You know what never goes out of fashion? Nostalgia. Nowadays, the 1990s are making a huge comeback, but there are plenty of inspiring decades to help you redecorate with antique home decor. Looking to build the perfectly repressed Victorian atmosphere in your living room? Say no more, we got the style tips to turn your petticoats inside out with. Would you rather only travel as far as the 20th century? Let’s pop the absinthe and head to Paris in the 1900s. With 2020 seeming more and more like the end of times, build yourself a time machine and stay aboard the Titanic as the band keeps playing with antique home decor.
Paris 1900 – 1920: Art Deco / Art Nouveau
Art Nouveau, “new art”, is a French style of decoration, art, and architecture created as a reaction to the overly academic nature of artistic production in the 19th century. Inspired by natural forms and shapes, Art Nouveau can be found in textiles, glass and metal works, ceramics, furniture, and many other antique home decor objects.
To recreate the look, you must accept that you are going for decadence and extravagance. Art Nouveau makes extensive use of iridescent glass and luxurious items, creating a sparkly menagerie with feathers, stylized animals, and grandiose curves. To stay elegant, this style requires muted walls in a palette ranging from grays to beiges and lilacs.
Back in the day, overly intricate wallpapers were quite the rage, but you would risk having a visually polluted living room. If you are not going wild on furniture and decoration, feel free to create an accent wall. But keep your other walls as plain as possible! When picking your furnishings, keep an eye out for colorful glass, curved and straight lines that mimic tree trucks, and vintage ornaments.
A few decades later, the European elites got overwhelmed by all the excesses of Art Nouveau, giving rise to a new trend in antique home decor: Art Deco. In the beginning, Art Deco influencers sought out a return to simplicity, but the style eventually became complex and luxurious. Art Deco is one of the greatest influences in U.S. architecture, its features can be found in several prominent buildings – Empire State, Chrysler, Rockefeller, Guardian, Louisiana State Capitol, and many more.
The aesthetic can be translated to your living room with vintage furnishings and elements in rich, vibrant colors and symmetrical designs. Angular armchairs are a must-have, as well as pieces finished in ivory or jade hues. Art Deco is one of the main styles widely available in antique furniture and vintage décor shops, so you will have quite an easy time with this one.
London 1837 – 1901: Victorian Era Antique Home Decor
A time of demureness and industriousness, the Victorian Era holds sway over the collective imagination with its fine-tuned moral sensibility. While the Victorian Era evokes visual memories of frugality and somberness, there are plenty of influences that can add vivacity and character to your living room.
You can catch a case of the Gothics and draw inspiration from Frankenstein, Dracula, and Dorian Grey. Set the mood with textiles in deep, rich colors like burgundy, gold-brown, and dark green for your cushions, upholstery, and curtains. You can use textiles as vintage Victorian-inspired wall hangings, look for materials like tapestry, damask, and florals. As for the furniture, look for pieces that resemble ornately carved oak and mahogany. Victorians were wealthy from colonizing the rest of the world, but you are probably not – the operative word in antique home decor is resemble.
Although Victorians were circumspect, their decor style was exaggerated and rambunctious – you might want to practice restraint when decorating. But feel free to give it a steampunk flair for a more updated look by picking out a stylized clock or typewriter.
London 1558 – 1603: Elizabethan Era, The Golden Age of England
Here comes another epoch named after a magnificent queen, Elizabeth I, who was nicknamed “Oriana” (Latin for “Golden”) by her courtiers. The Elizabethan Era saw the peak of the English Renaissance in art and culture, most famously through the works of William Shakespeare. Thus, antique decorating ideas for an Elizabethan theme certainly need to bring the drama.
Pick out a living-room table set with very, very tall chairs, preferably with a straight back – no one said nostalgia was comfortable. Give your back a treat with a languid, luxurious divan. In classic Elizabethan fashion, choose medium and dark-golden hues for your curtains and upholstery.
Try to find fabrics decorated with flowers and leaves. Classic Greco-Roman themes strongly inspired the aesthetics of the Renaissance, so pick out a few Greek sculptures and short columns to capture this elegant atmosphere.
Keep your rooms with a limited amount of furniture, as the Elizabethans liked excess matched with purpose. If you have the budget, just go all out for paneled walls and you will have built yourself the perfect bunker meets time capsule.
America 1950s – 70s: Colors, and Patterns, and Textures, Oh My!
Okay so the 1950s, 60s, and 70s may be more “vintage” than “antique”, technically speaking, but that’s beside the point. These decades were definitely a moment in the interior design world, and paying homage to them can be a great, fun, way to add a bit of a statement to your style. Not everything was a hit, I don’t think anyone wants to go back to kitschy bedroom wallpaper or carpeted bathrooms. But, sprucing up a room with a bold color, a chic pattern, or a fun texture is an easy way to bring it back to life.
