How to mix old and new styles

Creating a scheme that combines modern pieces with inherited, vintage or antique elements can be tricky. If you want to learn a little about the tricks of the trade, read on...

The hardest style to get right, as any interior designer will tell you, isn’t contemporary or classical, but the fusion of these two different styles to create an eclectic or lived-in look. Combining old and new, or marrying vintage with modern, can produce a room that looks as though it has evolved over many years. This creates a sense of comfort and uniqueness like nothing else can. It also helps to create a timeless result meaning that you won't be a victim to fads or popular design trends. There’s something special about a room that stimulates your nostalgic senses, but creating a balance so that the room looks elegant rather than untidy or a mishmash of junk can be challenging. Let's take a look!


As with any room, determining the overall feel you want to achieve is the best starting point. Do you want the space to feel elegant, fresh, lived-in, relaxed, classic or boho? Getting this sorted before you start will make this easier for you as you proceed and will help you to stay on track. When you decorate, there's all kinds of visual stimulus that can very easily sway you and steer you off course.


Deciding on the colour palette is next. When using lots of interesting individual elements, you have two clear choices; neutral or bold. You may know which way you want to go right away. If not, just take a stroll down 'Pinterest' lane or open up your collection of decorator magazines and make up your mind. No matter which one you decide on, a colour consultant (that's me) maybe is good idea unless you are super confident with colour. Colour selection can really make or break a design outcome...any of you who have made colour misteaks before will agree that it can be an expensive, heartbreaking and time consuming error to fix.


It’s also imperative to unify the scheme and create a backdrop to the furnishings by choosing the right flooring. Hardwood is the best way to achieve this, but other solid surfaces can work equally well. Fitted carpet is generally too ‘suburban’ for this genre, although rugs, particularly tribal or geometric designs, anchor the room and bring in warmth in an unpretentious way.


Stunning spaces with high ceilings, fabulous windows and original features provide the perfect backdrop to any design, and it is possible to introduce a little of this to a less architecturally interesting space. Eclectic interiors tend to be based on either traditional or industrial roots, so adding raw elements such as exposed brickwork, weathered textural wall finishes and classically styled fireplaces will help to set the scene. To add this element to a more modern space, take a look at some wallpaper ideas to add character to your space.

For smaller rooms, a worn, country-style finish will be easier to achieve, integrating vintage pieces and large contemporary art for impact. To maximise the sense of space, keep window treatments to a minimum and be careful not to over-clutter design.


A room that cleverly combines old and new is cohesive and calm; there’s no single ‘feature’ item and the eye travels from one design to another, taking in the style of each. To ensure your rooms are stylish, not chaotic, every item used must be of good quality or beautiful in its own right. Combine and group pieces to allow the individual charm of each to be appreciated, and it’s better to use items that contrast in period or look than those that are simply a ‘bit different’. For example, combining a heavily carved armoire with the clean lines of colourful Panton chairs will produce a contrast that allows both to be appreciated individually.