7 Simple Rules to Decorating Your Home with Vintage & Antiques

April 12th, 2010

Usually, we walk into homes “full of antiques” that are run by people who in comparison to us, are uh … “old as antiques.”

But what I’m noticing more and more — not only in my personal tastes, but that of other young, forward-thinking and kitsch-inclined folk — is that antiques aren’t just full of “old.” They’re full of awesome, too.

Just take a look around your favorite stores/bars/restaurants/coffee shops. Chances are, in either a.) all of the above or b.) most definitely at least one of the above, there is a vintage or antique item used for decorative/aesthetic or practical purposes.

So, when my friend and fellow Temple alumna Gina Ryder of the 215 told me that her mom was into “antiques” and that she was “interested in buying White Innocence and the Fifth Avenue hatbox” from me to use as decoration in the foyer of her antiqu’ed-out home … well, you can imagine how sweetly delighted I was to hear the news. And of course, to road trip in the Camry to Gina’s mom’s home in Huntingdon Valley, PA [aka the Philadelphia suburbs] and see what this NOT old-as-the-hills woman had done with antiques in her home.

Ikea for decorations? No way. Here’s some simple advice on how to incorporate vintage and/or antique wares into your home space without having to visit the equivalent of a Christie’s or Sotheby’s. In other words … thrift it!

foyer decorated with vintage

Gina’s mom [correction: Linda!] wanted to show me her foyer most. This is where she wanted her vintage mirage to become a reality: use vintage purses, hats, hat boxes and gloves – along with my suggestion of vintage jewelry, like pearls – to accentuate the welcome area with neutral, warm tones.

vintage gloves

Linda had already made some leeway on laying the groundwork for the design motif – she found these delicately petite white leather gloves gently studded with pearls. The gloves spill from the inside of a gold vintage purse she bought for $10 that hangs from a mirror-coat-rack combo assembled by her husband. Her plans? To add more hats, purses, and gloves to this primping station.

vintage mirror

RULE #1: FIGURE OUT A FOCAL POINT

The inherent problem with antique & vintage decoration is that you can easily go overboard and create clutter. One easy way to avoid unnecessary clutter is to first buy one item operating as a focal piece — like a mirror, shown here, or a coffee table, Grandfather clock, painting, or other larger-than-average piece with larger-than-average personality. Use this decorative center to select the rest of your pieces. The focal point will help you to create design boundaries around what you don’t and do not need, rather than just buying everything you want and only some of what you actually need.

antique umbrella stand

RULE #2: KEEP IT PRACTICAL

There are a ton of antiques I would love to own. Antique pin ball machines. Antique gum ball machines. Antique blenders, aprons, TVs. Cool? Sure. Practical? Probably not.

So when investing in old things, invest in old things that have modern day purpose. Like this antique umbrella holder, or a vintage coat rack or hallway mirror.

antique paintings

RULE #3: SYMMETRY IS SWEET

Symmetry is not focus. Symmetry is realizing that the world operates in pairs. This is why I prefer even numbers — everything just works better in twos.

When purchasing your chosen pieces, always buy in pairs — that lamp duo, the matching paintings, the figurine partners. First, you’ll feel better knowing that you didn’t leave a lone member of a family behind at the store. Second, you’ll feel better knowing that you’ve invested in the comforting balance of your space, and not just pretty aesthetics.

Linda chose to decorate with matching — but not 100 percent identical — Victorian-inspired paintings. The matching frames surrounding the candlestick attracts the eye to the entire scene, and not just to painting 1 versus candle stick versus painting 2. You see that this wall is something to be admired as a whole.

This is what you achieve with symmetry — admiration of the picture, and not just the piece.

vintage key

RULE #4: THINK RANDOM

Don’t just think “out of the box.” Think “random in the box,” instead.

Thinking random is like pushing yourself to try a new food. You think you’re wasting money on it, until you realize that it wasn’t money for taste you were spending, but rather money for experience. Picking up a vintage key to see exactly “what” you can do with it in the foyer of your home is a great example of this.

Spot a one-of-a-kind vase, but not so sure how you’d ever use it? If it’s less than $15, it’s worth it for the creative energy spurt.

clown figurines

RULE #5: QUICK & QUIRKY

What is the one thing about you that’s just plain-and-simple true to you? Linda loves clowns, for example — and to showcase this lovable quirk, she has an entire glass case of various clown figures that she’s collected/been gifted/sought across her years dedicated to this passion.

Before I started SDV, my quirk was vintage clothing. My roommate’s quirk is Broadway posters. My road trip partner loves outrageous food.

Quirks? We’ve all got one. Normalcy? Now that’s a bit harder to find — not to mention, define!

foyer decorated with vintage

RULE #6: FOLLOW YOUR RAINBOW

Unless you’re a scavenger in your kitchen, you wouldn’t serve yourself a fillet of salmon, a bowl of oatmeal, and a side of meatballs for dinner. The tastes share no common ground — not to mention, you’d probably want to vomit at the scent of such mixed smells.

The same can be said with the presentation of vintage & antiques: Select your pieces wisely so that their flavors stay within the same family. In particular, within the same color family. Linda chose neutrals as her color family, opting for white, beige, brown and silver and gold for some added brights.

Not so sure what a color “family” is? Google a picture or check out the paint application in your computer for the hands-on experience. Note how colors are grouped together in similar shade and tone, but are without a doubt different colors. My brother is my shade and tone, but without a doubt … he’s not me. Get it? Same with colors.

the best antiques are old friends

RULE #7: MINIMALISM WORKS TOO

Like the meaning behind this sign, sometimes less is more. Just like the idea that best antiques are really your old friends, sometimes the best pieces in your home are the ones you’ve had for years anyway and not necessarily your latest find. We don’t need to pepper our lives with “new” to feel good. And while vintage is hardly new, it is rather the need to continually buy “new-to-you” items that can be more frustrating that ultimately satisfying — like a quick jolt of coffee when what you really need is a good night’s sleep.

Process your purchases and buy with love, not need. We don’t ever truly need anything to decorate our homes — we find inspiration in our senses, not in our objects of possession.

Liked my advice on decorating with vintage and antiques? Don’t think it makes sense … at all? Want to yell at me for waxing poetic without a license?

Leave a comment below. I’d love to hear your feedback!

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4 Comments

  1. Lisatella says:

    I’m so excited to move into a new place this summer because (if I’m lucky) I’ll be able to decorate it however I want. And that means…..with tons of old stuff. I love old lanterns, so I hope to get some more of those. Moreover, I’ve pledged to only buy for my new place what I can get from thrifting or from Freecycle (or, in some cases, super cheap on Craigslist or at yard sales). There’s no need to buy brand new stuff when there’s awesome stuff laying around that can really bring out a room.

    The clowns up there scare me though.

    [Reply]

  2. [...] First, you should get an idea of what you are looking for. Sometimes that can be easier when you see ideas of how others have decorated. Sammy Davis Vintage has created a great list of 7 Simple Rules to Decorating your Home with Vintage and Antiques. [...]

  3. [...] Davis of sammydvintage.com encourages buyers to invest in antiques with a “modern day purpose” while highlighting the [...]

  4. Socorro says:

    Can I mix a little vintage with the decor I have now, by adding a few items here and there?

    [Reply]

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