Is it old or new? This living room has period architectural details that provide a lovely background to new reproduction furniture and Aubusson-style rug inspired by 18th century France.
With 21st century homes outfitted with the latest in technology -- state-of-the-art entertainment systems, ultra-fast computers and electronic labor-saving devices -- it may come as a surprise that among the most popular styles in decorating are the 18th and 19th centuries.
The allure of furnishings and decorative elements inspired by previous eras has never been more pervasive. Whether it's 1930s-inspired Art Deco, plush Victorian or elegant Neoclassical, decorating our homes with an eye to styles of the past has great appeal.
The range of decorating options reflective of past eras can take many directions, according to design experts. Here are their tips for bringing the richness of the past to your home:
Beautiful antique furniture and accessories can now be found in all price ranges. Everywhere, there are antique shops and flea markets offering everything from 18th century to mid-century modern pieces.
A more practical option for many is to choose furnishings that are either direct reproductions of important antique styles or those freely inspired by them. Many of the pieces in retail stores and showrooms today reflect previous periods, and, in some cases, it may take an expert to determine if it is a true antique or a good reproduction.
Some of today's loveliest fabrics are inspired by vintage looks. Stroheim & Romann, for example, adapts antique patterns to create new fabrics.
Besides brocades, other fabrics that reflect the past include damasks, velvets, moires, tapestries, silks, embroideries, sheers, paisleys and floral prints. Using these fabrics instantly imparts a timeless look.
Architectural elements bring a historical dimension to a room. If your home is devoid of these details, they can be added as moldings, fireplace mantels, decorative woodwork, wainscoting, or ceiling beams.
Choose accessories that complement your period style. Whether antique or brand new, lamps and chandeliers, vases, picture frames and artwork, clocks, pillows, and rugs can create a vintage mood. Decorative drapery hardware, for example, can include adaptations of 19th century styles in gilt, wood or brass.
Keep in mind that certain things have improved considerably since the 18th or 19th centuries, and sometimes modern reproductions are preferable to antiques. For example, queen- and king-sized beds did not exist then, nor did coffee tables. Upholstered furniture is far more comfortable now. Lighting choices are much broader, including subtle mood lighting, versatile dimmers and strong reading lights.
Some of the most interesting rooms in the past had beautiful fabric-upholstered walls or wallpaper, a look that can readily be achieved today.
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