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Go Vintage Without the Grandma Look

Go Vintage Without the Grandma Look

kitchen with new cabinets and antique hutch top on countertop to go vintage
Written by Kristin Dowding

The dilemma: you love antiques, but you don’t want your home to have the “grandma look.” You know, the outdated look that’s full of moth balls and 12 cats (with all their cat hair). The solution? Go vintage, but mix the antiques with new or modern pieces. It can be a bit more involved than that, but that’s the basic idea. “Mixing is the key,” says Kara Christensen, builder and designer at Garden Gate Homes and the designer for our Tennessee Project House. Here are Kara’s suggestions to go vintage in your home while maintaining a modern appeal.

Dining room to go vintage with old art and dresser
In this corner of our Tennessee Project Home, Kara added vintage art to the mantel of the old fireplace along with an old dresser, topped with a mix of new and vintage serveware. Photograph by Nick McGinn.

Go Vintage with Modern Pieces

You’re trying to avoid an aesthetic that appears outdated and stuffy. And that’s where mixing comes in. “If you have all antiques, it’s going to start feeling like grandma’s house,” says Kara. Of course, grandma’s house isn’t always bad—it will depend on her home’s style. 

The ratio of old to new will depend on the room. For example, “A living room is full of seating and functional items, and it’s hard to find antique furniture that functions well,” says Kara. So, you’ll most likely have a higher ratio of modern to antiques when you go vintage. “The powder room can have an antique mirror, a little cabinet and vintage art, so the ratio of antiques can be higher in this space,” she says.

Kitchen sink with black cabinets and white walls with open shelves
The vintage pieces in this kitchen designed by Garden Gate Homes are accents among newer items. The vintage painting, cutting board and candlesticks balance the modern lights and cabinetry. Image courtesy of Garden Gate Homes.

New Purpose

Another way to go vintage in a fresh way is to give each antique a new purpose. “I like to use antiques in a way that may not serve the same function as intended,” says Kara. “In the Project House, I used a dry sink as a flower cutting station. But if it was in bad condition, I could have used it in a potting shed.” Changing up its purpose or upcycling can make the piece more relevant in your home.

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Bedroom with old bar cart as nightstand and vintage levels as headboard

Tabletop with vintage brass candlesticks.
On the dining table of our Tennessee Project House, Kara added a collection of charming vintage brass candlesticks. New candles, all in white, add cohesion to the vintage collection.

Keep it Curated

“It’s possible to bring too many things home,” says Kara. “I have a rule. If you bring something special home, you need to find a new home for something else when you’ve reached capacity.” This principle will help keep your treasures under control and not overcrowd your space. Then it will be easier to go vintage without getting an outdated or junky look.


Kara Christensen is the designer for our 2021 Project House. Learn more about her at Garden Gate Homes or follow her on Instagram.

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