Antiques and vintage pieces for the modern home - 14 decorating ideas

There are so many wonderful ways to decorate! One method is to mix contemporary pieces with antiques or vintage objects, because the contrast of eras can give great interest to a room. Through inspirational photographs of a wide range of contemporary homes, this blog provides tips on how to enliven spaces with antique and vintage pieces. You are sure to find something that suits your taste among these marvelous objects: Louis Philippe mirrors, Louis XV and XVI chairs, club chairs, sunburst mirrors, Demijohn bottles, French pottery (confit pots, tian bowls, antique and vintage ironstone plates and platters), French garden urns, butcher blocks and marble tables, antique lanterns, chandeliers, objects of curiosity, French candlesticks, wall sconces, and antique scultpure). As most carry a history of ownership with them, they are a sustainable consumer choice as well.

1. Louis Philippe Mirrors

Gilded Louis Philippe mirror living room library mantle piece

Louis Philippe furniture is named after a style that developed during the period  when Louis Philippe was on the French throne, between 1830 and 1848. Louis Philippe Mirrors are fine examples of this period and their classic style means they are compatible juxtaposed with modern pieces.

Louis Philippe mirror silver frame powder room wall sconces

Maybe it is their relatively simple frame and luxurious gilt finish that make Louis Philippe mirrors so versatile. Such pieces work beautifully above a fireplace or placed between more elaborate or flamboyant décor, like wall sconces or artwork.

Louis Philippe mirror with gold frame fireplace wall appliques

2. Louis XV and Louis XVI statement chairs

Louis XV chair home library

Louis chairs are an iconic design that can be re-upholstered to achieve a modern look. Louis XV chairs (above) are identified by their cabriole legs (S curve), whereas Louis XVI chairs have a straighter tapered leg. 

Louis XVI armchair Patina Farm

The Louis XVI armchair (above) has been upholstered in neutral tones, allowing it to blend effortlessly with this modern living room furnished with an eclectic mix of contemporary, vintage, and antique items.

Louis XVI chair home office modern with antique pieces

Louis XVI chairs can be revitalized in a contemporary context: the beautiful chairs below have been upholstered in bold green and arranged around a modern table.

Louis XVI dining chairs antique with modern

3. Vintage French leather club chairs

French leather club chairs date from the 1930s to the 1970s. Originally designed for cigar-smoke-filled gentlemen's clubs, they are roomy and comfortable. Club chairs work equally well in a cosy busy space as they do in a spacious minimalist living room.

French leather club chair vintage modern home

Large club chairs can be softened with throws, cushions, or blankets. Moreover, the smooth and aged leather contrasts well with the rougher textures of natural fibres, like woolen carpets and wooden surfaces.

Vintage French leather club chairs modern living room

Not so well-known is the petite French club chair, which can enliven small spaces.

Pair of small vintage French leather club chairs

4. Sunburst Mirrors

Sunburst mirror gallery wall dining room

A sunburst mirror is a playful decorative wall feature that can be fun to try out in all rooms of the house. Original Chaty Vallauris sunburst mirrors, or carved gilt wood mirrors with an antique patina are extra special and shine in seaside cottages.

Vintage mid century sunburst mirror living room

When people ask me what antique would make a good gift, I always recommend a sunburst mirror!

Mid century cane sunburst mirror collection


5. Demijohn bottles

Demijohn bottles on buffet table antique and modern

Demijohn bottles are a simple but effective way to decorate a room. The shiny, transparent glass and pleasing round shape help bring out the best in other furniture in a room. Here they double as vases, but they can hold their own just as well too!

 Demijohn bottle antique with modern palm leaf

It is possible to find both old and new versions of demijohn bottles. Older examples generally have green or blue glass whereas newer types usually are clear. 

 Demijohn garden decor Mediterranean interior design

Demijohns are fun items to experiment with both indoors and outdoors, arranged in elevated positions as well as on the ground.

6. Antique French pottery

Collection of antique French pottery kitchen decorating ideas

Collecting antique pottery can turn quickly into an obsession. Confit pots and tian bowls are some of my favorites. Traditionally they are painted with an earthy-colored glaze, ususally ocher or green. Grouping similar shades together is an effective way to concentrate one color in a space, but also to bring out the subtle differences in each pot.

