Modern Art in Antique Spaces: Part I


Recently I went to an event at an expanded 19th century farmhouse filled with gorgeous, envy-inducing modern art. It got me thinking (and fantasizing) about modern art in older homes.

If left to my own devices, I would buy exclusively abstract art and modern portraits. If left to dream, I would add in moody, dark portraits by Whistler, Sargent or Modigliani.

In reality, I’ve purchased almost no art. I have a couple vintage paintings I bought from an Emily Henderson blog sale, specifically this landscape you may remember from my laundry room:

And this mid-century vintage painting, which I joke is a portrait of me going to rodeos with my grandparents growing up:

I also have a couple of (gorgeous) pieces from my sister’s art school days, like this beautiful black and white portrait currently featured in my living room (it’s only 8×10, I wish it was larger because I love it so much!):

But in reality, the vast, vast majority of the art on my walls are things my in-laws don’t have a place for. On the one hand, this is great, because they bought beautiful things (with drop-dead gold frames) over the years, like this still life in my entry:

Or this sailboat on my mantel:

But on the other hand … this is kind of the opposite of the vivid, abstract art and moody portraits that I adore. Seeing a house full of modern art made me interested in finally getting at least a few modern items that are outside the seascape/still life genre!

The Internet is shockingly thin on inspiration pairing modern art with antique homes. However, the inspiration I did find made me think that the combination of modern art in an antique space would look timeless, yet fresh.

I adore this abstract piece by artist William McLure above an antique burl dresser in his home:


The bedroom in the cover image also features a piece by McLure in his home! The way he pairs abstract art with traditional furnishings and luxe fabrics is gorgeous.

I adore this large-scale portrait in a traditional, and otherwise fairly minimalist and simple, bedroom. The art really makes the whole room shine:


This antique home has been given a clean, classic look with tons of white gloss paint. Complementing the classic bones is traditional furniture and abstract art:


Heavy antiques are immediately visually lightened here when paired with modern art:


And though the furniture and accessories here are too heavy and gilt for me, I love how this beautiful artwork counteracts the weight of the furniture:


A small abstract portrait complements this minimalist, older fireplace beautifully:


There is also something so appealing about large-scale modern art. There are lots of gorgeous modern pieces out there that are simple black and white line drawings that add visual interest but are also soothing, like this huge piece:


Admittedly, almost all of the spaces above skew more 19th century than 18th century. Apparently those of us who live in antique colonial New England homes don’t tend to decorate with a lot of modern art!

Additionally, there is a trend toward minimalist antique and traditional homes right now. You see these types of Shaker-inspired and sparsely-decorated homes on Remodelista, for example, or what Emily Henderson refers to on her blog as “Modern Traditional.” Honestly, I love these older, austere looks … except for the lack of art and rugs! I don’t know what these folks have against warm feet and coziness with no rugs …

Ideally, I’d love to have a clean, simple style myself, warmed up with RUGS, and made more fun and visually interesting with modern art.

After the Thanksgiving holiday, tune in for Part II to see some modern art I’m loving for my traditional home …