Monday, June 02, 2014

The Fresh Look of Fine Antiques

One question that I am asked time and again is, "How can you make antiques appealing to a younger generation?" My answer is always the same. You need to show people that antiques can look not only good, but great, when paired with modern furniture and accessories.

A fairly good example of how to mix antiques with contemporary furniture can be seen here in this c. 1974 Manhattan apartment, which was decorated by Michael de Santis. The apartment was built in the Tudor style, which explains the living room's ceiling beams. In an effort to neutralize the rather dark, heavy Tudor details, de Santis painted the living room's walls and ceiling (including those beams) in a shade of creamy white. This neutral, seamless backdrop allowed the room's furnishings, not its architecture, to take center stage.

The living room's color scheme was bisque and blue, a color combination which de Santis felt would show the home's antiques, especially the antique Chinese rugs and porcelain, to their best advantage. Regency furniture- one of the most versatile styles of antiques- was partnered successfully with contemporary tables and lighting, while most of the upholstered seating was covered in neutral fabrics, which didn't draw attention away from the antiques.  Mirrors added sparkle, geometric rugs introduced graphic impact, and antique pictures and contemporary paintings injected soul and personality into the entire apartment.  In fact, little about this apartment is dated, other than a few furnishings as well as the quality of these photos.

To hear the way many of us talk today about mixing antique and modern furnishings, one might think that this is a novel idea.  But in reality, it's a classic concept, a tried and true way of reconciling the old with the new.

All of the photos above show different angles of the bisque and blue living room.

The apartment's bedroom, in which a pair of antique portraits preside over a very contemporary-looking bed and carpet.

The study was painted chocolate brown so as to create a "secluded effect."

All photos from House Beautiful's Home Decorating, Winter 1974.


  1. Excellent post. The current anathema for English antiques, aka "brown furniture" would disappear if these pieces could be shown in this "new" light.

    1. BTW, love the creamy white stained wood floors, which really showcase the colors of the rugs and furnishings. Maybe that is what a room of "brown furniture" needs for the sculptural forms of English antiques to be fully and freshly appreciated...

  2. Jennifer,
    Great post! I think that there are still some young people who know about antiques- anyway, I wanted you to know that I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. DeSantis when I lived in Manhattan- and he could not have been a nicer guy.
    PS, am planning to see dear Louise this coming weekend!

  3. Anonymous2:59 AM

    Honestly, Jennifer, I could move into this lovely and layered space with my toothbrush! YIKES!!

    I never (almost) think that; or say that! This is exquisite, timeless decorating!

    We need more of this publicized! YAY!!!


    and nicely done!!

  4. Except for the stiff window treatments, this works for today. The painted finishes age well. I love to see timeless rooms! They are proof that good design isn't based on the latest trendy thing. My taste is already beyond the colorless Belgian look!

  5. I agree with Allyson - the boxy window treatments and the bed are too stiff (looks too much like a hotel room), but otherwise, nothing looks dated (apart from the brown walls - something I have already commented on here :-)). As for making antiques appealing to a younger generation - I could never imagine living without them (not that I a member of the younger generation any longer...). I grew up with them and use them in all my design work - they give a sense of permanence that a mass-produced piece from a showroom simply cannot... Timelessness is the word! Well done, Jennifer.


  6. Jennifer thank you for sharing such classic and timeless interior design! Adore the eating area!

    The Arts by Karena