Design tips

Incorporating Antiques into a Modern Country Home

4 May 2023

Antiques can be an intriguing part of the story of your home. I believe your home should reflect your own story and antiques can weave real character into a room. There’s nothing more charming than incorporating a piece of furniture you have inherited or fallen in love with. In recent years antiques have also become more popular with the move towards more sustainable homes. It’s a trend that’s likely to continue and should be welcomed. Quality pieces will last a lifetime and are pieces to treasure.

So how do you incorporate antiques when your natural style might lean towards a more modern feel? Below are my top tips.

Go with your heart

Buy something you love when you see it, and don’t get too fixated on whether it will suit the design scheme you have in mind. Chances are it will enhance and add depth to the room with rich textures and a link to the past.

I feel that antique and vintage pieces make homes feel more welcoming and inviting rather than polished and perfect. In my home, the first antique I bought was this old, slightly wonky dining table and chairs for our kitchen. It has been the heart of our home and where we have celebrated happy occasions. It’s pieces like this that form huge sentimental value, and I’ve never regretted buying it.

Build rooms around cherished inherited pieces

Often when I meet clients, they will show me a piece of much-loved piece of inherited furniture they don’t really know what to do with. My view is always that it it’s associated with special memories, it should have a key place in your home.

Use your favourite piece as your centrepiece and then combine it with more contemporary elements if you are worried about it looking too traditional. The most simple tip I can give is to layer antique pieces with cleaner lines. In my client’s home we started with an antique bureau and chairs she had inherited and then combined with the simple lines of a modern rug and a plain wool fabric on the blinds. On the other side of the room, we layered fabrics that connected to the colours of the antique chairs, bringing together the new and the old.

Layer darker woods with a fresher colour palette

If you are worried about your room feeling too traditional, then combine antique furniture with a fresher more modern colour palette. Avoid classic colours such as rich reds, which can make a room feel very traditional and a touch gloomy. I instead choose colours that balance out the brown and add subtle warmth. Consider fabrics and paints that complement browns, such as warm blues, dusky pinks, and eau de nils and sage greens. Avoid cool greys which look very gloomy against brown furniture and add no warmth at all.

Give worn items a new lease of life

If you are reupholstering antique pieces, use a more contemporary fabric to freshen up the feel of the room. In this example, we reupholstered our client’s old Bergere sofa in a lovely small-scale blueprint, complemented with more modern cushions and a simple window drape. This house appears in the May Edition of The English Home.


When it comes to brown furniture you may feel it needs a new lease of life by actually changing its look. If you are really struggling with a dark wood piece then you can also consider painting it. I would only do this for a very inexpensive chest otherwise it feels a little sacrilegious! In this modern country bedroom an inexpensive old chest was painted to suit the colour scheme of the bedroom. We combined with a wood bedside table so the bedroom wouldn’t feel too overly matched. I feel the rooms with the most character are those with different surfaces rather than all matching.

Don’t just source antiques from antique dealers

There are many great places to find antiques and you don’t need a big budget to source pieces which can be restored or reupholstered. There is also something wonderful about bringing an old piece to life which may have been thrown away otherwise.

Have a budget in mind before you source antiques. They tend to be more emotional buys, so if you have a budget in mind you are more likely to keep within it. You may be surprised by what you can get. I find that antique shops in charming villages tend to be quite expensive. Other places to try include antique markets such as Ardingly Antiques Fair and Sunbury Antiques Fair, as well as auction houses. Auction houses can be a little more risky as you often don’t see the pieces before you buy. Upholstery in particular can be difficult to buy online as you don’t know how it’s structured underneath. It’s only when an upholsterer strips the piece that you will know the full story!

Have some fun with it at the beginning and keep your budget quite small. Bedside tables for instance are a good place to start. You’ll start to learn where the more reliable places are! These simple bedside tables slot perfectly into this calm bedroom and provide contrast with the paler colours in the room.

Consider antique lighting to create ambience

Lighting can be easily overlooked yet can add such charm. Antique lighting is a subtle way to incorporate a sense of nostalgia into a room. In this example, my client had inherited these classic antique lights. They came with ripped silk shades which we removed to avoid the room feeling too fussy.


I hope you’ve found this article interesting. Do get in touch if you’d like help to design your modern country home.