Adding antiques to your home landscape injects soul into any room
eugenia uhl photographS

On any given day I look into my stack of mail or open a local newspaper and see a chic ad for brand new furniture. I take time to read the catalogs and view each meticulously staged photograph, depicting perfect lives lived in well-appointed rooms. I often wonder: Where is the soul in that room?

Just as the soft wail of Tom Sancton’s clarinet or John Boutte’s smoky voice adds soul to a piece of music, a well-placed antique can add soul to a room, no matter the décor. In a city like New Orleans where soul drips off the oak trees, a home should reflect that as well.

“New Orleans is blessed with a variety of styles,” says decorator Patricia Brinson. “There’s no one ‘stereotypical look.’ Our variety of well preserved architectural styles — from funky arts and crafts, to gingerbread cottages to elegant galleried mansions — lend themselves to antiques of all kinds. They are part of the rich and diverse culture of this city. We are also blessed to have many talented artists and designers who reflect this variety in their work.”

So whether your aesthetic is mid-century modern, contemporary, bohemian or Old World elegant, any room can benefit from a thoughtfully-curated antique, and thus, give your décor soul.

“Nothing is more boring than a house full of all new furniture or all antiques,” says Mary Hines, co-owner of H & H Estate Sales. “The mix is what makes it interesting.”

Hines and her sister Gail Bergin have successfully talked young customers out of selling all the family antiques.  
“We know that they’ll regret selling that armoire or buffet as it will add interest to a modern room one day,” says Hines.

Likewise, decorator Meg Bradley, whose clients prefer the mid-century modern look, recommends her clients add personality to their homes with antique accessories.

“A beautifully displayed collection of antique blue and white china can add magic to a mid-century modern room,” says Bradley.

She often uses antique architectural elements to create lamps, places ancient olive jars in rooms or covers bland sheetrock with antique cypress paneling giving a modern room the necessary gravitas.

Brinson echoes that approach, saying that it works for any person’s individual taste.   

“Even a contemporary home can be enhanced by one spectacular piece like a beautiful classic antique dining room table, a sparkling crystal chandelier or a gorgeous Oushak rug,” says Brinson. “I tell my clients — especially the young ones — to save up for that one special antique that you will be proud to own. An antique keeps or increases in value over time and can translate into any setting. A new piece won’t do either.”

We live in a city with a plethora of antique stores, consignment shops and estate sales, so antiques are readily available. Who knows what might be hiding in your mother’s or grandmother’s attic or storage unit? You might find just the piece that will take a brand-spanking new, all neutral, soulless room to a new and exciting level.

Pamela Pipes knows this well. Her elegant uptown digs are a mixture of contemporary furniture and fabrics and warm antiques from her family. Her late mother, Carlota, was an astute collector with a dazzling, fearless eye for decorating. Today, many of her antiques reside with Pamela.  

“My antiques make me feel closer to my mother, now that she is gone,” says Pipes. “I can look at a piece and be reminded of my childhood home and feel Mom is with me 24 hours a day. Each time I look at one of her pieces, I feel a deep connection to her.”

And that, my friends, is what adding soul to your home is all about.


Before you sell or reject a family antique, find out its value and how it could be
used in your home.

Don’t be afraid to paint a piece to give it an updated look.

Antiques have many lives. Use a piece in a bold, creative new way.

Add lights to an antique bookcase or china cabinet to freshen its look.

Family portraits anchor a room and give it history.

Use your grandmother’s china, crystal, linens and silver. They are great conversation pieces.


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