An IADA antique dealer could give you the inside track on a truly eclectic interior that perfectly marries old and new, says.
If there's one way to kill an interior stone dead, it’s wall-to-wall modern, store-bought conformity. To my mind it’s a personal bailout — the triumph of aesthetic insecurity over latent creativity.
Sleek, perfect, with nothing unexpected and with probably including easily identifiable fashion pieces littered throughout — what’s missing? Accrued, layered interiors have a genuine, personalised feel that’s impossible to replicate, and antiques and vintage pieces can play a key role in putting “you” back in your rooms.
Róisín Lafferty, is Image Interiors’ designer of the year and founder of Kingston Lafferty Design. While enjoying the national and international craft and design scene season by season, she’s ever-determined to take a high personal journey with her clients. It’s an interactive experience that includes antiques and vintage items in the mix.
For me, interior spaces should tell a story. Antiques add depth, interest and originality and they come with their own story. I love being in a space where the longer you are there, the more you notice. Antiques give you that depth, because they are full of interesting forms, delicacy and detailing
The individuality of even a single piece can all but make a room. Vouch for elements of bold, standalone style. For example, take a long hard look at a full living room “suite” — with three pieces of seating matched to the in-house storage elements at any glamour hangar in town. Don’t trust a magazine illustration — go to the showroom floor. Do I have to say it? It’s just too safe and well behaved to ever be truly fabulous. Much of the time, the quality with mass-produced furnishings is not there either.
Have you examined the price point between a piece of upscale laminated furniture against a mid-century icon? The difference can be small to irrelevant, opening up new possibilities for exciting, signature ingredients.
Róisín admits that mixing old and new character takes a touch of bravery, but you’re not alone with an informed eye and heady passion for interiors of every era. She doesn’t do “museum” stagings in her design work — this is about real rooms, made for living — a blended environment of intergenerational, engaging things. Even Georgian antiques with classic restrained lines are far from stuffy, so open your mind before opening your wallet on the high street for a typical add-money-and-stir solution.
“Antiques can be similar to art in that people can feel a bit intimidated by them. However, like art, antiques are about what moves you. So, pick pieces you like and things you are drawn to.”
Róisín advises looking at the shape of your rooms and what you already have, then considering what would complement them: “If you have a blocky contemporary sofa, try placing a fine antique sideboard with delicate legs beside it.”
Size matters, and in some spaces you will be limited in your more eclectic additions surrounding and complementing your favourite new buys and workaday furniture. Accessorising can be a useful ally.
“Things like console tables, occasional chairs, light fittings and accessories are great for adding touches of individuality,” Róisín adds.
You can be quite playful with them — think about how the space makes you feel
Upcycling and gentle, informed restoration can revive the tailoring of an oldie while preserving a fabulous period line, allowing you to enjoy the quality of its construction while blending it into your more contemporary room-scapes.
Róisín goes on: “It’s easy to add a beautiful chair in a corner. Victorian wing-backed chairs are full of character and can be upholstered in colourful fabrics. With antiques, you get such a lot of beautiful, fine detailing that’s simply not done anymore, lovely gilt mirrors, occasional tables with marble marquetery or gilt inlay and fine brass lamps. You will also find some gorgeous antique ceramics such as oriental antique vases, hand painted urns, plant holders and Jardinières.”
“But most of all,” Róisín concludes, “it’s about finding beautiful things that you love. There is no right or wrong way of doing this, it’s about what you are drawn to. Personally, I love Italian mid-century designs, they have a melting femininity with beautiful curves and detailing. When they sit beside something contemporary the result is unexpected and delightful.”
Killian McNulty of The Vintage Hub and Mid-Century Online agrees that it’s not an either/or for an old or new “themed” room. Both gentrified, used objects and your current, new elements can sit perfectly together. Get the right advice from an experienced dealer.
“With the right touch, an eclectic mix of pieces from different periods can instantly achieve a very contemporary yet timeless interior,” Killian explains. “Look around, find pieces — see if you can visualise them in your home. Don’t add too many pieces at once, but if you choose what you love, you will end up with a good interior.”
Róisín advises on a careful style-edit. Cramming too much period stuff into limited quarters takes focus away from your key pieces which no longer have room to breathe. “You don’t want a room to look like an antique shop. Use antique items sparingly so each piece stands out and is visible,” she explains.
As a dedicated collector or even a total vintage-virgin, tap into the shifting collections of reputable antique dealers as a rich, complex, educating resource. As with any reputable professional firms, Irish Antique Dealers Association (IADA) members are generous with their time and experience (often to a fault!) and can source pieces to rock a single room or to re-imagine an entire home. Some, like Róisín, combine their interior design knowledge with the trade.
If you have a particular interest, a dealer will work for you — giving you an eye on both the international and Irish market. Building a relationship, you can network in a whole new way that’s impossible by just popping into auctions. The truly intimidated? Find new confidence with a trip to any of the IADA firms or take a virtual stroll through the excellent website (check weekly for new stock in your area).
Finally, keep an eye out for antique fairs across the country. These fascinating collective shows favoured by the trade and private collectors encourage the visitor to get up close and personal with pieces and to explore their interest one to one with Ireland’s top sellers. There really is something for every budget.
September 12 to 15 sees the return of one of the most sumptuous, buyer-friendly events, the IADA antiques fair at the RDS, Timeless. Ireland’s leading antique dealers will be exhibiting a wide range of the rare and the beautiful and there’s even a series of free guest lectures from some of the world’s leading experts in their fields.