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Want to incorporate vintage pieces into your home décor? Here's how

New spins on classic oldies

On left, vintage styled living room with blue walls. On right vintage copper round english tea kettle on white countertop. Credit: Getty Images / YKvision / Coppermill Kitchen

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When it comes to decorating your home, it can be a confusing whirlwind of choices It can take months and even years to get things just right, especially when you factor in trial and error, constantly changing trends, and the budget. To combat the latter, many people have turned to adding secondhand, less expensive vintage pieces to a 21st century design aesthetic. And we’re here for it.

Not only is there an irresistible sustainability component to buying antique or vintage home décor, it’s also an easy way to totally transform a space. Call it mid-century modern, farmhouse chic, or eclectic boho—whatever sect of vintage floats your boat—it can still be tough to achieve that perfect look.

Here’s a pro tip for getting started: It can be tempting to scoop up every beautiful vintage item you see, but too many in one space will just bog down the overall look and design. While you definitely want added touches of vintage flair, you also don’t want your home to look like it's from a past era, or seem cluttered or chaotic. In other words, keep it simple.

Choose one to three vintage items for each room in the home and stick to it. Only select objects that serve a purpose, have a designated function, or can act as an accent to the décor, rather than inhibit it. Lastly, utilize a truly special antique item by allowing it to be the room’s sole focal point, as opposed to dulling its shine with too many surrounding vintage pieces that act as competitors.

From lucky thrifted finds to family heirlooms, your favorite vintage pieces are waiting to be displayed, and we have some suggestions on how to seamlessly integrate them into your modern home.

1. Turn an armoire into a coffee station

On left, pastel blue armoire wine and coffee bar. On right, three sets of vintage french silver-plated ice tongs.
Credit: Classic Revivals Co / Food52

Who needs a daily coffee run when you have this retro addition in your kitchen?

Nowadays, the concept of an armoire is a bit foreign, with folks opting more for minimal bureaus and closets to hold clothing instead—but that’s not to say you can’t still nab that gorgeous one you just saw on Facebook Marketplace.

Among the ways to utilize an antique or vintage piece of furniture, a great direction is to rethink its purpose with a slight modern touch. Transforming an armoire or hutch into a designated coffee station will not only make your mornings better, but it’s a fantastic way to showcase its beauty. Plus, if the piece has good bones but needs a paint job, that’s an opportunity to transform it into your ideal style with paint or new handles.

Carina Dicenso, an Interior Designer with NEMD Architects, agrees. “Painting a thrifted piece in a fresh, modern color, staining the wood, or adding new knobs or pulls can breathe new life into an old piece and allow it to blend beautifully into a modern home,” she says.

If you don't want to do the rehab work yourself, Etsy is a good place to find them. You can also find chic vintage accents for your coffee bar like silver-plate ice or sugar cube tongs, a French stoneware creamer, and a copper round English teakettle from Food52.

2. Include antique wall hangings

On right, black and white portrait of Basquiat. On left, 19th century painting of man and woman sitting side by side.
Credit: Richard Corman / Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, OM, RA

These pictures are definitely worth a thousand words.

Modern design can often rely on beige and white color schemes, and while it’s certainly a clean-looking aesthetic, it risks becoming boring if done too much. If this sounds familiar, break up a bit of the monotony with a few vintage pieces to showcase on the wall like a gilded mirror or framed artwork.

As a juxtaposition to any piece of modern-looking furniture like a couch or a bed, antique wall hangings bring the eyes upward in a space, making it feel bigger and more spacious. It’s also a great way to add splashes of color where it’s lacking, and an avenue for showing your taste and making the room more personalized.

For a variety of antique art pieces and wall hangings, you can spend a little at Bonanza or a lot at Sotheby's.

3. Add a vintage rug for texture

Modern living room with multicolored vintage area rug.
Credit: Revival

The perfect vintage rug can make any room more visually appealing.

You’re likely to see many dupes of “vintage” rugs on the market today, but nothing beats the one-of-a-kind look and feel of a truly vintage rug. Perfect for the living room, bedroom, office or finished basement, pairing the rustic vibrancy of its colors with a 21st-century aesthetic is an ideal way to add a vintage touch.

Because a vintage rug has so much character, it can be the only focal point of a particular room, allowing you to strike the right balance between old and new.

Is your vintage rug too small for your ideal space? Try layering it on top of a larger, new rug for even more added texture and interest to the room. Don’t forget about runners, either; great for creating a transitional avenue from room to room, a vintage rug will look great on any hardwood hallway.

Online, you can shop for vintage rugs at Revival Rugs.

4. Use a trunk as a coffee table

On left, seven vintage trunks stacked on top of each other. On right, coffee table with hairpin legs in modern styled living room.
Credit: Getty Images / BrAt_PiKaChU / AECOJOY

Integrating stylish, yet functional furniture is the goal.

Incorporating a functional vintage piece into your home is the best way to fully enjoy it. Take steam trunks, for example. Not only do they look cool, but you can use them as storage for toys, blankets, or pillows, while also making use of it as a truly unique coffee table.

While vintage trunks are often in the brown with metal hinges variety, you can also make them your own by painting or refinishing them to better fit with your living room colors or theme. Like any coffee table, just make sure to measure the height of your couch seating before buying, so it’s not too tall or too low for comfortable use. Or, you can add hairpin legs for a boost.

5. Pair a traditional table with modern seating

Minimalistic dining room with different styled chairs and wooden dining room table.
Credit: Getty Images / Lilas Gh

Contrary to popular belief, mismatching furniture creates décor unity.

While it may seem strange, mismatching a vintage table with new seating will actually make your space look more curated and less stuffy. But, being intentional with the mismatching is key to that effortless look.

“Create consistency where there is difference by using similar lines,” notes Dicenso. “Mixing vintage and modern chairs around a dinner table can be tricky, but by using consistent lines and shapes, all the pieces can exist in harmony.”

Popular online retailer One Kings Lane also has a vintage section, with many different styles of furniture for the dining room, so start there if you don't have a local favorite.

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