How to mix old and new: Five ways to use antiques alongside contemporary touches in your home

Balancing old and new is always a tough task when you're putting together room designs — but when it's done well, the results can be spectacular. We spoke to designer Emma Sims-Hilditch to get her tips.

Pay close attention to colour and materiality

Credit: Brent Darby Photography

Commission bespoke furniture to complement antique pieces, and use more contemporary fabric to upholster these items in order to pull it all together. The two chairs below are antique which we used along with some beautiful old prints to create a focal point in the entrance hall.

We then carried this scheme through to the sitting room by using shades of the blue for the soft furnishings and created bespoke furniture in a similar rich, dark wood.

Mix dark and light wood in a single project

Credit: Sims Hilditch

Brown furniture can be picked up very inexpensively and is usually beautifully made. It’s not hard to sand, prime and paint an oak or mahogany chest of drawers for a children’s bedroom. Choose an eggshell paint or even gloss white for a more contemporary look.

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Match different styles of furniture

Credit: Brent Darby Photography

We paired an antique dining table with three styles of a dining chair reupholstered in subtly different fabrics for an updated look. This approach is slightly more eclectic. To avoid making the scheme look too stuffy, you can add one standout antique piece and match this with more contemporary furniture. This style balances old and new for a more modern take.

Create the right balance with careful distribution of designs

Credit: Polly Eltes Photography

Distribute designs so that they aren’t grouped in periods or styles. Ensure the antiques and contemporary elements are distributed carefully throughout the home so there is a balance and flow between all the rooms.

Use textures and layering – mix antiques with smooth, unblemished surfaces

Credit: Brent Darby Photography

Antiques and delicate detailing can provide lovely texture to a scheme and it works really well to mix this with smooth finishes in the flooring or furniture.