making them last and the idea of use-and-throw wasn’t very fetching. They are a great way of preserving culture of the yester years and ensuring that it gets carried on as well.

Decorating the house is no longer just about getting brand new chrome edged tables and counter tops(not that there’s something wrong with that), but it’s about filling it up with the newly cleaned out antiques of the years past. I have had the chance to talk to a few interior decorators who have seen a surge in the antique trend in the last few years.

A reconditioned antique Portuguese protocol sofa matched with two old brass vessels repurposed as peg tables with glass top
A reconditioned antique Portuguese protocol sofa matched with two old brass vessels re-purposed as peg tables with glass top

Here are tips from some of them about how to brighten your house while giving it that old world charm:

  • If you are reusing old furniture, the first thing you do is to ensure that the stuff is usable and free of pests and vermin. Once you have established that it is salvageable and can be used, make a list of all the things that need to be fixed. For example, if you were considering a sofa set, make sure all the legs are attached securely and check for any other damage that the carpenter can fix. Then take a look at the original upholstery on it. If you have decided to replace it, look for material that is as similar as possible to the original. This is for aesthetic purposes only, you wouldn’t want to set the original delicate work against modern garish prints and patterns. For this one sofa set that he replaced, an expert tells me he looked for the upholstery for a good week and a half before finalizing on the desired product.
  • Should you decide to re-purpose furniture and don’t want to stick to one kind of wood, style or era, mixing them up to create a kind of ‘put together’ look is also something that is gaining popularity. The dining table and the chairs are all from different sets an eras and look like they have been added over time, while giving it a ‘finished/complete’ set like appearance. Pairing up some of your older furniture that you pick up while antiquing with your existing furniture is also a way to add design changes and a variety to your room.
  • When reusing wood, make sure that it won’t break and is durable for when you start using it. Here is how you begin: dust the furniture properly so that no dust gets left behind and your polish and varnish are smooth and even. Use good wood cleaning liquid so you get the desired result. Make sure you get the right kind of finish too, one that suits your wood. Every carpenter and wood worker I have spoken to says that doing a patch test on a small spot is a good idea before you go all gung-ho on this.
  • It’s all about getting the balance right. Make sure that the antiques that you decide to spruce up your house with matches the rest of the furniture in the room. So, essentially ensure that there the antiques do not take away from what the room is meant to be like. And conversely, make sure that you don’t put so little as to let them disappear among the rest of the décor.
  • There are no rules about how you should set things up. Should you decide to mix up eras and time periods, it’s actually a good idea because mixing things up will not just add to the colours and contrast of the room, it also adds to the variety of the room. Mix up colours and themes and make it a cozy home by doing so. Especially with Furniture, toss up the floral and the stripes, the antique woods with the steel, making it as practical as possible. The variety might create a surprisingly stylish look.
  • As you root through stuff, don’t look for specific things. What was once used for something in the days of yore, can be re-purposed to something very new and exciting that will make any room you decide you put it in much prettier than what you started with. For example, all of the fancy old door knobs and parts of doors like hooks can double as somewhere to hang stuff of you put them on the bare sides of cabinets that look like they could us some bling.
  • To make stuff pop when you put them on the room, set them up against plain solid backgrounds. Light and airy backgrounds can be paired best with upholstery of any sort. What you want to keep in mind though, is that it is not just about pairing up your furniture with your walls, it is also about pairing your antiques with the walls. An aesthetic combination of the old and the new will only make it a cozy comfortable room.
Two old Portuguese chairs restored .One old brass vessel with glass top positioned as tea table, Two huge brass Gangalams serve as curtain holders
Two old Portuguese chairs restored .One old brass vessel with glass top positioned as tea table, Two huge brass Gangalams serve as curtain holders


It’s not really a hard, say many designers, to mix it up with antiques, in a room. All you really need to do is understand the space of the room and have a vague idea of where you want to go with it, before you start decorating it. Even if you are fascinated with something seemingly ‘un-decoratable’ as rusty toys that belonged to a child from the years gone by, setting it up in a spot with the right kind of feel and background with a collage-like look will do the trick. A thoughtful display, focusing on the simple stuff is the key.

Do you have any ideas for your living room yet? Share with the class!

Article by-

Vineetha Rao Suravajjala
Vineetha Rao Suravajjala









*The Antiques in the picture are from the collection of Y.Krishnamurthy (YK)


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