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Upcycling & Antiques

Antiques inspired Upcycling Interior Design Trends :

Have you ever inherited or been given a piece of antique furniture which you have stored away because you don’t know how to incorporate it into a modern room setting? In our ‘Upcycling & Antiques’ blog post we help you to understand how to incorporate antiques into your interior design schemes.

Antique pieces, especially furniture are still in high demand today, mainly because the quality of the wood and the craftsmanship are second to none. They are also a little bit of history that don’t deserve to be thrown out, as they can be lovingly incorporated into a home by mixing them with modern pieces and accessories or by upcycling.

Why not try storing your teabags in a Georgian tea caddy (selection available here by Selling Antiques) in a contemporary kitchen setting, that would contrast beautifully against modern, metro kitchen tiles and is much nicer than a metal tin with ‘Tea’ emblazoned across the front. Metro tiles offer a practical, clean design that works in both a contemporary or period room, team with vintage accessories to give a retro vibe to a modern kitchen.

Antiques inspired upcycling: Mixing modern metro tiles with antique furniture. Image McQuin Partnership Interior Design.

Or a modern, flat screen television could sits quite happily on an antique Korean coin box or an Asian dresser which is great storage for DVD’s or for use as a bedside table (we found a great range of Asian style dressers listed here on Houzz.) The trend to incorporate vintage pieces into modern design schemes has boomed since the rise of inspiring interiors and set designs that have been showcased in hit TV shows.

In our Sex and The City 2 Set Design inspired blog post we look at the Conde Nast office scene that features the iconic Dorothy Draper chest of drawers, that have influenced thousands of replicas and copies of the highly popularised style of drawers.

Upcycling furniture: Inspired by Antiques. Sex and the City film scene in the Conde Naste office. Dorothy Draper Chest of Drawers.

If you want to invest in an original, authentic antique Dorothy Draper piece try 1stdibs, an antique auction house or Ebay, who have a great range of Dorothy Draper original pieces for sale. But antiques are definitely investment pieces and will often be quite pricey to buy an original. If like us, an original is out your price range at the moment why not try upcycling an Ikea Rast set of drawers (£20.) We’ve found some fantastic how-to guides here by Design Manifest and Cup Half Full to show you how to get the look for a lot less cost.

Naomi from Interior blog Design Manifest upcycled her drawers to use as a TV console, and applied the same look to the plywood topper that houses her dvd player. Naomi’s beautiful drawers below, showcase how upcycling modern furniture into beautiful, antique inspired pieces can be easily achieved with a bit of creativity and can be done for a fraction of the cost.

Antique Inspired Upcycling: TV Cabinet ikea rast interior design ideas dorothy draper drawers diy via:

At the moment designers tend to shy away from what the antique trade and auction houses class as ‘brown furniture’. There are some exceptions though such as Interior Designer John Minshaw and the French decorator and designer Frédéric Méchiche who both know how to expertly add the odd antique or a classic 20th century piece into their rooms with stunning effect.  Like below, Frederic Mechiche’s living room, a mixture of antiques and modern furniture in a neutral setting together with contemporary artwork and sculptures.

Antique inspired upcycling: Frederic Mechiche's living room: an eclectic mix of antique furniture and curated, iconic statement pieces.

His interiors tells a story, each piece carefully curated, a mix of old and new iconic design pieces throughout his Paris apartment. Originally three separate apartments, the space was transformed into a spacious home in the famous historic Marais district of Paris. The properties period features have been carefully preserved by Méchiche to house his extensive collection of antiques and iconic, statement pieces like his eclectic mix of sculptures, seating areas and of course, his fantastic chair collection dotted throughout.

Antiques inspired upcyclng: the iconic Butterfly chair by Jorge Ferrari-Hardoy.

Our favourites are the Butterfly chair by Jorge Ferrari-Hardoy seen above, Ebay have a great selection of antique complete ones up for auction. Or to give upcycling a go you could purchase a vintage metal butterfly frame or use a camping chair frame. Circa 50 specialise in Butterfly chair canvas spares for the original chairs, so you could either order a replacement Butterfly chair cover or for the creative type, we found some great DIY tutorials here from Pretty Handy Girl & Melissa Esplin to make your own.

The Knoll Bertoia Diamond Chair is another iconic statement piece, we found a great replica Diamond chair available at Online Reality (£107.95.) Or the iconic Barcelona Chair that is also part of  Méchiche’s collection, we found a similar, replica style Barcelona chair available from Voga, £437.00.

upcycling inspired by antique: Frederic Mechiche living room, a mixture of antiques and modern furniture in a neutral setting together with contemporary artwork and sculptures.

