How to mix antiques and contemporary pieces in your home

Introducing family heirlooms to a house with a different aesthetic can be a challenge, but designer and decorator Amynta Warde-Aldam has achieved this with aplomb in her Northumberland home. Feature Sara Bird. Photographs Dan Duchars.

Christmas house in northumberland
Published: December 10th, 2021 at 12:07 pm
Try 3 issues of Homes & Antiques for just £5

Amynta Warde-Aldam’s home serves as the perfect demonstration of her decorating style. Each room is a joyful mix of antiques, pared-back contemporary pieces, bold fabrics, pretty wallpapers and unexpected colour combinations.

Advertisement

Until recently, the house belonged to Amynta’s husband Jamie’s parents. Built in the 1790s, it sits in around an acre of private garden on a country estate that has been in Jamie’s family for generations. Remodelled in the 1980s and decorated in tune with the times, it was in need of updating.

The exterior

Christmas house in northumberland
The house was built in the 1790s from Northumberland stone and was the steward’s house on a country estate.
Christmas house in northumberland
The porch is from Garden Requisites. The front door is painted in Primrose No.69 by British Colour Standard. The wreath is by Flowers Unlimited.

Amynta describes the way the house has been chopped and changed over the years as ‘not entirely sympathetic’, and much of her work has focused on softening some of the harsher aspects.

The entryway

‘It lost character,’ she explains. ‘Both the staircase and the entrance were moved and it was quite starkly plastered. I wouldn’t usually use so much wallpaper in a house, but it’s a good way to put some character back.’

Christmas house in northumberland
The door to the pantry came from the big house on the estate. Originally it was the door to the linen store but when that was converted into a bathroom the glazed door was taken out. The hall runner was a gift from Amynta’s godmother for her first flat.

Amynta describes her aesthetic as late Georgian/Regency. ‘I like the balance and the symmetry of the period – that’s a big part of my signature style, along with details such as grid-hanging pictures, lots of books everywhere and painted floors. But I’m drawn to cool contemporary things, too,’ she says.

Work in London has led her to seek out modern pieces that she mixes with antiques from Judy Greenwood Antiques, wallpapers from David Skinner and fabrics from Jean Monro, though much of the furniture is inherited.

‘My parents really had no money at all but, back in the 1960s, you could buy pretty Georgian houses in Scotland very cheaply and they went to all these really junky sales and rescued things for pennies. I inherited some nice things from them and I suppose I’ve carried on in that tradition, as I have continued to buy those kinds of things when I see them,’ she adds.

‘I buy brown furniture and paint it black; the polite term is ‘ebonise’ but it’s still just black paint really,’ she says. ‘And, if you don’t do it too perfectly, it looks like it’s been that way for a long time.’

The bathroom

Christmas house in northumberland
The bathroom is papered in Healey Monkey Amynta wallpaper in its original colourway.

Recently, Amynta has found herself drawn to pieces from the Aesthetic Movement, noting how affordable they are in salerooms. ‘I love the carving and you can go mad with the upholstery on seating,’ she explains.

Being smart with the pennies extends to the fitted furniture in the house, which looks deceptively hand-crafted. The shelves that line the library came from Maisons du Monde, later customised with a coat of paint, while the kitchen cabinetry came from a local hardware store.

‘We really haven’t spent serious money on anything in this house, apart from pictures,’ she says. The house is full of clever contrasts: quietly decorated areas, such as the hallway and pantry, lead onto busily patterned rooms filled with block-print cushions and highly decorative wallpaper.

The library

Christmas house in northumberland
Amynta has been clever with her colour choices, using them to lead the eye through the house and to frame the entrances to the rooms. In recent years, Amynta has opted for ever smaller trees – the decorations are from RE.
Christmas house in northumberland
Amynta wanted the library to feel warm and comfortable; it also had to house their many books. The shelves are simple white ones from Maisons du Monde, painted Old Rose No. 314 and Beryl Blue No. 392 by British Colour Standard.

The kitchen

Christmas house in northumberland
Amynta’s smart colour choices in the kitchen make it look more expensive than it is. She designed the layout herself and the cabinetry came from a local hardware shop. Mirrored splashbacks add a sense of luxury but they are also practical as they bounce light around the room.
Christmas house in northumberland
The dinner service belonged to Jamie’s great- grandparents and is still complete. The chairs are from Angel & Boho. Amynta bought the mirror from a shop on Golborne Road and it gives the kitchen a sense of light and space.
Christmas house in northumberland
A simple wreath is a pretty addition to the kitchen window.

When it comes to colour, Amynta has discovered that the grey northern light can create spectacular effects, but it needs warmth to fall on. For wallpaper and fabrics, she often turns to her friend, designer Charlotte Gaisford, while paint generally comes through another friend, Victoria Whitbread of British Colour Standard. ‘It’s funny because I’ve never started a house from scratch,’ says Amynta. ‘I’ve always had something to work around and I realise I tend to take the same greens and pinks with me everywhere I go, partly because I like to match to my carpets.’

The drawing room

Fabric is one of Amynta’s great passions. She is especially fond of her Jean Monro chintzes and is a keen collector of vintage textiles, picking up pieces at trade sales such as the Déballage in Béziers, and from dealers such as Starched & Crumpled. ‘I like to cover sofas with antique French quilts and I use the smaller pieces for cushions,’ she says.

Christmas house in northumberland
The Persian rug in the drawing room inspired the choice of wallpaper, Healey Monkey Amynta by Charlotte Gaisford, which Amynta had recoloured. She bought the ottoman from Sellingantiques.co.uk and reupholstered it, complete with trim.
Christmas house in northumberland
The desk is Boulle work, veneered in tortoiseshell and inlaid with hammered brass. It belonged to Amynta’s father.
Christmas house in northumberland
The round table is a rent table that used to be in the library in the main house on the estate. The papier mâché tray is early Victorian and was bought at auction.

Amynta also collects Victorian papier mâché trays and turquoise china of all eras, but most of her favourite pieces are inherited, with personal memories attached. ‘There is a bell pull that came from the house in Scotland where I grew up,’ she says. ‘My parents separated and both died quite young so there were two houses and two collections that I split with my brother, and I have worked around these things ever since.’

The bedrooms

Christmas house in northumberland
The walls in this bedroom are painted Nettle Grey No. 390 from British Colour Standard. The bed linen is a mix of old and new, with an heirloom quilt on top of a modern version from Soak & Sleep. Pride of place in this room is a drum from the Coldstream Guards, Jamie’s father’s regiment.
Christmas house in northumberland
The wallpaper in Grace’s bedroom is from David Skinner, the French antique bed came from Judy Greenwood Antiques and the blind fabric is Jean Monro. The chair was Amynta’s when she was small and has been upholstered in a Jean Monro chintz.

Amynta remembers the little music cabinet in the hall from when she was a tiny baby. ‘My parents kept their records in it and there was a record player in the little drawer at the bottom. It’s funny, these are the things you drag around with you your entire life but it’s really quite lovely to do that.’

Advertisement

Christmas is very family orientated, with her children returning as well as Jamie’s siblings and their families. Last year they were 15 for dinner. ‘Having the estate on the doorstep means it’s easy to grab some ivy from our woods to drape around pictures and table settings, but we have shrunk our Christmas tree habits since we moved here,’ she says. ‘We used to decorate a 20-foot tree. Now we just look for the teeniest one we can find!’

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Sponsored content