I confess that I am a bit of a snob. I always swoon when I see antiques that catch my eye, and my mind goes off wondering about the accurate period of a certain piece and whether it has a signature marking or specific provenance. Part of me imagines the antiques are animate, and I am intrigued by what secrets they know, the things they may have seen. Whose residence did this piece sit in? Did it come from an Irish castle or a humble Cotswold cottage? Who sat down to dinner at this table? What book was written on this well-worn desk? These are the types of fantasies that entertain and inspire me. Yet more and more, today’s consumers are less interested in antiques and more likely to prefer new furniture.
Of course, as a designer, I love what the latest and greatest furniture and interior design have to offer. Whenever I go to a trade furniture show, I am equally smitten with new designs that represent the way we live today. Once resistant to accept change, I am now open to newer designs. These new beauties lack the history of antiques, but that’s OK, and that is the point of this column.
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It is a hard misconception to drop, but not everything in a home needs to be top-drawer. In any design project, no matter how high-end it may be, it’s quite all right to mix one-of-a-kind treasures with mass-market goods. Most experienced designers know this insider secret, which makes them masters of illusion. Mixing high- and low-brow items is a way to set off or show off your household wares. When the mix is done correctly, ordinary items meld seamlessly with the most exclusive treasures.
Upon close inspection of the glossy pages of home magazines, one can spot household items from stores such as Ikea and Target. You will notice these newer pieces rarely take center stage; rather, they are in the mix to serve specific functions. For example, a bookcase may be there to store books and stack decorative items. A pair of simple, inexpensive end tables may carry important lamps or frame an iconic sofa.
Sometimes, newer and less-expensive furnishings’ supporting roles are the perfect fit, allowing other pieces to resonate and shine in your room. Even if you decide to do it the other way around, playing up new furniture as your main pieces and incorporating antiques as accents, they can still define a room’s character. My advice is to mix, mix and mix. So don’t be a snob. Antiques aren’t snooty, and you shouldn’t be afraid to use them. You should embrace the things around you that make your house feel like your home and no one else’s.
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