Antique preserving bowl ochre glaze modern home

Antique plates are very versatile and look great in modern settings. It is satisfying to put out a complete set like in the photo above, but choosing a different plate with its own pattern and style for each place-setting can be thrilling too!

Ironstone wall plates and jugs kitchen decorating ideas

I love the way the vintage ironstone platters are being celebrated in the photograph above. Turning them into wall features prevents the beautiful variations in their oval shape, scalloped edging, and white tones from slipping by unnoticed. The overall white color scheme is so calming and helps one pause to look.

7. 19th-century French garden urns

Antique French garden urn

Garden urns are most often associated with the outdoors, but here they are being used as vases inside. I love the way the wild blackberries echo the spherical decoration, or gadrooning, on the antique urn in the photograph above. Below, clouds of pastel pink roses bloom from the elegant antique urn in an airy room.

Mounted French garden urn with pink roses

The conical shape of the weathered cast iron urn below is accentuated by a fan of flowers that practically embrace whomever enters the room!

Garden urn with huge flowers, mirror moss filled bowls sideboard decor

8. Vintage butcher blocks & marble butcher tables

Antique French butcher's block kitchen Ken Fulk

Antique butcher blocks are found in many French homes, particularly in country France. They take pride of place in the kitchen and their solid shape and time-worn surface bring much character to a room.

French marble butcher's table modern farmhouse kitchen

Butcher tables traditionally have a marble top and decorative cast iron base. Those that have caster wheels are easier to move around and practical for use as a kitchen island. 

Antique French butcher's table marble kitchen

9. Antique lanterns

Antique French lantern round table entryway decorating ideas

Antique lanterns can be refitted to work as an electric light source and bring historic charm or romance to an interior or exterior.

Antique French lantern garden

10. Chandeliers

Antique chandelier modern living room

Chandeliers are truly timeless. They are a spectacular choice in modern interiors where their detail can be enjoyed in an unexpected context.

Antique chandelier modern bedroom

Antique chandelier rustic dining room

11. Collections of antique curios

Collection of curios and specimen domes

Not only is collecting objects of curiosity and quirky pieces a delight, but exploring creative ways to display them is too. 19th-century specimen domes are a wonderful way to examine and protect fascinating objects. 

Curios and velum books open shelving styling ideas

Shells, ostrich eggs, and antique Saint's crowns are among precious pieces that work well displayed on open shelving.

Curios displayed in white cabinetry

12. Antique French candlesticks

Collection of antique candlesticks in modern bedroom beach house

Antique candlesticks are created in a variety of materials and sizes and bring interesting pasts with them: religious, royal, domestic, marine. Their sculptural forms make them attractive objects to display in the home both when in use or resting.

Antique gilded candlestick and gold chandelier modern home with antiques

A single gilded candlestick will highlight other gold finishes. Both gold colors and wooden textures emphasize the candlestick's additional function of providing warmth.

Extra large candlestick on floor interior decorating ideas antique modern

Extra large candlesticks can be placed on the floor beside the fireplace or respond to the scale of other large furniture.

Antique urns and candlesticks modern French interior design ideas

Gilded, carved, and silver candlesticks work well in eclectic modern settings.

13. Wall appliques (wall sconces)

Wall appliques antique wall sconces modern home

Wall appliques add a three-dimensional decorative element to walls. They can complement other elements as well, such as a chair, mirror, or fireplace. 

Hollywood regency living room maison charles wall sconce appliques

Gold wall sconces by Maison Charles date to the 1960s and brighten a modern home. Here a dark wall provides a dramatic background for a gold wall applique. 

Wall sconces Patina Farm French leather club chairs chesterfield

14. Antique bust & sculpture

Antique bust modern living room marble fireplace

Figurative sculptures such as antique busts can bring formality to interiors. Placing the portrait bust at eye-level on the mantlepiece makes it easy to admire up close while warming by the fire.

Antique bust ironstone kitchen farmhouse

A plaster or white marble bust works well with other light colours. Above, designer Kay O'Tool has made an inventive and harmonious corner composed of a whimsical mix of objects of curiosity, pastel-colored ironstone plates, and a large sculpture - note the little bird on the man's right shoulder!

