In one of my recent posts, I talked about the fact that I think any room needs a touch of something antique, no matter the style of room. And recently, I also spoke of rooms that rely heavily on antiques and vintage items (like mine), really needing a touch of something modern in the room to break it all up. Since then, I’ve had several people comment or send me emails, either asking me to clarify (it seems confusing!) or stating that I’ve contradicted myself! And to some, it may seem that I have contradicted myself, but I assure you, I have not. Both of these articles exemplify my style of decorating, as well as some of what I feel to be the most important decorating tenants needed to make your house a collected home. I feel strongly that the best rooms really are the ones that take time to build, and that are not completed in a week. Houses should seem like they evolved naturally; like they took years to accumulate, and curate, and get right. They will have a comfort and familiarity that way, as well as speak volumes about those who live there. So since I had so many questions, and I think it can be confusing for some who really want to get that look and don’t know quite how to do it, I decided to put together a list of what I think are some of the most important essentials a home needs for it to feel real and true to you. These are only my opinion, not written in stone, of course, but they are the things that I think make a home feel “collected” rather than “decorated.” It is how I’ve tried to do my own home, and it is how the most written about and beautiful homes are designed. Almost every respected designer talks about having a house be personal for you, and I think if you add a collection that speaks to you, it will add patina and warmth to your home.
A couple of years ago a friend and I went to one of those Holiday Home Tours, you know the kind where you go to 5 or 6 houses and walk around oohing and aahing and looking at how they’ve decorated. One of the houses was clearly a standout above the rest. As we were walking through one of the houses, my friend commented, “I want my house to look like this! I think I need more antiques.” And it was true. Though many of the houses were pretty, most of them (this is the suburbs, after all) didn’t have a single piece of vintage or antique furniture of any kind in the entire house! Though I always suspected that an antique piece adds much needed character to a room, her comment really cemented in my mind how very important they are. There was a clear difference between the house that was truly gorgeous, and the other ones that were just nice. They were all decorated by professionals (most likely) and they were all large houses, so in this case, it was not about the money spent. It was about what the money was spent on. This is the part where I lose some of my friends, though. They think that if they add an antique, their house will look too old-fashioned. Or, they assume “antiques” are all really expensive. And really, nothing could be further from the truth. Of course a house that is all antiques, with old fashioned finishes and heavily patterned drapes, will look very outdated. And there are uber-expensive antiques out there. But there is definitely a way to add a piece (or two) without it going too “grandma-y” or breaking the bank. Kind of how I think a mostly antique room needs a modern piece to bring it to life (you can read my thoughts on that here), I also think every room can benefit from at least one antique or vintage piece. It makes the whole room look more collected, less catalog-y. And it’s better if there is a little character to the piece; the chippier the better, in my opinion. The texture is important here. You can use reproduction if you like (they do add some character), but I think in the end you are better off with the real thing. In fact, if you look closely, even catalogs like Pottery Barn add vintage items to their rooms in the photos. I’ve often loved something in their catalog, only to realize it’s not actually their item! They’ve added it because the rooms look better for it. The space is less predictable and more unique. It adds depth and character, yet the room still remains hip and contemporary. It can be done!
I have friends who hate pink. They hate the color and will not wear it. I have to admit, that is not me. I definitely wear pink. What can I say? I like it. I know the bubble gum variety can be cloying, but in the right shade, it can be downright sophisticated. That’s the key. Use just a touch. And it is universally flattering! Pink makes everyone look good, and what’s wrong with that?
I have always considered myself someone who loved a mostly antique room when it came to decor. I’ve never been into sleek modern looks, metal, plastic, or even leather, no matter how “hot” it got. I have never liked “modern”, most especially mid-century. And that has not changed. I think because I grew up in a house full of mid-century modern furniture, it just doesn’t speak to me. However, I am realizing that I really gravitate to a room that has a piece of something modern or contemporary in style in the room. Whether that be the sofa or just one table, I love the idea of at least one piece of furniture in the room having really clean lines. I think a room full of antiques, and only antiques, can start to look a little fussy. Even, dare I say it, when it’s a room full of French antiques. If one clean-lined piece is added, it adds depth that just isn’t there otherwise. And I really mean one. If there were more, at least for me, that would be too much. I want the the room to still have that antique soul, but with a little edge.
Decorating with numbers is something I have been into for awhile now. I have several different numbers, in different forms, around our house. It all started when I bought an antique demijohn for my husband for our anniversary one year, and because it was our 20th, I wanted to incorporate the year somehow. I found a cute little vintage hotel room badge with the number 92 on it and I hung it on the bottle. That was it! After that, I was off and running. Since then, I’ve added some 3’s (the number of kids we have), 5’s (the number in our family) and several more 92’s. My husband even got me an antique French street sign with a 92 on it for another anniversary. For whatever reason, I love the feeling I get when I look across the room and see one of these! But really, I see a lot of numbers around now; it seems to fit the vintage/farmhouse aesthetic, not to mention the fact that the Pottery Barns and Home Goods of the world sell them in different iterations. I love it when I see my significant numbers used in different little ways around the house, but I also love numbered baskets, or large numbers on a wall in a play room, or a favorite number displayed in a kid’s bedroom. Like letters in decor (you can read my post about that here), they can be used in so many ways and add such charm to a space.
Art is always such a hard thing for me to find. I’m not big on just buying prints at Home Goods or Pier One or the like, so I’m usually looking for real art. And of course, in order to afford real art, I need to buy antique and that is not a hunt that is quick! It’s really a matter of having to wait awhile before the right thing comes along, and in the meantime, living with blank walls.