The room is kept light and airy, with light, panelled, wooden flooring and light walls throughout that unite the space, whilst providing a neutral backdrop to his wonderful antique collection. If you want to recreate the look, why not invest in several statement lamps to extend your design scheme into another room like above ( do a similar style large Bow lamp (£99.)

Or if you want to give upcycling a try why not invest in a pair of second hand, wooden chairs and give them a new lease of life with Valspar’s Chalky finish paint. For a distressed look paint in either ‘Her Dainties, a neutral, cream shade or channel Parisian chic with ‘Moonstone Ring’ which is a beautiful, pale grey. Then use sandpaper to focus on the corners and edges where natural wear would occur to give it that distressed, antique look. For those who don’t fancy giving upcycling a go, Joss and Main’s Etre Upholstered Chair in Natural & Grey is a beautiful, French décor statement piece, without the hassle (£149.95.)

In another area of the welcoming apartment, his antique, statement Florence Knoll furniture in the library area draws the eye. The 19th century wall panelling and bare floorboards rescued from a salvage yard provide the perfect setting for his mid-century modern furniture and Barcelona chairs. The iconic Florence Knoll sofa seen in Haze available from Knoll (£7,464.46) and the Ludwig Mies van der Rohe Barcelona chairs surround the glass-topped Knoll square coffee table, both available from Knoll (£3501.34 for the chair £457.90 for the table.)

Antique inspired upcycling: Frederic Mechiche's living room continued: Knoll & Herman Miller pieces of furniture, statement art and overloaded bookshelves.

These iconic, design pieces would cost a lot to buy at auction or second hand,  if you want to re-create the fresh, clean look for less the Swivel UK  Knoll style three- seater sofa (£1,078.00) is a great investment piece if an authentic Knoll is out your price range. Or what about their replica Barcelona chair also available at Swivel UK (£452.00.) Or try incorporating the Yoko sofa bed from (£199.00) that has the Knoll signature look, but at a fraction of the cost.

We also love the surrounding, tall bookshelves that line the spacious room. If you can’t get away with ceiling height bookshelves in your home, why not try to recreate a similar look with a book print wallpaper. We found some fantastic versions both seen below, for a budget-friendly £7.99 a roll try Go Wallpaper’s Grandeco Library Book Shelf Wallpaper or splurge on Cole & Son’s Ex Libris wallpaper print (£101.00 a roll available at Wallpapers Direct.)

Re-create the ceiling high bookshelves with The Grandeco Library Book Shelf Wallpaper by Go Wallpaper.

Antique inspired upcycling: Cole & son Fornasetti Collection Ex Libris wallaper

When mixing antiques in with modern interiors, the trick is not to overload the space. Too many pieces of heavy brown furniture together can look like a museum, especially if the room has thick velvet curtains and dark coloured walls as the Victorians would have done. But incorporating one exquisite, antique writing desk along with a contemporary chair will happily accommodate your modern computer.

We found a great selection of affordable desks of all shapes and sizes on Ebay, or maybe try visiting a car boot sale or antiques auction to find a bargain. For the chair, either invest in an iconic, vintage Herman Miller Eames Plastic Side Chair or save with a great replica piece like the DSW ABS Plastic Chair available to buy from Swivel UK (£108.00.) Fancy giving upcycling a go? Copy Thornback & Peel’s vintage Parker Knoll chair, and reupholster an antique chair in a modern fabric like their teal sardine tin print (available to buy at Thornback & Peel, £750.00).

Thornback & Peel Parker Knoll chair in their teal sardine print fabric. Antiques inspired upcycling

INSPIRED BY ANTIQUES & UPCYCLING Bloglovin (n.d) Antique desk with Eames chair [ Online image]. Available from: [Accessed 03.01.15]

Or if you prefer, why not try it in reverse. Invest in an antique, dark-wood chair and try upcycling the desk. Many can be re-purposed into storage units, bed-side tables or just upcycle an old, used one with a coat of paint in a bright, unexpected shade to turn it into a statement piece. We found some great tutorials for transforming your desk from Bliss at Home, whilst The Design Sponge shows you how to upcycle a desk into an exciting desk design for a child. Remade in Britain is also a great source of inspiration, as well as Upcycle That, Hipcycle, Upcyclers, Upcyclist, Upcycle, Muck N Brass for lots of ideas to inspire your upcycling projects.

