Inherited an Antique? Here’s How to Work It Into Your Home

Find out how to make that beloved vintage piece fit in with your decor

Ingrid Rasmussen Photography, original photo on Houzz

It’s wonderful to be given heirloom textiles, cherished ceramics or an old artwork. Antiques have a history and quality worth showcasing, but it can sometimes be hard to make them work with modern decor. Here are some effective ways to incorporate inherited pieces into your home and show them off to their full potential.

Celebrate antique style. Antique oil paintings with rich, layered colors look stunning when paired with gray-blues and crisp whites. Here, the pale blue wall contrasts beautifully with the dark tones of the canvas. The red pillows pick up on the dark roses in the painting and tie together the modern bed and antique artwork. 

The smaller pieces sitting casually on the floor are a relaxed way to show off art. The room has an “undone” feel that’s stylish without trying too hard. Resting artwork on a floor, shelf or mantel can take away the formality of the piece and give it a modern look.

Display Your Collection

Make the most of scale. If you’ve inherited a large artwork, show it off by giving it a featured spot on a plain wall. Using a vivid wall color behind it will make it stand out. This painting could have looked quite formal on a neutral wall, but the bright teal behind gives it a contemporary twist.

Be brave with your color choice and even pick out a hue that appears in the painting. These homeowners have added to the gallery effect by placing a wall light above the canvas.

Display a collection. Inherited an old clock or figurine? It could look a little lost sitting alone on a modern mantel, but it’s a different story if you group a few pieces together to create a display. 

Frank & Faber, original photo on Houzz

Hunt for items of varying heights, perhaps a few with a theme, as these homeowners have done with the giraffes. Visit thrift shops and flea markets to find items that will complement your new addition, and arrange them until you’re happy with the vignette.

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VSP Interiors, original photo on Houzz

Use the piece to create a new color scheme. Rather than finding a room where the art fits, why not fit the room to the art? Be inspired by the beautiful tones within a painting and create a color scheme around it. 

Here, the painting on the wall has inspired the palette of the living room. The inky walls make a dramatic backdrop, while the soft furnishings and decor items pick out the greens and yellows in it. 

Mix it up. If you’ve been given a few items that feel unlike anything else you own, you can still incorporate them into your interior. A collection of vintage belongings, such as art, plates, frames, clocks and mirrors, can look great when hung together on a wall. 

This is a beautiful way to enjoy random things you’ve inherited. Even an old tennis racket or theater program could be part of the display — anything goes with this one!

Create something new. What do you do if you have Granny’s beautiful old scarf or embroidered tablecloth? If you won’t use it in its current form, there’s nothing sacrilegious about turning it into something like a pillow cover or quilt. It’s far better that it be used and loved — and then one day passed on to a new family member. 

Another option is to cover a lampshade. Search online for kits that contain lampshade frames, panels, adhesive and finishing tools, as well as instructions that will walk you through the process.

Be Inspired By More Design Ideas

Neptune, original photo on Houzz

Give it a facelift. If you’ve been given a large piece of family furniture that you like but can’t find a home for, you could always paint it. This is assuming it’s not a highly valuable antique, of course.

Highlight its contrast to your decor by painting it a bright color. Rub down all the wood with fine sandpaper and cover any glass panels with masking tape around the edges and newspaper in the center. Brush on a layer of primer or undercoat and top with eggshell paint to protect the piece. You can then add the finishing color.

Once you’ve painted it, turn your attention to the details. Handles, for example, are easy to change.

Adrienne Chinn Design, original photo on Houzz

Get creative. You could take the room color scheme a step further and paint a piece of furniture to echo your new painting. It works particularly well if the painting is small and modest, like the one propped on this sideboard. The unusual paintwork on the furniture has created a modern, eye-catching piece that contrasts with the antique canvas. 

To paint a similar sideboard, work from the top down and start by painting the pale blue sky area. Let this dry, then apply the lilac. Continue working down, one color at a time, until complete.

Showcase a collection. It can be lovely to display and enjoy collections. If you like the pieces, use them rather than hide them away at the back of a cupboard. Display them on a dresser or open shelves so the items can be seen and your own pieces can be added. 

DIY Network, original photo on Houzz

Embrace the fact that a collection is eclectic and that that’s what makes them special. They span decades and can be added to over the years.

Categories: Architecture and Interiors, Artwork and Design