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A Fresh Take on Antiques, Starting in the Bedroom

Not your grandmother’s decor, antiques are getting a new spin from today’s top designers, such as Kelli Ellis, renowned for her edgy glamorous style.

Bedroom Design by Kelli Ellis Courtesy Erika Bierman

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Have you ever wondered why one space feels more comfortable than others, or how there must be a trick to making a space look inviting? Decorating with antiques connects us to the past and creates a sense of warmth and comfort in our spaces. They also help us create our own unique story.

After spending the last 20-plus years in design, I still find our choices in home decor fascinating, especially when incorporating antiques. After all, people are drawn to things that have history, provenance, and that say something about themselves.

Layering older pieces with new designs and incorporating reclaimed items with new ones is how the illusion begins. Working very closely with the antique trade of Europe and the UK, I am armed with all the interior design tools to help you build a beautiful, welcoming space and tell your story. And there’s no better place to start the first chapter than the bedroom, the most personal room in the home.

Why Antiques Make the Most Impactful Design—Starting with a Bedroom Makeover

Adds Warmth & Comfort

Bedroom Design by Kelli Ellis Courtesy Jeri Kogel

The bedroom is arguably the most personal space in the home, a refuge you revisit night after night. Because it is your private oasis, it’s best to begin the process of incorporating antiques in the primary bedroom. You can experiment behind closed doors until you’ve settled on your approach for the rest of the home.

Private spaces give us a deeper glimpse into the occupant––their style, taste, and what they truly call a comfortable haven. Whether you like the feeling of a luxury mattress complete with a grandiose headboard, or you love the woodworking details of centuries-old armoires, they share that quality of “comfort.” The use of wood and layers creates a feeling of comfort, and the bedroom is the easiest room to incorporate both. But why do we associate wood with warmth?

In a 1992 Japanese study in Masuda, the findings showed that interior spaces containing high proportions of wood are generally described as “warm” and “calming.” For a primary bedroom makeover, I cannot think of a better material to be the majority finish in your personal respite space. Thankfully wood comes in many styles, whether it’s carved, bent, stained, bleached, whitewashed, ebonized, or embellished.

Choosing a signature piece is key for your bedroom transformation. For such a personal room, select items based solely on how you feel when looking at them, regardless of style. Don’t worry about matching pieces or collections: Choose a unifying wood tone in the different pieces, and then have fun. Combining antiques from different eras or from different countries may initially feel strange, but there is depth and elegance in the madness.

Reuse & Recycle

Bedroom Design by Kelli Ellis Courtesy Jeri Kogel

When we obtain raw materials and energy to produce new goods, we deplete resources that are not entirely renewable. Conversely, a century ago, we valued our furnishings and used them throughout our lifetimes. If it was broken, we repaired it. We are now a throwaway culture with the mindset that if it is not worth repairing, we replace it with more of the same. A new chest of drawers has a carbon footprint 16 times higher than the antique equivalent per year, according to research commissioned by IACF (International Antiques & Collectors Fairs), conducted by the Antiques are Green Association in London.

Antique furniture is also far more robust than its modern counterparts; it uses solid wood rather than laminated chipboard. Large vintage and antique pieces like bed frames and armoires are more durable for the long-term and less likely to break or get damaged during a move and everyday use. While you are creating an environmentally conscious space, using organic and recycled materials in your bedding and mattresses just makes good sense. Making your perfect haven means eliminating the chemicals and strong odors found in synthetic products and opting for natural materials. To complement your green-minded antiques, seek out brands that work diligently to be sustainable. Buy quality items, one time, the first time!

Create Focal Points

Bedroom Design by Kelli Ellis Courtesy Erika Bierman

Focal points are usually the first items that catch your eye. They provide the most significant impact when you walk into a room or create a vantage point from another room. If the largest item in the room is antique, you can kill two birds with one stone, adding design and durability. Imagine the antique as three-dimensional art, and place it in the eye-catcher spot. Your large antique pieces should add character to an interior with a hint of another era and place, not create a museum vibe with a “do not touch” energy.

Multiple focal points with smaller interesting items keep the eyes flowing around the room. When we use a few focal points of interest in one room, the room feels pleasant to us. And there is no better room to feel comfortable in than the bedroom.

Antiques don’t need to be the centerpiece of the room, but vintage accent items such as a unique piece of furniture, interesting light fixtures, and wall decor add subtle character, a pop of color, and visual layers. Again, don’t be afraid to mix styles and time periods. The trick is always to find a unifying color to tie all the accent pieces together.

Final Thoughts

It’s time to embrace—and perhaps even seek out—antique furniture for your next room makeover. By adding antiques to your haven, like a vintage bed, opulent chandelier, or antique mirrors over your nightstands, you are creating moments of visual impact while actively practicing sustainability by reusing and recycling. When planning your bedroom design and choosing antiques, you are deciding on your own story. Make sure to look for antiques and vintage pieces with character and their own story to tell, too.

Kelli Ellis is the vice president of global industry relations for Ronati, a technology platform for art and antique dealers. The brainchild behind Design Psychology Coach, Kelli helps antique dealers worldwide to sell online. She’s also a celebrity designer who has appeared on TLC’s Clean Sweep and HGTV’s Takeover My Makeover and House Hunters Renovation.