To create an overall look, your antique or upcycled piece of furniture needs to be the statement, team with a light neutral room setting and simple but beautifully made curtains, and a selection of modern prints (we found a great selection of prints at King & McGraw) to give you a beautifully unique space to be envied.

Inspired by Antiques & Upcycling: Vintage mahogany dining table with modern chairs examples.

When you inherit furniture, many don’t know what to do with ‘great grandma’s mahogany dining table.’ Many store it away in the garage with tins of paint stacked on top, but if you bring it in you can give it a new lease of life with a new colour scheme or paint it.

Or why not mix it up by adding a variety of different chairs like these replica Eero Saarinen Tulip chairs from Retro Furnish (£71.68 each), or add a funky industrial light fitting over the top, like the Corbridge Chrome Lantern from Laura Ashley (£72.00),’s Jackson Pendant light (£69.00) or Joss and Main’s Bulla 3-Light Pendant (£65.95) to add an urban edge to your interior scheme. Not only will mixing old and new furniture make your dining room or space exude individuality, it will also look magnificent and act as a focus point in any room.

Bulla three light pendant Joss & Main an urban edge to a modern design scheme mixing modern interior schemes with antique furniture pieces

And don’t forget your upholstered items, these can be upcycled too. If they need a new lease of life and are currently just sat in the corner of a room in a drab, faded  fabric – they usually have quality heavy mahogany frames, which can easily be stripped down by an upholsterer and covered in something fitting to your interior scheme, like a fabulous grey linen for that French country look or covered in a wacky contemporary design. It means that you can save money when redecorating. You don’t have to buy new furniture, instead give upcycling a go. You can easily transform an antique piece you no longer want or use it a beautiful, statement piece of furniture with some inspiration and a bit of creativity.

Inspired by Antiques & upcycling: examples of upholstered items that can be re-upholstered to give them a new lease of life.

Or if all you own is Ikea furniture, Bemz specialise in a range of covers in beautiful high quality and designer fabrics specifically for Ikea furniture. You can create luxury looking furniture by upcycling your tired, old chair and replacing  with a designers guild fabric or luxurious, baroque covers instead.

Perhaps now is the time not to follow the crowd by buying new furniture, but to look at ways we can incorporate our existing pieces from the past into our homes. You will also save a very serviceable item from being destroyed, in this consumer age by recycling, reusing or upcycling the perfect piece and incorporating it into your design scheme. Even small items can be incorporated into a design, such as this small antique oak table used as a fitting for this contemporary washbasin, below. Or why not look to Pinterest for inspiration, try upcycling wooden crates into storage shelves in your bathroom like these great examples on Pinterest.

Inspired by antiques & upcycling furniture: transform furniture by giving it a new use like this oak table that is now used as part of a wash basin.

We hope we have inspired you to check what furniture you have already that could easily be incorporated into your new design scheme. Armed with some inspiration and a new coat of paint why not give upcycling a go before you head off to buy new? Our top tip, check out online furniture sites or a few interior design magazines for design and colour inspiration before upcycling an existing piece. It is always better to have a final result in mind before you make a start, and you’ll be amazed at just how much a piece can be transformed with just a fresh coat of paint in an unexpected shade and a set of stylish new handles.

Or if you are interested but don’t own any antique furniture, why not visit your local auction house to pick up a bargain. They are great fun and you can pick up some wonderful pieces relatively cheaply and for a lot less than you would pay on the highstreet. Or shop online at Antiques Atlas, Decorative Collective, 1st Dibs or Ebay.

NDA’s Top Tips:

  • Do view the pieces before auction day and for any pieces you like set yourself a limit of what you want to pay for the item.
  • Don’t get auction fever and pay too much there will always be another auction and another just as exciting piece waiting for you.
  • Remember to check how much commission the Auction house charges as this will be added to the hammer price.

Interested in learning more about Interior Design?

We offer a range of specialist courses from Diploma to MA level, please visit our Interior Design courses page to download a prospectus. Or for further information please email or call us on +44(0)1159 123 412. 

