How to Mix Modern and Vintage

living room
Mondrian-and-Monet. Duchamp-and-Degas. Let your artistic inner-genius free and create your own modern-vintage hybrid right at home.

Blending modern and vintage décor can be sophisticated chic -- or side-blidingly schizo. Your goal: Create an interesting juxtaposition of styles (and not have friends convinced you were a bit loopy at the flea market).

What to buy vintage: Accent pieces, including side tables or a coffee table. Freshen it up by hanging your flat screen in a vintage console or setting a bedroom dresser in the front hallway.

What to buy modern: Bigger pieces, like a sofa or armchairs. These take a beating, so it's harder to find vintage pieces that are still in good condition. Save up and invest in a new one you can't live without.

Tips from a Pro

Dress Up (or Don't). If you live in a more casual space, a formal antique dinner table will look like a Chanel suit in Anthropologie. Opt for a more casual vintage piece (think shabby-chic). The opposite goes if you're a couple who usually decorates to the nines.

Color in the Lines. If you're upholstering a chair, keep the color and pattern consistent with all of your other furniture and your accent pieces. In other words, “rainbow" is not in your vocabulary.

Recyle, Reuse. Guard that old furniture you're considering throwing away, or surf a local flea market for an odd piece you like but can't really use. Re-purpose it in a way other than for what it was originally intended: Change the hardware on a buffet, paint it, and show it off in your living room.

A Few Ideas to Get Started

  • Toss a modern throw pillow on a vintage chair.
  • Upholster a traditional chair/settee with a contemporary fabric in a brightly-colored floral pattern (if the Mr. will let you get away with it). Then paint the wood with an eye-popping turquoise lacquer.
  • Top a vintage lamp base with a sleek, modern drum-shaped lampshade. (Tip: You may need to get a garage sale find rewired, but a great piece can always be fixed.)
  • Quality vintage Asian pieces typically sit low and have tons of character -- a perfect partner for modern.
  • Pair a farmhouse or round pedestal dining room table with contemporary chairs covered in bold, modern fabrics. Accessorize with old glass milk bottles, vases, or even a collection of ornate vintage ash trays filled with candies.

Nestpert LauraM. Stein is an accredited interior decorator and a member of the Canadian Decorators' Association (CDECA), a national organization of accredited interior decorators and designers.