Mounted sculpture modern French interior design ideas

Antique sculpture are very special pieces to display around the house, they can be very striking and invite slow-looking. Not only can a masterful piece tell a story and inspire the beholder, but they also inhabit a space like another companion.

Antique sculpture chandelier modern hallway decorating ideas

Entryways, corridors, and other thoroughfares where people habitually walk provide good settings to install larger sculptures as well. 

Et voilà. Thank you for reading about fourteen décor pieces that are affordable and would provide a lifetime of enjoyment in any home. 

Explore our full range of one-of-a-kind French antiques.


Image credit: Cote Maison, Elle Decor, Veranda, Architectural Digest, Lonny Magazine, Apartment Therapy, Amelia Handegan, Giannetti Home, Ashley Goforth Interiors, Nate Burkus, Martha Stewart, Ken Fulk, Pinterest.

Frequently asked questions

1) There are so many different kinds of French vintage and antique furniture. How can I learn about them?

One important way to learn more about French antique and vintage furniture is to visit places where you can find them in situ (or approximately), including art galleries (where you can find period rooms), museums, and chateaux both in person and online. Below is a list of just a few highlights that will excite and enlighten even the most devoted of Francophiles:

Les Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris (

Musée Jacquemart-André, Paris (

Musée Carnavalet, Paris (

Musée Nissim de Camondo, Paris. For more information view our blog, "Walk through a Parisian mansion - Musée Nissim de Camondo"

Visiting chateaux on open days will provide live inspiration as well. Dont miss Versailles! ( ).

The Victoria & Albert Museum, London (

The Frick Collection, New York. Explore the collections online or in person. Watch informative videos from the series “Travels with a Curator” and be taken to such varied destinations as Valenciennes, Grasse, and Chantilly. The award-winning “Cocktails with a Curator” are a fabulous series that study specific works of art in depth, including work by French painters, sculptors, clock-makers, and cabinet makers. Listen to short talks on: Saint-Porchaire Ware; a marble bust by Jean-Antoine Houdon; Claude Monet’s Vethéuil in Winter; Fragonard’s Progress of Love paintings, or an 18th-century timepiece, “The Dance of Time,” by Clodion (Claude Michel) and Jean-Baptiste Lepaute, for example.

2) How can I make my house more interesting, more comfortable, or more formal, or more casual?

Of course enlisting an expert is recommended, but here are some commonsensical tips that interior designers might suggest: decorate so that no one thing hits your eye, it should just flow. Contrast provides visual interest, so mix together objects from different periods of time that are different colors and textures. Roomy seating, soft fabrics, indoor plants, and natural materials bring comfort. Paintings or mirrors with gilt frames and sculptures of figures bring formality to a room, while rustic décor make rooms more casual. In short, bring antique and vintage objects into your home and naturally will follow interest, comfort, formality and casualness.

3) I want to start collecting antiques, but I don’t know where to start? Can you offer some tips?

Start small and with what you love. For example, vintage shop signs, interesting glassware (preserving jars or demijohn bottles), ceramics, garden pots, sunburst mirrors, paintings and prints & drawings. Taking out memberships at art museums can open you to the world of collecting as well. Visit flea markets.

4) Will antique and vintage furniture work in a modern home and with modern décor?

Yes. Mixing objects and architecture from different periods creates interest and looks imaginative. Contrasting an ornate mirror with a rustic stone sculpture looks great and brings simplicity back. Not all antique and vintage décor is ornate, however, and these objects – for instance like a club chair – can work well next to a chic modern table, just as an ancient terracotta pot can look spectacular on the edge of a modern swimming pool.

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LORI DEAL September 07, 2021


LORI DEAL August 18, 2021

Thank you for this most wonderful article. I adore your style and am trying to reproduce it in my home in Australia. I aspire to create a little piece of what you have produced and am so grateful for your informative articles. Simply wonderful ! Thank you so much.

BERNADETTE PHILLIPS September 07, 2021

Thank you for this most wonderful article. I adore your style and am trying to reproduce it in my home in Australia. I aspire to create a little piece of what you have produced and am so grateful for your informative articles. Simply wonderful ! Thank you so much.


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