Metro tile kitchen image: 11.06.15]Apartment Therapy (n.d) Antique table/ Industrial light [Online image]. Available from:  [Accessed 03.01.15]
Bloglovin (n.d) Antique desk with Eames chair [ Online image]. Available from: [Accessed 03.01.15]Brooke Giannetti (n.d)  Linen covered sofa and chair [Online image] Available from:

projects.html [Accessed 21.03.15]

 Elements of Style(22.02.15) Zebra skin covered chair [Online image] Available from: ; [Accessed 21.03.15]

 J.K.Kling Associates (n.d) Dark wood table plus fabric covered chairs [Online image]. Available from: [Accessed 21.03.15]

 Library room (n.d) Antique table and Eero Saarinen chairs [Online image]. Available from: ; [Accessed 09.03.15]

Light hearted woman (20.03.13) Oak table plus contemporary washbasin [Online image] Available from: [Accessed 21.03.15]

Luxe Interiors + Design ( n.d) Antique black lacquer desk with vintage 1960 chair [Online image]  [Accessed 03.03.15]

Paper city (n.d) Frederic Mechiche’s Living room [Online image]. Available from: [Accessed 21.03.15]

 Asian Tea Caddy collection[Accessed 10.06.15]

 Sex and the City 2 movie Conde Nast office scene. [online image] courtesy of [Accessed 10.06.15]

Asian Dressers collection [Accessed 10.06.15]

 Dorothy Draper furniture collection and examples 11.06.15]

 Dorothy Draper furniture pieces for sale [Accessed 11.06.15]

 Dorothy Draper furniture pieces for sale [Accessed 11.06.15]

 Ikea Rast drawers 11.06.15]

 Dorothy Draper DIY [Accessed 11.06.15]

 Another Rast Hack 11.06.15]Knoll Hardoy Butterfly Chair 11.06.15]</p

Before & after Butterfly chair 11.06.15]

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How to recover a butterfly chair 11.06.15]

The Bertoia Diamond Chair by Knoll 11.06.15]

Ebay listings Butterfly Chairs 11.06.15]

Butterfly chair covers available at [Accessed 12.06.15]

Eames Plastic Moulded Chair by Herman Miller [Accessed 12.06.15]


The Diamond Armchair [Accessed 11.06.15]

The Barcelona replica chair 12.06.15]

Frédéric Méchiche’s Apartment [Accessed 12.06.15]

Bow Lamp 12.06.15]

Parisian Chair by Joss & Main 12.06.15]

Chalky finish paint [Accessed 11.06.15]

The iconic Florence Knoll sofa 12.06.15]

The Barcelona Chair 11.06.15]

The Knoll square coffee table 11.06.15]

Knoll style three-seater sofa available at: 12.06.15]

Yoko sofa bed 11.06.15]

Grandeco Library Book Shelf wallpaper [Accessed 12.06.15]

Ex Libris, The Forcenetti Collection by Cole & Son 12.06.15]

Cole and Son Wallpaper Collection 12.06.15]

Barcelona style chair 12.06.15]

Ebay writing desk listings 12.06.15]

Modern Art Prints available at: 12.06.15]

Upcycling inspiration 12.06.15]

Bulla Light [Accessed 13.06.15]

DIY desk makeover 12.06.15]

Corbridge Light 12.06.15] [Accessed 13.06.15]

Eero Saarinen replica chair [Accessed 12.06.15]

Wooden crate storage inspiration[Accessed 12.06.15]

Bemz Ikea furniture covers available at:[Accessed 13.06.15]

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11 responses

  1. I liked the way you put together everything, there is certainly no need to go any further to look for any additional information. You mentioned each and everything that too with much of ease.

  2. Your writing has impressed me. It’s simple, clear and precise. I will definitely recommend you to my friends and family. Regards and good luck.

  3. Its important to make use of unwanted things by recycling them instead of throwing. The recycling of materials can help us to make more profit.Even utilizing the second hand office furniture can be a great way of securing some big savings.

  4. Thank you for posting an image including the Butterfly Chair which is my all time favorite ! I own the Butterfly Chair since 20 years and it gets more and more beautiful every year – I think it is the last piece of furniture I will give away when I will have grown old and I am sure my children will be fighting to get it – can there be a bigger compliment for a chair ?

  5. Dealing with antiques is just a next-level thing for any upcycling artist. Most of the antiques are too expensive to experiment on them and the upcycling artists listed above are pure professional so they actually know what to do and have achieved some great success. I personally don’t have the balls to upcycle an antique.

  6. The theme and pictures are really wonderful and we wish more

  7. Your blog is very interesting and clear. I really appreciate your post.

  8. I love your site. This is the first time I’ve visited but there will be many more.

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