Vintage Mix

By Lesley Myrick

Creating a livable blend of old and new

I encounter so many clients who aren’t in love with their homes. They may like elements of it, but there’s an inexplicable something missing or an intangible something that’s just not working. That’s why they call me. I love to play “Design Detective” on our first phone call together to get to the root of this lack of love. Sometimes it’s easy to diagnose where their decorating has gone awry. Often it has to do with playing things too safe for fear of making an expensive mistake. Before they know it, the safe brown leather sofa, tan walls, cream furniture and neutral rug are all perfectly placed in the home, shiny and new, but boring and banal.

I’d rather see someone make bold decisions and fail spectacularly than play it safe and never let their true selves shine. Great interiors are all about the mix — vintage and modern, rustic and polished, color and neutrals, masculine and feminine. Matchy-matchy is mundane. Safe is a snooze. It’s time to bravely step away from safe and have some fun.

My mission is to empower homeowners to make confident design decisions and embrace what they love.

What’s lacking in a lot of homes — besides color — is furnishings and decor with age. Character. History. Patina. I’m not talking about that faux-distressed patina that’s cutesy and commonplace right now. I mean real, gritty, “I’ve been around the block” kind of patina. The kind of chips and wear that allude to a life well lived and well loved. Water rings, dents, missing hardware and all.

It can be an intimidating idea to embrace a mix of styles, eras and finishes. After all, it’s not as easy as picking out a matching sofa, loveseat and chair set with coordinating accent tables. It’s easy to see that a preselected living room set “works.” But while it may be pretty, it’s seriously lacking personality. And trust me, it won’t look any more exciting in your home than it does in the poorly lit showroom. Too much of the same isn’t a good thing when it comes to design. To get the results you’re craving, it’s time to stir the pot by mixing in pieces from the past with personality.

“Whenever I look at beautiful spaces, the one thing that always pops out at me is the presence of something old. No matter how shiny, new or modern some of the furnishings may be, the thing that gives a room character is the presence of something from a different era,” said design blogger Kate Riley. She’s definitely onto something here. Even in a contemporary space, a vintage or antique piece is a necessary counterpoint for a room. A modern dining room with modern chairs and a modern chandelier is sleek and stunning, but it’s a one-trick pony. You’ve seen it once, you’ve seen it all. But replace that modern chandelier with a stunning Italian antique, and suddenly you’ve got a show-stopping room that delights and amazes. After all, if a homeowner is so bold as to play with that much contrast, what other surprises are hiding throughout the home?

In my own home, my preference leans toward traditional with a twist, an eclectic take on the old that beautifully bridges then and now.

My beloved living room sofa is a classic English Chesterfield style, but it’s upholstered in funky teal faux leather for a modern edge. Our bed features crisp white linens and a hip mustard yellow geometric quilted coverlet, but I’ve paired this contemporary bedding with an antique chest adorned with art-deco-inspired hardware. Could I have found any of these items side by side in a home furnishings showroom? Absolutely not. But do they work together? Seriously, the mix is so good.

I didn’t heed this advice at my own wedding — blue just wouldn’t have worked, sorry y’all — but I love the old adage, “Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue.” It keeps wedding decor from being too perfect and gives brides permission to collect, to gather and to incorporate pieces with meaning. What if we were to heed this advice when decorating?

Something old — a stunning vintage find. Something new — a quality piece that’s well made and worth the investment. Something borrowed — well, I wouldn’t be borrowing furniture for the long term! But perhaps we can interpret the borrowed element as something thrifted or gifted from someone we love. And something blue — you know I love color, and if you’re living an all-beige life, it may be time to shake things up with a little blue. Or olive. Or blush. Or rust. Or fuchsia. Whatever color makes your heart sing when you see it.

If you’re feeling stuck in a rut of sameness, it’s time to introduce the unexpected and create a livable blend of old and new. Sure, it takes some chutzpah to have the confidence to mix and match. But in both life and decorating, these words from author Jack Canfield sum up my feelings perfectly: “Don’t worry about failures. Worry about the chances you miss when you don’t even try.”

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