Vintage Meets Modern

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Spaces that mix old and new pieces should reflect the owners’ style and personality. | Photo by Karyn Millet

Blend retro-inspired and contemporary decor for timeless elegance.

By Tanya A. Yacina


Mixing modern design pieces with retro or vintage-inspired items can create a unique aesthetic in a home. Michael Fullen, founding principal of Fullen Enany Design Group, says spaces should reflect the owner’s style and, at the same time, have a soul. Mixing old with new adds character and a bit of history, regardless of overall style.

“Most of us have treasured items from our past. I like to use those items as part of the home’s interior design,” Fullen says. “This could be anything from a kid’s baseball glove, a collection of vintage items or an heirloom piece of furniture. [Incorporating] items from someone’s past [helps to] personalize … the spaces.”

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Visit vintage stores or antique shops to see what catches your eye, then incorporate those pieces into your home’s interior. | Photo by Karyn Millet

According to Fullen, experts in the design world have been mixing traditional decor with contemporary items for many years, but the idea has more recently caught the eye of mainstream retailers. Now, reproduction architectural etchings, aged rugs, Roman statue fragments, distressed leathers and even French garden plans are just some of the examples of trending items that can help you achieve this aesthetic.

“Since we all retreated back to our own homes in early 2020, I think we all wanted our home to not only function properly for us, but also make us feel comfortable and relaxed,” he notes. “Adding a little bit of character and warmth helps to achieve that feeling and sense of comfort.”

Fullen says that when his team works on a project, they get to know a lot about the owners and their families, try to uncover personal interests and assess the client’s current decor. Along the way, he “collects” items that play to those interests and can be used as decorative accessories or furnishings.

“It is very easy to make a home feel collected over time if we delve into the interests of those that … live there,” Fullen says. “Consider using a vintage rug in a contemporary room setting. Pull out old black-and-white photos and create a collection, or mix art from different periods and styles and hang salon style.”

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Vintage and modern pieces can be used together within the same room. | Photo by Brett Gum

He also recommends visiting vintage stores or antique shops to see what catches your eye; it doesn’t have to be a major investment to make a statement. Pair a contemporary house designed using glass and steel with an antique console in the entryway, and it would not look out of place. Meanwhile, he adds, a Spanish Revival home could be completely outfitted in contemporary furnishings.

“Mixing old and new has no specific rules—use what you love,” Fullen says. “It’s your personal space and it should reflect each of the family members [in its design and decor].”

In the Mix

Use these products—a blend of modern and retro designs—to create a home that is all your own.

Desk Clock, George Nelson, 1947-1953 vertigo
Designed in the 1950s by George Nelson, this battery-operated DIAMOND DESK CLOCK, a refreshingly original mid-century modern piece, offers an alternative to traditional timekeepers and will look right at home anywhere in the house, $765, online at Vertigo Home, which closed its brick-and-mortar store but the Laguna-based owners still sell furniture and home decor through their website. (949-738-0374;
Featuring a neutral-colored strap for easy assimilation, the circular LEATHER WRAPPED MIRROR, which comes in both small and large sizes, is a unique yet practical piece that will seamlessly blend with any design style, from $250, at The Garage Collective. (949-715-0868;
The traditional CANE TEAKWOOD DRESSER expertly complements both modern and classic pieces with intricate rattan detailing and four drawers that offer ample storage, $2,000, at Tuvalu Home Environment. (949-497-3202;
Small Narrow Mouth Pot@5x
Inspired by the ancient Greek use of clay containers for storage, each SMALL NARROW MOUTH WHITEWASHED RIBBED POT is over 100 years old and hand-selected from villages in the Mediterranean region, $550, at Nuance. (949-494-8833;
441 lifestyle sofa chair
With tapered arms, a scalloped back, deep channel stitching and plush twin cushions, the mid-century modern PEARL SOFA allows you to add some retro style to your home in the form of ultracomfortable seating—and its leather upholstery comes in a variety of hues to match any color scheme, from $2,219, with advance order at Modern Studio. (949-376-0103;
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