3 ways to master the art of mixing old and new design

More often than not, your style isn’t simply modern or traditional, but a melange of the two. Which is good news, as a fusion of contemporary and classic décor is effective in creating an eclectic home that feels lived-in and is full of interest, not to mention being bang on trend. 

What’s more, most of us have pieces that have been gifted or inherited, so it’s important to know how to incorporate these into our schemes to avoid waste, not just because buying everything brand-new is seriously expensive.

But the best bit about mixing styles? Because it’s not entirely trend-led, it enables you to create a home that’s uniquely yours – indeed, you’ll never see the same interior on the pages of a magazine or a similar room in the home of a friend. After all, in 2023, the ultimate bragging-right is individuality. 

Helen Belcher, senior interior planner at our Interior Planning Service, explains: “A home should be a collection of things you love to tell the collective story of those who share the space. Blending treasured antiques or vintage finds alongside more contemporary designs creates a truly unique home. At Heal’s, we suggest spreading these older pieces throughout the home to ensure ‘patina’ items that create intentional contrast, old and new, while ensuring the final look feels fresh and eclectic, rather than cluttered and dated.” 

Read on to discover how to master the art of mixing old and new to create a home that truly reflects the best of both worlds. 

Nuvola Sofa

1 Modern style in a period home 

Have you moved into a traditional home with period features? Think original floorboards, high ceilings and ornate cornices, all of which add to the charm and character of a house with real history. But how to decorate? Classic décor certainly has its appeal, but if you want your spaces to feel like part of the 21st century, then offsetting old features with modern furniture can look effortlessly chic. Consider a contemporary sofa, like the curvaceous Nuvola in on-trend bouclé, or a statement sideboard, such as the luxurious Lars with its painted finish and walnut detailing. Add further modernity in futuristic lighting(sleek and minimalist Saber is sure to bring the drama), a gallery of wall art that wouldn’t look out of place at MoMA – think colourful pieces and abstract prints – and contemporary objets d’art (see Broste CopenhagenHay and Ligne Roset for inspiration). With a little know-how, and a dash of inspiration, a period home can easily set the stage for the next generation.    

Devon Sofa

2 Traditional décor in a contemporary space 

One of the benefits of moving into a new-build is that it offers homeowners a completely blank canvas on which to express their personal style. That said, it can hard to inject warmth for those leaning into a modern aesthetic with similarly contemporary décor, which is when vintage pieces can be the key to success. In a neutral space with little to no interest, a classically-inspired sofa like the Devon, featuring a scroll-armed profile, high-cushioned back and gently-tapered legs, adds much-needed character. White or grey walls? Plump for colourful upholstery – petrol-blue or forest-green, perhaps? – in a tactile fabric like luxe velvet for depth and texture. Underfoot, furnish with a vintage-inspired rug – luxury carpet maker Louis de Poortere is cleverly reinventing Oriental styles for a snip of the price ­­– for pattern on a plain floor. And, finally, breathe even more life into a modern room with a design classic, such as an Anglepoise Original 1227 floor lamp, to make it look like it’s been curated over years. 

Louis de Poortere Rug

3 Classic and contemporary furniture together 

You may love modern furniture, but you might also have traditional pieces that have been passed down from generation to generation, in which case there’s an art to pulling mixed styles together. Firstly, start with a simple colour palette on the walls that allows eclectic furniture to do the talking – there’ll already be a visual feast so you don’t want to add one element to many – and favour hardwood or solid flooring layered with rugs over fitted carpet (which can look odd with vintage pieces). Likewise, keep window treatments clean and unfussy, once again allowing your furnishings to be the star of the show. Finally, when combining vintage and contemporary, avoid making any single item a statement piece. Everything should have equal weighting to create a sense of cohesion and calm with each being beautiful and interesting in their own right.  

Browse and buy contemporary furniture or design classics to inspire your own interior decoration.