Com­bin­ing the old with the new can make for an in­ter­est­ing look in home decor


An­tiques may be old, but that doesn’t mean they’re out of date. Just ask Jen­nifer Rown­tree, the owner of Rown­tree An­tiques, who said she can barely keep up with the de­mand for large, an­tique din­ingroom ta­bles made of pine as well as old enam­el­ware, vin­tage bot­tles, win­dow mir­rors and, of course, a peren­nial favourite: globes.

“I think there’s a re­ver­sal go­ing on at the mo­ment. I ex­pe­ri­enced a bit of a lull four or five years ago and size was a key fac­tor in that, what with peo­ple mov­ing into smaller con­dos and not hav­ing the room for large an­tiques, but I’m very care­ful about what I buy now and I’m al­ways think­ing small,” Rown­tree ex­plained. “That be­ing said, I can’t keep enough large din­ingroom ta­bles in stock — peo­ple just love to plop mod­ern chairs around them — so it re­ally de­pends on the piece and the space it’s in­tended for.”

Niki Pana­giotopou­los, an in­te­rior de­signer and the owner of Wish Decor, which re­cently launched an on­line shop con­sist­ing of hand­picked home decor and life­style prod­ucts, agrees.

“From a de­sign stand­point, the most dy­namic con­tem­po­rary in­te­ri­ors are not de­signed with fur­nish­ings of a par­tic­u­lar style, time or look, but a com­bi­na­tion of pe­ri­ods,” she said.

“When an­tiques are edited and skill­fully added here and there, it makes a space a lot more in­ter­est­ing.”

Pana­giotopou­los makes it sound easy, but there is a method to dec­o­rat­ing with an­tiques.

“When it comes to fur­ni­ture, it’s best when the an­tique pieces are sep­a­rated from each other or when they’re placed around newer ob­jects,” she said. “This au­to­mat­i­cally gives them more im­por­tance and makes them more rel­e­vant. Op­po­sites at­tract, and the jux­ta­po­si­tion of op­po­sites is what makes the look in­ter­est­ing.”

As for smaller col­lectible items, like Rown­tree’s pop­u­lar vin­tage bot­tles, Pana­giotopou­los rec­om­mends group­ing them by type and colour and mak­ing sure they’re eas­ily vis­i­ble — on a shelf or cof­fee ta­ble.

“It’s a nice way of cre­at­ing an in­ter­est­ing story or vi­gnette,” she said.

In a way, sto­ries are what an­tiques are all about.

“It’s about go­ing be­yond cook­iecut­ter decor and al­low­ing peo­ple to per­son­al­ize their space,” Rown­tree said. “Keep­ing her­itage or heir­loom pieces in the fam­ily is part of that as well; just the fact that it’s some­thing that your grand­par­ents used to own makes a space feel more per­sonal and cosy.”

Pana­giotopou­los ex­plained: “An­tiques add a lot of depth and give a space a very unique look, and when an item is a con­ver­sa­tion piece or has a story to tell, it’s al­ways warmer and more invit­ing,

“Be­cause these ob­jects are made by hand, in­stead of by ma­chines, they’re unique. There’s al­most a hu­man qual­ity at­tached to them, and I think peo­ple find that in­trigu­ing and invit­ing; they have the kind of per­son­al­ity that new pieces in reg­u­lar fur­ni­ture stores have been stripped of.”

Be­cause of the in­her­ent warmth of an­tique fur­ni­ture, and the fact that much of it is made of wood, the de­signer cau­tioned against pair­ing it with warm paint tones since the over­all ef­fect can end up look­ing old-fash­ioned in­stead of new and in­ter­est­ing.

Dis­play­ing an­tiques in un­usual or un­ex­pected ways is another way of up­dat­ing them. Rown­tree said a lot of her clients like to use an­tique lad­ders in their wash­rooms, to store tow­els, be­cause they’re handy space savers.

“An­tique wooden buck­ets make for great ac­cent pieces in mod­ern bath­rooms, too,” she said, “and they can be used to store a va­ri­ety of items.”

Speak­ing of stor­age, Pana­giotopou­los loves the look of an old chest or dresser that’s been re­pur­posed and used in a bath­room as a van­ity.

“The jux­ta­po­si­tion of ma­te­ri­als alone, in a mod­ern bath­room, is very strik­ing, but it’s also a very classy and un­ex­pected way of pro­vid­ing stor­age, which a lot of new homes and con­dos don’t have a lot of.”

For pieces that aren’t in top con­di­tion, Rown­tree sug­gests us­ing a chalk-based paint like Coun­try Chic Paint, which her shop car­ries, to bring them back to life. “The chalk painted look is on trend these days, and peo­ple re­ally like the look of lighter, off-white an­tiques.”

As for Pana­giotopou­los, she said there’s noth­ing wrong with up­dat­ing fur­ni­ture that needs a lit­tle ten­der lov­ing care.

“If the piece is in great shape, it should be re­spected as much as pos­si­ble but if it’s not, I don’t see any­thing wrong with a lit­tle spray paint or chalk-based paint,” she said. “One of my favourite things to do is to re­uphol­ster an old sofa or chair in a mod­ern fab­ric; it com­pletely trans­forms it.”


A din­ing room dec­o­rated in a tran­si­tional ori­en­tal de­sign in­cor­po­rates an old buf­fet server and two tra­di­tional wing chairs, po­si­tioned at ei­ther end of the ta­ble, as well as a tra­di­tional chan­de­lier, but with black crys­tal for added drama and in­ter­est.


A client who wanted to in­cor­po­rate her grand­mother’s old chair in her liv­ing room turned to Wish Decor for a re­uphol­ster­ing job that gave the piece new life. Neu­tral fab­ric and crisp white pip­ing al­lowed it to blend in with the more con­tem­po­rary...


A bergère chair and an­tique dresser com­fort­ably com­ple­ment the con­tem­po­rary bed and or­nate draperies in this bed­room.

In this din­ing room, two an­tique wing chairs are placed at the ends of the ta­ble and paired with more mod­ern chairs.

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