• Jessica Bellef

5 done right: Mixing old and new

In this series, I will pull together 5 images that give us insight into a certain styling topic that deserves a little analysis and explanation. First up... mixing eras!

Objects in a room talk to each other. The conversations are not sensed through your ears but observed visually. They are usually absorbed as a positive or negative emotional reading of a space. Pieces that come from a similar period will click together and converse like old friends. They share the same world view, so their conversation, while steady, may lack tension and seem kind of predictable and flat. Introducing a piece from another era will pivot conversation and instantly spice up the dialogue. Relationships will spark, as differences in form, colour and texture amplify, and elements find their own way to stand separate but together. Curate a successful conversation between the items in a room by finding a way to unite the separate pieces. Find the thread of consistency that draws the items together and search for the common ground. The goal is to quell noisy, confused groupings, and foster lively chatter and positive, dynamic interactions.

Image by @fleamarketfab

My first thought here was that this space works because it sticks to a proven colour combination of Neapolitan ice cream (yum in so many ways!) but upon closer inspection, there is more at play. The curves and muted colours soften and balance out the dark and demanding presence of the ornate baroque floor mirror. The effect swirls together in a satisfying way, like a melting bowl of our favourite tri-colour desert. The unifying clean white walls and floors create a gallery-like space that allows individual elements to shine.

Image by Andrea Papini

This is a very clever approach to mixing old and new. While the pieces themselves maaaaaay not be antique, the world conjured here is not entirely modern. The content of the artwork, with its sense of ruffled romance, hints at a bygone era but the simple gold frame modernises the piece. The clean lines of the fresh white cabinet and the midcentury pendant light contrast sharply with a wallpaper design that would be quite fussy in a head to toe antique setting. The detailed pattern associated with the Victorian era and the sedate shade of green is the perfect backdrop for the simplified forms and warm metallic details in the space.

Image by Luke Edward Hall

This is a truly eclectic little corner, located in the home of Luke Edward Hall and Duncan Campbell The deep green walls provide a lush, moody backdrop for the timber, leather and cane, and a few flashes of kitsch adds a confident casualness to the whole affair. This nook is not styled up in a sterile, prescribed way. It feels loose and accessible, with a friendly gathering of smaller occasional pieces that don't compete with each other.

Image by Nicole Franzen

This setting looks fresh and contemporary but when you break down the minimal setting, it's made up of throwback pieces. The walls of this dining nook are art-free but a stunning floor mirror with an arch detail adds a punchy, graphic statement. Black, bare floors and white walls create a clean platform for the gathering of antique timber chairs. The retro tulip table, laden with a rambling cluster of brass candlesticks and wild florals in an urn, makes a modern sculptural statement. This dining area is a blue ribbon example of 'less is more' when it comes to mixing eras.

Image by Beatriz Da Costa

This room would feel like a pre-mid century space if the sculptural coffee table and the contemporary artwork were removed. The addition of those two pieces shakes this space up completely and the result is an unexpected but oh-so-right mash-up of old and new. The glossy gold coffee table matches the lushness of the green velvet sofa and the curves in both pieces play together nicely. The green of the velvet sofa is key, acting as an anchor for the colour palette of the artwork (blue and green should always be seen!), and the simple but beautiful sheer curtains further uncomplicate the gathering of things. And don't forget, books will always make a room feel considered and complete, no matter the decorating era.