The key to a retro design is bold colors and patterns, while keeping the shapes pretty simple. Basic, midcentury modern pieces like sleek couches and chairs can be combined with bold bright colors. Don’t be afraid to mix patterns either. Throw pillows are a great way to add this. Try mixing stripes and chevron, for example. Geometric shapes are common in retro décor.
Giving your kitchen a retro makeover can change the whole look of your home. Try looking for retro appliances like toasters and kettles with classic shapes, bright colors, and simple fixtures. Black and white tiles are a classic look that can be paired well with most cabinetry. If your kitchen has room, a large farmhouse sink can add a vintage feel while also being a practical upgrade.
Where to Buy Antiques
We’ve gone over some of the most iconic styles of antique home décor, but how exactly do you get your hands on a real treasure? There are a few different routes you can take to source quality antiques, and each of them have their own pros and cons. However you decide to do your shopping, the first step is deciding how much you’re willing to spend. Remember, antiques can be expensive, but when taken care of correctly, they’ll last you and your family for generations to come.
Antique and Vintage Shops
Most cities are home to at least one antique shop, you just have to find it. Doing a quick google search will point you to the shops in your area, and then you can decide which ones you want to visit. Some stores specialize in a certain style, so it may be worth searching specifically for the era you’re looking for.
When it comes to actually shopping, things get a bit trickier. There’s always a risk that you’ll end up overpaying for something, so trust your gut if something seems off about the product. Doing a bit of research may also help you out here. Depending on the furniture, there can be very distinct markers that show whether something is a genuine antique.
For example, dovetail joints in wooden pieces show that it was made by a carpenter, instead of a mass production facility that would use nails to hold the piece together.
The temptations of modern convenience may lead you to a preference for online shopping. We all do it these days, so why should furniture shopping be any different? Well when it comes to buying antiques, you should exercise a healthy degree of caution. Of course, there are the obvious mistakes like not reading the dimensions carefully enough, but there is also the risk that you’re being scammed. Antiques generally aren’t sold by companies with regulations, they’re sold by dealers and individuals instead. That doesn’t mean you can’t find genuine antiques online; it just means you should approach it carefully.
So where are the best places to buy antiques online? E-Bay and Craigslist are probably the most popular places to get antiques online, but you can also get them on Etsy, Facebook, and online Flea Markets. One of the advantages of online shopping is you have a lot more options. One of the downsides is that you will have to pay for shipping, which can be a significant cost for heavy pieces of furniture.
Estate Sales and Auctions
Another popular place to buy antiques is estate sales and auctions. Many times, old storage units are auctioned off when they’ve been abandoned. Similarly, the contents of a house may be sold after the occupants pass away. Keep an eye on local newspaper listings, as well as those online for tips on the when and where the next auction will be. Storage units can be a bit of a gamble as oftentimes you won’t know exactly what’s in them until after the sale. You could end up with a rustic diamond in the rough, or you could end up with nothing.
How to Take Care of Antiques
One of the biggest reasons some people don’t want antique furniture is that is has a reputation for needing constant care. In reality, this is pretty far from the truth. With just a little bit of TLC, many antiques will last you for years to come.
How you’ll clean your antique pieces will depend on what they’re made of, how old they are, and what condition they are in. Having the right supplies can go a long way in restoring and maintaining your vintage furniture. A solid all-purpose cleaner like the Champion Performance Plus All-Purpose Cleaner is a must for most antiques, but they also have some unique needs.
Cleaning Wood Antiques
One of the great things about older wooden pieces of furniture is that the standard of craftmanship was higher back in the day. Because of this, many wood pieces are treated with excellent quality finishes. If you can, avoid stripping any of the finish off, instead try restoring it with gentle or natural products.
It’s also important to regularly dust and polish your wooden antiques. That antique cabinet may be ideal for storing Christmas decorations, but if it’s not dusted regularly, there’s a risk of nasty odors sneaking in. Making sure you have a good polishing cloth in your cleaning arsenal will also keep the finish gleaming. The Champion Polishing Cloth from Champion Supplies is a good option if you’re looking for a durable, versatile, and long-lasting polishing cloth. It’s gentle enough to clean fragile antique surfaces like wood, without loosing any effectiveness.
If you have antique wooden floors, dusting is even more important. An old-fashioned dust mop like the one from Champion is great for picking up dirt without scratching the boards. It’s also more environmentally friendly than disposable mop sheets as it’s reusable. If you’re dealing with tile, the Super Yellow Mop may be more your speed. The Champion Ultra Concentrated Degreaser can also lend a helping hand with getting tough stains out of tile floors and other kitchen surfaces.
