Vintage View: Stirring up the eras up in our interiors

Kya deLongchamps encourages us to stir the eras up in our interiors —with a little polite planning, of course.

For my money, the most interesting interiors are accrued, layered, built over time by the act of life itself. Time passes. You holiday, you attend sales, you buy something, you are left or gifted something, you might even make something.

The result is a deeply personal eclectic collection that speaks instantly of you and your family — that personal journey.

Picture: iStock.

With the lauding of a new ‘maximalism’ (let’s call it the permission to crowd those shelves), there’s never been a better time to stir antique and contemporary elements together. There are a few guidelines to stop these pairings of old and new to decline into a confusing, pretentious porridge. Balance, contrast and proportion are all key.

Generally, it’s easier to pick an antique theme to lead the space and add some bold, worthy vintage or newer elements, or to take a contemporary, modernist style and then bring forward some unexpected truly antique moments.

You might want to stick to period decorating, using mid-century modern or even art deco as your ‘modern’ notes. All white rooms are generous hosts for a display of a variety of eras. Keep the floor treatments and walls muted.

A marriage of old, vintage and starkly new injects visual excitement and also suggests inter-generational collecting and inheritance — something you will notice in any great house open to the public, but still lived in by the same family for two or three hundred years.

When art deco shook up the interiors world in the 1920s, it wasn’t introduced wholesale by most families — there was a touch here, a flash there. Carefully selected, in beautiful, crisp lines, it settled alongside and refreshed stuffy Edwardiana beautifully.

Treat this adventure as very much a matter of trial and error — if two things seem to be ‘fighting’, move them apart rather than giving up and taking one right out of the room. French salon style used in Paris apartment dressing shows this celebration of multiple eras off to the max, fuelled by the city’s fantastic range of year-round antique markets.

The French loft dweller tends to err on the side of mixed luxury — using the best of various periods (or what appears to be the best) with just touches of the scuffed, utilitarian, re-purposed thing. Try the Clignancourt (Le Marche aux Puces de Saint-Ouen) and Porte de Vanves (Le March au Puces de Porte de Vanves).

Contrast enlivens any view and invites us to not only look, but to reach out and touch.

Hard meets soft, the round meets the angle, the old rubs up against the new. Just as you would when decorating generally, try contrast in colour, texture, shape, and material character of the pieces.

If the lines of the object are right, it might surprise you how easily it moves into another century of stuff. Bring in a new sumptuous contemporary hit of colour with fabric. Curtains, soft furnishings, throws and cushions are welcome interlopers to a stuck-up period room.

There is some highly ornate antique furniture, for instance fussy, Victorian sideboards with a lot of stages, carving and gliding that can be hard to accommodate with modernist accessorising.

Pared downlines in proper, hefty furniture and seating are a lot easier to work with. Over-sized things aren’t the problem — it’s the over-elaborate dominating thing that will tip the look over.

A popular expression (for the brave) is to use blisteringly modern chairs against the polished veneer of a politely shaped 19th-century period legged or pedestal table. Philippe Starck’s ghost chair in neoclassical style by Kartell in transparent polycarbonate sits lightly in any space (2002). Vouch for grey to suit the most museum-level period place, €248, finnishdesignshop.com.

If you have a boldly modern open-plan room, for example, with polished hardwood parquet and Italian abstract carpets, try adding a huge Louis IVX mirror with a silvered frame writhing in carved detail (repro or real) to anchor the dining area.

With room to breathe — a single, fabulous old thing displays real confidence. If the mirror has damage to the mirror surface, leave its spectral reflection in place. Its history and honest ageing are what makes it stand out.

Some of the best lifestyle imagery in any glossy decorating magazine uses cumulus clouds of 18th-century crystal chandeliers hovering over new soft furniture suites — take a look.

There are stunning new lighting collections inspired by the 1950s onwards and taking in a new interest in even 1980s lounge styles, including pole lamps. If you can’t afford something authentic and old, find the lines you like and shop the high street and second-hand stores.

Imagine a room weighed down with nice brown lean-lined furniture and Oriental carpeting gleaned largely from the mid to late 1800s. It’s lovely, but with no aesthetic surprises.

The addition of a pony-skin Le Corbusier recliner and some great modernist prints or even a superb piece of sculpture can take a dull room to connoisseur chic.

Yes, you may have to pare back, rearrange, but the antique ballast can still discreetly take the lead.


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