Taking the transitional route

Taking the transitional route

Taking the transitional route

Modern and vintage furniture can be blended to form sophisticated chic. Tina Srichand Menda tells you how to find a common ground between these two styles

If you are looking to decorate your new home and rummaging around for thematically-inspired furniture, there are several interior design styles to pick from. Fashionable designers today are blending furniture from different decorating styles, colours, and patterns to create a new genre of homes called ‘transitional homes’ that have a seamless mix of vintage and modern furniture.

Vintage furniture is high quality furniture that represents styles of the past. The term loosely applies to furniture that pre-dates 1965. Vintage furniture is mature as it has crossed generations and has its own story to tell. It is extremely well-made with intricate details. It has an enduring appeal and its innate beauty lasts long after its intended function has been obsolete. But do not confuse it with antique furniture that typically is over 100 years old.

Modern furniture refers to furniture created between the 1920s and 1950s. It has a defined style and does not change. It broadly refers to ‘mid-century modern’ and is recognisable by its clean, unadorned lines and use of natural materials such as wood, leather and linen. Modern furniture is airy and open. Again, it should not be mixed with contemporary furniture which is popular and currently being used. Contemporary furniture is ever-changing.

However, when history repeats itself, the lines can sometimes get fuzzy. So, contemporary furniture could include modern furniture and antique furniture could be vintage.

The good and the bad

Modern furniture is sleek and simple with a focus on function and organisation. No clutter or chaos, just basic geometry. The essence of modern furniture is to build for function, without traditional decoration, embracing industrial materials like chrome, glass and concrete. Modern furniture makes life easier, doing away with dusting around knick-knacks and polishing detailed carvings. Modern furniture pieces are kept to the minimum and are honest, built for economy of form and to serve a purpose.

Vintage furniture is lovingly crafted and has been standing for decades, testimony to its durability. It is classic, never going out of fashion and makes a statement. Vintage furniture is environmentally friendly: a new chest of drawers has a carbon footprint that is 16 times higher than the antique equivalent per year. No two people will have exactly the same piece, and your piece is unique to you, making it extremely valuable.

With the good comes some bad. Modern furniture can be looked upon as cold, sterile and uncomfortable. Monochromatic and minimalistic furniture can be boring and clinical. It comes in light colours that could be difficult to maintain. While vintage furniture is made with solid wood and good workmanship, chances are it is damaged or has broken parts that need repair. Vintage furniture that is in perfect condition may be expensive, and a way to get a good bargain on your purchase is to find an older piece that needs a few repairs. Vintage furniture requires regular maintenance to retain its beauty and old charm.

All time periods of furniture have their own character, styles and the fluidity of what people want in their homes and lives is evolving. The general mindset is that modern furniture is for the smaller urban homes and was designed to be mobile and lightweight for city residents who moved frequently. Modern furniture is a fabulous choice for apartment and condo-owners as it increases space and is easy to clean. Vintage furniture, perceived to be expensive and heavy, is for the well-heeled with larger homes. Vintage furniture is picked by the sentimental and quality-conscious collectors.

However, all these notions have been thrashed and there is no rule that says all the furniture in your home needs to come from the same era. The challenge is to find common ground between both the styles and make it work, which is what transitional homes are all about. Modern and vintage can be blended to form sophisticated chic. A good way to do it would be to pick up vintage accent pieces like a coffee table or a dresser, while larger pieces like the sofa and bed, could be modern.

A well-designed space is one that has been collected over time and in the course of one’s travels. A neutral backdrop with functional, daily use furniture peppered with spontaneous, unexpected furniture choices, newly upholstered old finds, vintage focal points, and there you have it! There are a million ways to enjoy the best of both vintage and modern furniture. The only rule, probably, is that there are no rules.

(The author is architect and lead interior designer, Unishire)

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