Vintage Meets Modern: A Guide to Combining Contrasting Styles

November 18, 2022
Photo courtesy of House Beautiful

If you’re vibing with vintage, you’re in luck. Old is new again, as people increasingly look for ways to infuse interest and eclectic elements into their homes. There are other benefits to using vintage pieces, too. One of them is cost, with upcycling the old offering an economical way to style a room. Another advantage is timing: if you’ve tried to order brand-new furniture lately, then you’ve probably experienced the double-whammy of high prices and long wait times for delivery. So far, I’m sold.

But “granny chic,” more recently dubber “grandmillennial,” does present a unique challenge – how to incorporate it into your existing décor, while maintaining the sanctity of the broader aesthetic? Let me assure you, it can be done and it can be beautiful.

What is Vintage, Anyway?

Furniture that is at least 20 years old can be classified as “vintage,” whether it’s still in its original form or has been refinished at some point. But not just any old table or chair is worthy of this trending title. A vintage taxonomy brings with it a distinct look from a notable bygone design era – think Art Nouveau, Art Deco, Mid-Century Modern or, perhaps more familiar to most of us, “retro” designs that came to fame between the 1960s and 1980s.

How to Find Great Vintage Furniture

Authentic furniture and accessories are readily available at your local antique shop, second-hand store, estate sale or at Mom and Dad’s place. You may even have some items packed away in your own basement or attic. Another way is to get the “vintage” look is by re-styling some existing furniture or inexpensive, newly purchased pieces by distressing, repainting or reupholstering them. Inspiration is as close as an old photo album or, as a mode modern method, a quick Google search. Granted, this technically won’t be an authentic vintage item, the when done right, an upcycled piece of furniture can come deceivingly close.

How to Incorporate Vintage Elements into a Modern Space

When embracing that vintage vibe, remember that not every thing in your home, or even in that room, has to fall within the “vintage” category. In fact, layering some decidedly retro additions in with more-neutral or totally contrasting look can make it that much more impactful. Layering also allows you to collect over time. Treat your vintage collection as such – a collection. It doesn’t all have to be purchased or collected in the same place and certainly not on the same day. Always keep your eyes open for those unusual, one-of-a-kind finds to add and refresh the look.

To that end, here are four vintage-inspired trends to layer into your modern-day home.

1. Wallpaper Revival: Wallpaper has been enjoying a second heyday, favouring familiar florals and botanicals (more on that, below!) alongside more traditional patterns such as stripes, paisley and plaid. While older homes would typically paper every wall, modern spaces often use wallpaper as an accent. One benefit to us that Grandma didn’t have back in her day – removable wallpaper that’s as easy to remove as it is to apply. 2. Floral Flashbacks: This vintage trend has flowers blooming and botanicals budding at every turn, from wallpaper and upholstery motifs, to the subject of art and accessories. And much like Granny herself, these florals are a little “extra” in the best possible way, infusing interesting shapes, softness and colour to a room. Consider layering a

selection of three patterns – or if you’re feeling brave, five – for a warm, eclectic aesthetic that is “granny chic” to the core.

3. Décor Galore: If you like knick-knacks, then you’re officially in your element. The empty shelves and tabletops that are remnants of the minimalist era are bring filled with displays of décor, collections, photos, art. Try styling your surfaces with repurposed items for added authenticity and intrigue. Picture it: a vintage camera as objet d’art, tucked among a selection of black and white photos and a stack of albums.

4. Colour: Much like those bare surfaces, basic colour schemes are retiring. Bye-bye greige. In its place, colour of every kind: gentle pastels, vibrant floral hues and darker moody shades. The secret to choosing a pleasing colour palette is consistency – for example, choose either all saturated colours, or all pastels. Don’t wavering. And you can forget about subtlety while you’re at it! Vintage can be bold, luxurious, ornate, so go big with coloured walls, a bold rug or a showpiece sofa in a hot hue.

There’s a very good reason we gravitated to Grandma’s place as kids, and it plays a role in the reason vintage designs keep coming back to the forefront: comfort, familiarity, warmth and a true sense of “home.”


Toronto-based stager Red Barrinuevo is the property stylist on HGTV Canada’s Hot Market Series and the Principal Designer at Redesign4more. He is an award-winning interior stylist who was also named one of the most influential people in real estate staging this year by RESA Global. His firm is known for enhancing and creating stylish yet functional spaces through its creative home staging, interior decorating, and design services.

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