A vintage iron chair adds old-fashioned charm to a contemporary space.

How to Mix Modern With Vintage When Decorating

by Jan Czech

Combining vintage furniture and accessories in a pared-down contemporary room is akin to walking a tightrope. Balance is the key. A sleek modern couch looks out of place surrounded by a plethora of items culled from flea markets and antique stores, while a dainty vintage slipper chair is lost in a room dominated by large, minimalist wall paintings and clean-lined furniture. Create an eye-pleasing balance by taking away a few vintage items from the first room or adding some to the second. Keep in mind that many vintage finds are kid friendly, since they already boast the scratches and dings that give them personality.

Living Room

Often the most formal room in your home, the living room is softened with the addition of a few well-chosen vintage items. For example, switch out a contemporary coffee table for a vintage trunk. Old trunks with their dents and scratches stand up to the abuse children might dish out better than some newer pieces. Creating a cozy corner in a modern room is easy when you upholster an antique wing chair in fabric that complements the other colors and patterns in the room and pair it with a modern side table. Choose fabric that is machine washable. An antique lamp with a stained glass shade adds a romantic glow to an otherwise sparely decorated space. A clean-lined sofa covered with nubby linen fabric finds a home in a room decorated with vintage items when you pair it with vintage side tables topped with rectangular metal-based lamps featuring punched tin shades.


By their very nature, contemporary kitchens with stainless steel appliances and counters of granite or concrete tend toward industrial rather than homey country style, but adding a few vintage touches will soften the sharp angles and make your kitchen a more welcoming family space. A weathered hutch or corner cupboard provides storage in an otherwise thoroughly modern kitchen. Think about applying a coat of paint, making it a snap to wipe clean of fingerprints. Toning down a kitchen bursting with vintage items is easy when you replace an existing island with an industrial metal table on wheels or switch out an antique light fixture in favor of pendant lights hanging from the ceiling.


A vintage quilt displayed above a contemporary platform bed adds a country touch. Flanking the bed with antique side tables topped with modern gooseneck reading lamps provides a pleasing mix of vintage and modern. Pairing a vintage four-poster bed with a conversation area formed by two graceful Danish Modern chairs arranged around a primitive garden bench adds an eclectic touch to an otherwise vintage-style room.


A Victorian-era clawfoot tub centers a bathroom featuring a sleek, contemporary armoire used as storage for linens and other bath-related items, while a clean-lined cupboard once used for storing medicine in a doctor’s office adds a vintage touch to a contemporary space. A crystal chandelier found at a flea market or garage sale gives a modern bathroom a romantic vibe. A waste basket and laundry hamper crafted from wire add a modern touch to a Victorian-style bathroom.

About the Author

Jan Czech has been writing professionally since 1993. Czech has published seven children's books, including “The Coffee Can Kid," which received a starred review from School Library Journal. She is a certified English/language arts teacher and holds a Bachelor of Arts in education from Niagara University.

Photo Credits

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