Cleaning Metal Antiques
Antique jewelry, silverware, and kitchenware is undoubtedly gorgeous. However, it also will inevitably tarnish. Tarnish is the dirty looking grime that appears due to a chemical reaction between metal and oxygen. Storing things like jewelry in a dry, protected environment can help slow this process, but no matter what, every metal antique will inevitably need to be polished to remove tarnish. You can use a silver polishing cloth like the one mentioned above, or a liquid metal polish, they essentially do the same job. If you go with a liquid polish, make sure to read the warning label as they can give off toxic fumes or be harmful to the environment.
Cleaning Antique Fabrics
Vintage clothing is almost always in style. If your love of antiques has spread into your wardrobe, it’s important to know how to take care of them. As fabric ages, it becomes weaker and more liable to tears, rips, and fading. Older clothing may not come with care instructions on the tag, so it’s important to play it safe rather than ending up being sorry. Avoid machine washing vintage fabrics, the intensity of a washing machine may only add further damage.
You should also be wary of using your regular detergent as well as it may be too harsh. Handwashing with a delicate fabric soap like the Champion Delicate Wash is one of the best ways to increase the lifespan of vintage and antique fabrics.
Maintenance and Repairs
Maintaining antiques may seem like an overwhelming task but taking a few steps to prevent damage can save you a lot of time and money in the long run. For example, one easy way to protect your vintage furniture is to strategically place it around your home so it isn’t in direct sunlight. UV-rays can be incredibly harmful to wooden and cloth surfaces. They can cause fading, discoloration, and even cracks. This doesn’t mean you should hide them away in the dark, however. If they’re in a moist, dark, environment, antiques can become a hot bed for bacteria and mold to flourish.
When it comes to repairing damaged antiques, the job is best left to the professionals. Some minor dings may be able to be taken care of with wood fillers or stain removers, but old pieces of furniture can be unpredictable. Sometimes chips and scratches may even add to the look of a piece. If not, a restoration professional will be able to find modern materials to use in the repair without losing the original charm of the antique.
Transport and Travel
When it comes to transporting antiques, it’s crucial that you take every precaution in the book. It goes without saying that older pieces of furniture will be more fragile, so antiques will need as much protection during transport as possible. Small pieces like end tables you may be able to safely transport by yourself, but in my experience, it simply isn’t worth the risk. Especially if you have multiple antiques to move, it’s best to go to a professional moving company with experience moving fragile furniture. Not only will they know the safest way to pack and move your furniture, but they may also offer an insurance policy for any damages incurred while moving.
Designing a Room
Have you ever walked into a room and just wondered what the person who put it together could possibly have been thinking? Well that’s exactly the design style we want to avoid. It may seem mundane, but the principles of design can really make or break a room. Taking the size of the room, the furniture, and the theme you want for the design is key to creating a pleasing aesthetic. A bohemian or mix-and-match style is all well and good, but good planning and design will keep you from crossing the line into crazy-town.
Sizing for Your Space
The first step to good interior design is looking at the size and space you have to work with. A small room, for example, won’t do well with large, dark pieces of furniture. A big room, on the other hand, may look empty or sterile without enough decorations. If your room is small, try to stay away from oversized furniture. Mirrors are a good way to open the space, as is adding a little extra lighting and avoiding dark wall colors.
The advantage of having a large room is of course you have room for more décor without feeling cramped. However, don’t fall into the trap of thinking you have room for every small decoration you want. Instead, find a few big pieces you like, for example a sectional sofa or a statement dining table, and then accent them with a few smaller pieces. Too many little bits and pieces can make even the largest of rooms fill cluttered and messy. Wall art is a great way to add style and comfort to a room without taking up too much space.
Keeping to a Theme
Bohemian styles can be done and look good, but there are some general rules for making any interior design look good. If you want to design around a theme, keep it consistent throughout your design. Ig you want to mix it up a bit, make sure you’re taking colors and patterns into account. Will stripes look good next to polka dots? Does your wall art clash with the sofa?
Balancing Practicality and Creativity
Sometimes our dreams don’t quite manage to meet up with our reality. This can definitely be true when it comes to interior design. Maybe you don’t have the budget to get that dream couch. Maybe you simply don’t have the space for floor to ceiling bookshelves. Maybe you live on the fourth floor and can’t be bothered to bring heavy furniture up the stairs. However, that doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice on your vision.
Shopping second hand can be a great way to deal with a budget issue. Thrift stores and antique markets are an easy way to find good deals while shopping locally. Another way to save money is by making part of your project a DIY. As for space limitations, you may not be able to put everything in the same room, but try spreading a few of your favorite antique pieces around different parts of your home. It’s also a good idea to weigh the pros and cons of a piece of furniture before buying it.
Sure it looks good, but will it just sit in the corner collecting dust, or will you actually use it. If it doesn’t have a real purpose in the room, it might not be worth the purchase.
Antique home décor is a great way to make your home match your own personal style. Flexing your creativity through some interior design updates can also be a fun way to change things up. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box! I hope this article gave some helpful tips on revamping your home décor with antique pieces. And remember, sometimes updating design can mean jumping back in time! Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you next time!
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