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How to use antiques in home decor

By Ricky Toledo and Chito Vijandre, The Philippine STAR Published Jul 31, 2021 6:00 am

Decorating with antiques often comes with the fear that our houses will look like fusty museums. Yes, the danger is always there, but this only happens when you collect pieces mindlessly and display them arbitrarily. Otherwise, there will be more rewards than if you just limited yourself to the newly made and contemporary.

There is, after all, an innate desire to connect with the past, which we are learning during the pandemic.  Instead of our usual workaday world of always looking forward to the next big thing, we are able to pause and take stock of what we had and delve into personal histories that define who we are. 

Thus, we get to appreciate old pieces that connect with our childhood. It might be an inherited mesa altar that is just gathering dust in storage or a butaka from family memories that now has a similar version sold online. 

It’s pieces like these that can make our living spaces more meaningful, reflecting our authentic selves, enlivening settings with context and history while speaking of today.

It’s pieces like these that can make our living spaces more meaningful, reflecting our authentic selves, enlivening settings with context and history while speaking of today. Not to mention that they are sustainable since they are already in existence and will not add to the carbon footprint.

Antique pieces have also stood the test of time because of the quality of material and craftsmanship, which means they can last many years more than many of their contemporary counterparts.

Work around a statement piece

The easiest way to incorporate an antique in interiors is to choose a statement piece. In a kitchen, for example, an antique table with beautifully carved legs can be the piece de resistance in an otherwise utilitarian-looking space. As the central working area, it dominates the room and gives warm feelings of family gatherings of cooking and sharing favorite dishes. 

A favorite chair or new find can be the highlight of a corner framed by a painting.

Mix styles and eras

Antiques are better appreciated when contrasted with other styles and eras. These Philippine niño wooden sculptures (photo by Ricky Toledo) come alive because they’re matched with a Tibetan chest set against streamlined modern furniture in vivid colors and abstract paintings on the walls. When mixing old and new, they should share a common attribute, like here the shared jewel colors unite them. 

A Vietnamese Dong Son drum and Chinese ceramic drum stools are matched with a modern Western sofa with abstract paintings in the background and midcentury lighting. A Philippine santo on the side table contrasts with a modern rendition of a bulol in neon green. (Photo by Ricky Toledo)

The classic lines of European or Philippine colonial furniture and accessories like this Venetian style mirror and Batangas altar tables can be good backdrops for sculptural ethnic pieces that make you appreciate both genres more because of the contrast: The florid lines and elaborate ornamentation of the former and the purity of form of the latter. (Photo by Ricky Toledo)

Assemble a collection of memorable pieces

If you have a passion for bulols, for example, you can assemble them together in a table but don’t let other similar objects compete by setting them off with something more graphic, like a modern painting or subtly patterned wallpaper. (Photo by Ricky Toledo)

Another way of putting collections together is choosing particularly memorable pieces collected from travels but grouping them based on color or shape so that there is orderliness to the madness. Disparate pieces can be united around a piece like an obelisk, which acts as a central axis. (Photo from

Framed paintings and prints can also make an interesting assemblage on a wall.  You can even add sconces with objects; just try to make a tight arrangement to make them appear like one major art collage. (Photo from

Repurpose to give new life

Put that bookshelf or aparador you inherited to good use by making it a bar instead, or to keep your sound and video system. It adds an element of surprise when something normally associated with a particular function is resurrected for something totally unexpected. (Photo from

Lacquered panels can be both functional and decorative by turning them into doors for your wardrobe in the bedroom or cabinet doors for your china and silver in the kitchen. (Photo from

A Victorian silver tea caddy and creamer make unusual vases. (AC+632)

Reinvent old pieces

Instead of always sticking to period upholstery for antique furniture, you can play around a bit. This Louis XV chair acquires a new, updated vibe with a solid fuchsia fabric. (Photo from

An old, frayed tapestry for the wall is salvaged and reinvented as a cushion on the sofa to accent the setting of an antique banquette and mirror. (Photo from