How to decorate with antiques

Find yourself buying antiques with no idea how to style them? Benedict Foley shares his top tips for decorating with antiques.

Decorating with antiques

When we moved to our place in the country several years ago, we had things we’d brought with us from our respective London homes, we moved these in, moved them round, laughed a lot about what we’d thought would fit and didn’t, and then got to work on how we’d fill out the gaps that remained. It’ll be a familiar experience for anyone who’s moved to a place with a bit more space.

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We both work in Design so the ability to make decisions quickly about what goes in a space is something that we use on the daily, however you may be interested to know how we reach decisions as a couple! How on earth you might think can they make so many joint decisions quickly and not have blazing rows? Dear reader, we aren’t saints, but it does help to have a process in place!

1. Measure before you buy

It’s important to measure (preferably twice!) before you make any big purchases, particularly when it comes to buying larger pieces of antique furniture. Utility furniture for things like storing your jumpers makes a huge difference to daily life if you move quickly. It doesn’t have to be the piece of your dreams, think decent construction and fill the space you have in mind efficiently. If you buy a workaday piece you can make it sing with a great lamp and a new shade. Just make sure it will fit!

Decorating with antiques
Styled antiques in Benedict Foley & Daniel Slowik’s home for Cheffins Fine Sale

2. Don’t be afraid to decorate your walls with antiques

Decide where key items will hang, and the rest will follow. A painting of a good size over a sofa or an antique mirror over a fireplace are good places to start. These might seem obvious places, but they give you the focal points to a room and a framework for incidental purchases later. Small pictures next to lamps break the formality of a hang and are well placed to be enjoyed at night as well as in the day.

Decorating with antiques
Styled antiques in Benedict Foley & Daniel Slowik’s home for Cheffins Fine Sale

3. Buy large antique items

The impact a great mirror or painting will make on your room cannot be underestimated. A sofa waiting to be recovered combined with a good wall colour and a great antique mirror will make more impact than a mid-range spend on all items. Size wise, over-scaling is better than ending up with something that’s too small!

Decorating with antiques
Styled antiques in Benedict Foley & Daniel Slowik’s home for Cheffins Fine Sale

4. Collect antiques together

If you live with someone else, choose an area you both might want to collect in. This is nothing to do with practical considerations, it’s just things you both enjoy. Try going through a few catalogues and marking what you individually enjoy, and then see where you overlap. If you have a joint collection in the house, it makes it much easier to live with your partner’s individual choices!

We collect paintings of Venice; we both love the city so it wasn’t hard to agree on that! Small pieces like ceramics for the table or glasses are a great place to build up a harlequin collection, everyone in the household gets to add things without it needing to be a joint decision every time!

Decorating with antiques
Styled antiques in Benedict Foley & Daniel Slowik’s home for Cheffins Fine Sale

5. Have fun with your antiques

A pop of colour or a funny face can make all the difference in a room. It lets people know your sense of humour and keeps everything fresh. Auctions are usually full of curious items. What could be better than something unique and amusing?

Also remember that new made items are not a no no, just buy well-made items with real significance to you. Get to know the brand who makes them and you’ll find there are lots of people making great things in the UK, and small businesses tend to be low waste!

Decorating with antiques
Styled antiques in Benedict Foley & Daniel Slowik’s home for Cheffins Fine Sale

6. Don’t keep your antiques for best

We have antiques we use that are precious and give us a sense of occasion. If it’s the weekend and you’ve got friends over for dinner or drinks, use your auction treasures! It’s a great talking point – sharing what you love about things – and marks off the week, especially if you’ve been spending more time working from home of late! Handling things as you use them reminds you of what you love about them (yes, that even includes the washing up!)

Decorating with antiques
Styled antiques in Benedict Foley & Daniel Slowik’s home for Cheffins Fine Sale

7. Don’t dwell on missed antiques

Sometimes at auction you see something you love and it sales well beyond what you were prepared to pay for it. Don’t be dejected, clearly you have great taste! The whole fun of auctions is that there are so many unique items out there, as well as models which are similar. If you regularly view antiques sales you’ll get a sense of what is readily available and when to bring the big guns out. See it as fun!

Decorating with antiques
Styled antiques in Benedict Foley & Daniel Slowik’s home for Cheffins Fine Sale
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The Cheffins Fine Sale in collaboration with Benedict Foley and Daniel Slowik will be held on the 8th & 9th December 2021. You can see the full Cheffins calendar here.