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Create antique looks for your home on a budget

April Kennedy April Kennedy
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There's nothing quite like the warmth, personality and character of an antique item that has been pre-loved over generations. Craftsmanship of yesteryear was often vastly time intensive, and required hands-on detailing, so the products that do survive are usually incredibly durable. Not surprisingly, antique styling can infuse a home with a timeless ambience that's difficult to emulate with newer items.

But it's this very precious quality about antiques that make them often so rare and expensive. So how can you create antique styling on a budget?

The most common approach is to scour markets and second-hand shops for old furniture. But it can be tricky to navigate through the different vintages and styles on offer. Another popular approach is to re-treat newer items, using a creative combination of paints, glazes and distressing techniques.

The key is to use a clever combination of items depending on availability and personal taste. For a few inspirational photos and ideas on how to create the antique look for less, have a look at some of our favourite family heirlooms style ideas below.

Choose a feature sofa or armchair

 Living room by Linney Hughes
Linney Hughes

Victorian armchair

Linney Hughes

Instead of seeking out a whole set of antique seating, buy a single signature sofa or armchair. This can be placed in a prominent position as a feature item. Older armchairs can often be bought cheaply if they need to be recovered and re-stuffed. Even a simple wooden divan can be spruced up with antique styled cushions for the same effect.

Don't worry about the vintage of style of the items differing. This is only a problem if they are not quite matching. Contrary to popular thought, a mix of styles can only work if there is adequate contrast in shape, softness and colour.

Improvise a bedhead

An antique bed can be hugely expensive, not to mention uncomfortable. Instead of purchasing an entire antique bed, team a classic antique Asian wooden screen with a simple divan bed. If it's slightly battered, a fresh coat of paint will provide a bright, modern effect. For a more European approach, create a Victorian style bedhead with draperies pinned to the wall above a simple divan bed.

A simple study desk

 Study/office by BN International
BN International

Hendrik Voogd

BN International

An antique desk doesn't necessarily need to be the huge, ornately detailed old wooden desk of the past. The look can be created with a simple, wooden desk. If it's brand new, a variety of varnishes and paints can be used to create a distressed look. To complete the effect, use the right adornments. The home study of the past possessed a gorgeous variety of ornate ornaments, from old lamps, chairs, pen-holders and document holders and these can be easily and cheaply found both online and in secondhand markets. For a really fantastic effect, find an antique wallpaper like BN International has done here. 

A simple freestanding bathtub

 Bathroom by Drummonds Bathrooms
Drummonds Bathrooms

Drummonds Case Study: European Retreat, Denmark

Drummonds Bathrooms

Freestanding bathtubs filled a bathroom with timeless grace and beauty. Not surprisingly, they are having a huge resurgence in popularity at the moment. This means that it's not necessary to fork out the big bucks on the older copper or tin tubs that can be expensive and difficult to find. Newer equivalents are now widely available in a huge variety of sizes and styles to fit almost every home. To really nail down the look, use older style shower-heads, taps, towel-racks and fittings.

Create a distressed kitchen table

Creating an antique kitchen table can be a great DIY project. As with the antique desk, it's key to find something wooden. An old wooden table can be stripped down to its natural beauty or a newer table can be easily distressed.

Old furniture has often been moved and the corners bumped and damaged, so it's important to age the wood first by knocking the sharp corners, edges and exposed timber shreds with a hammer. A couple of layers of contrasting undercoats of paint will soften the look even more, and a final contrasting matt coat of paint should be applied roughly enough to let the under-layers show. Softly and unevenly sand it down for the final effect.

Accessories and experiment

 Walls & flooring by Flock Living
Flock Living

Flock carpets made in 100% Laneve, a premium wool sourced from Wools of New Zealand

Flock Living

Secondhand flea market finds are filled with random collections of older items. Some items may have the vintage look you're after, but run the danger of looking a bit like old junk. The secret is to look for good detailing, shape and form. And to avoid that scraggy finish, apply a fresh coat of high gloss paint for a modern effect. This can work beautifully with old chandeliers. Similarly, antique photos, suitcases, gilded mirrors, pictures or maps can be given a fresh, clean take with a coat of paint or a new faux antique picture frame in a bright colour.

For more ideas on how to add vintage character to your home, have a look at this ideabook Modern products inspired by the past

Do you have any other tips on how to create an antique look?
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