Living With Antiques

More than one house tour has left somewhat of an empty impression. So many of today’s old homes, restored to a new-like state on the outside are left without much of a trace of the old inside. Occasionally the staircase, or at least the newel post and railing is there, or a brick wall that never would have been exposed in its own time. Its often that most of the interior walls have been removed, bathrooms expanded into once bedrooms and recessed lights in the ceilings.

Its all for want of an urban space, which we now associate with the lofts retrofitted into old warehouse buildings. These became popular in the 1980s and today, when they are not available, we tend to rip apart an old townhouse to make a pseudo loft apartment.

These homes then are filled with contemporary furniture, sometimes with a Pottery Barn or even Ikea look, and once in a while with some higher-end modernistic furniture, with colorful blown glass, frameless paintings lacking any representation, leather, stiff-looking cushions and plenty of chrome.

Somewhere the value and attractiveness of the antique has been lost.

It could be that the country look of the antique which has been popular for some time just can’t fit into an urban space. Decorating with primitives, aside I long to see a town home filled with mahogany and brass.

It’s not necessary to fill a home exclusively with antiques. Some people who enjoy the look of antiques like to put old and new together, often using antique accents with new seating furniture.

Let’s take a look at this Almafi collection at Macy’s for example. It has a sophisticated modern look to it. It’s a look many urban homeowners might try to replicate or build upon. Now imagine taking away the chrome table and the ottoman.

Consider the look achieved when placing an empire sideboard on the wall behind it and a Caucasian rug that picks up some of the rust tomes from the sofa. Now place a Chinese table in the center where the ottoman or coffee table would be and a large fern where the chrome table had been. A real painting framed with significant size and depth (gold leaf is great) would add even more. You really don’t want that mirror above your sideboard!

Of course once you start buying antiques, your room will quickly fill and until it’s time to part with the non-antiques, only unlike the antiques, you’ll find they’re worth a fraction of what you paid for them. Even as the antique furniture market has remained relatively flat in recent times, new furniture depreciates quickly.

Of course if you’re out to decorate a room, the right antiques aren’t at the mall or furniture store. You have to look for them and if there’s one thing modern people don’t have much of, it’s time.

That unfortunately leads many who like the antique look to instead go for fake antiques—cheap imports made to look classic and old. Yet remember you’re probably going to be living with whatever you buy for a while, and while there’s no good cheap way around the time commitment it takes to learn about and find good antiques, having that kind of quality can be well worth the extra effort.

You also might think an empire sideboard would be outrageously expensive. Yet they are often less than what you might think and less than what you would pay for an item of comparable quality at a fine furniture retailer. Consider comparing a sideboard such as this one with this one sold recently at auction. Both are quality furniture, but one is the real antique. Now when you think how easy it is to spend that much on a big screen-television or computer, something you’ll never be able to get much of any money back out of, its becomes easy to convince yourself to spend the money.

(Photo, home circa 1950 decorated with antiques)

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