7 Expert Tips for Decorating With Antiques at Home

Believe it or not, the art of decorating with antiques is an age-old practice—older than that heirloom displayed on your mantle, probably—dating back to ancient civilizations like Rome and China, where people would collect and pass down the objects of their ancestors. In any era, procuring something older than the house you just moved into, one that’s rich with history and stories, is always a way of layering cultural intrigue into your home. For designer Kate Ferguson of New Canaan’s Palomino Interiors, antiques “bring instant soul to a space.” It’s why she says they’re a given in any design project she works on, whether by way of family heirlooms or pieces sourced specifically for a client.

But there’s a certain finesse to the hunt of finding the right piece and balancing out the old with the new so your home doesn’t feel like a dusty old trinket shop. We spoke with seven designers from AD PRO Directory about decorating with antiques to learn more about how to secure a winner, along with all the ways to integrate these curios into your own space.

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A home designed by Studio Tarea features a variety of antiques in its living room, from a late-19th-century Chinese rice vinegar pot on the left middle shelf to a Honduran ceramic piece on the shelves to the right. “We think all of these pieces with their various backgrounds and ages play nicely together and contribute to a feeling both of worldliness, but also timelessness within the space,” designers Rivera and Billinghurst say.

Photo: Ethan Hickerson

Reframe your perception of “antiques”

Although people might have a certain era or aesthetic in mind when they think of antiques, the design duo behind Studio Tarea in Richmond, Virginia, encourage collectors to dig a little deeper when they’re sourcing pieces for their home. “As two people from mixed backgrounds, we think it’s very important when we’re accessorizing and designing to broaden the idea of antiques beyond Louis XIII and Regency pieces,” explain Nolan Beck Rivera and Cameron Billinghurst.

They often source African and Mesoamerican antiques for clients, as well as pieces spanning different Asian cultures, such as vases and ceramics from 400-year-old Malaysian shipwrecks, West African tribes with a mastery of wood carving, and Lenca ceramics from Honduras that reflect the country’s ancient pottery-making traditions. “As long as pieces are sourced ethically, we’re always looking to infuse a mixture of cultures into projects instead of focusing solely on Eurocentric art and design, not only because it’s reflective of us and our cultures, but because it’s more reflective of the world,” Billinghurst and Rivera add.


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Display antiques that resonate with your personal history too

Before going on an antiques shopping spree, it’s always helpful to get a sense of the significance and history behind the items you’re after. “When there is a story tied to a piece, how you found it, where you found it, and who it once belonged to adds to a greater narrative and feels much more personal,” says Elizabeth Law, an interior designer with her own practice in Los Angeles.

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