Incorporating Antiques Into Your Modern Home

One word we hear a lot in design is: balance. Whether it’s in reference to color, texture, or style, designers are always aiming to achieve harmony and balance in their designs. Achieving perfect balance in a space is aesthetically pleasing but also creates a sense of calm. Couldn’t we all use more balance and calmness in our lives?

But what if you have several antiques or family heirlooms? Is it possible to seamlessly incorporate them into your modern home decor? We asked Robin Thomas of Robin Thomas Design to weigh in and share with us her thoughts on mixing antiques into modern interior design. She also shares some examples of rare finds from The Golden Triangle here in Chicago and how she integrated them into her more contemporary design projects.

The Golden Triangle has been a great source for my interior design projects for many years.  In design, the great value of antiques and vintage pieces is the surprise – each of these pieces were unexpected finds.

As a designer I may have a vague “idea” of what I’m looking for whether it’s a small lamp or an interesting table. But it is the excitement of “the find” – something that I have never seen before or even imagined that makes my job so fulfilling and ultimately makes each design project stand out.

It is a thrill to discover these one-of-a-kind pieces that have a history in our long human story of design. To then bring these pieces to a project is what creates something truly special. The Golden Triangle has consistently brought great antique and vintage furnishings to Chicago.  Truly a valuable resource.   AND – they have a wonderful staff!

In this design project, Robin Thomas Design selected this clear crystal lamp from The Golden Triangle. The elegant organic shape, with a subtle, modern nod, uplifts and refreshes the classic furnishings. The petite shade just happen to be in the right shade of red (the thrill of the hunt!) and nicely complimented the upholstery and overall composition. This space truly represents how small details can visually connect various design elements.

Golden Triangle French crystal lamp ca. 1950 with newer red silk shade.

In this North Shore home, designed by Robin Thomas, one-of-a-kind accessories are impactful in connecting an eclectic mix of furnishings.  A small yet elegant table from The Golden Triangle, bridges the modern and classic furnishings through its rich color and ornate table legs.

Golden Triangle French Walnut Jewelry Box Table ca. 1900

One-of-a-kind antique and vintage pieces are simply gems – in this North Shore home designed by Robin, a table was needed to fit in the space between the sofa sectional and arm chair. These very particular design elements often require the most patience – to find and discover just the right piece – and The Golden Triangle is always a reliable and valuable resource.  This black lacquered art deco table seems to float in the space and the top’s beautiful rich patina is the highlight. It couldn’t be more perfect, bringing just the right character and charm to this modern space.

Golden Triangle Square Art Deco Table in black lacquer

I often like to compare small furnishings to jewelry – a space (or an outfit) is fine without them, but can truly sparkle with the right piece. These small scholar bookcases from The Golden Triangle in our North Shore home are a favorite of mine – the beautiful patina, their history and rarity make them a very special and unique focal point for those areas that become illuminated with that one final touch. 

Golden Triangle Antique Chinese Scholar Chest

I am especially intrigued by pieces of the British Colonial period – they have an interesting blend of formality and relaxed styling. Here in a Michigan vacation home, this valet table from The Golden Triangle, with its own strong architecture, sits perfectly in the corner and holds the client’s family collection of vintage embroideries to create a unique artistic expression.

Golden Triangle British Colonial Valet Table ca. 1900

Robin Thomas’ Top 5 Picks from The Golden Triangle:


Pair of French Wooden Corner Chairs

This pair of wooden corner chairs is from France and was made circa 1900. Strong and sturdy, the chairs feature comfortable rush seats and are suitable for everyday use.


Vintage Brass Mantel Clock

This elegant brass mantel clock features a filigree design and an original movement. The piece dates to the late 19th Century.


Hungarian Art Deco Solid Walnut Chair

During the 1930s, Budapest, Hungary supported a thriving furniture manufacturing industry. Many makers were modernist and they enthusiastically created their own interpretations of the world’s first truly global furniture style – Art Deco. The distinguishing feature of Hungarian Deco is its simplicity and this chair is a good example. There is no extraneous decoration of any kind, just smooth curvaceous lines. Solid walnut was used and it has been lightly refinished. The original staffing has been totally replaced. The new fabric is a synthetic polyester, in keeping with 1930’s modernist principles. Origin: Budapest, c. 1935.


Sunburst Teak Wood Mirror

Natural strips of reclaimed Teak radiate from a circular mirror plate. The raw, untreated wood almost has a driftwood-like quality to it; quite different than the Baroque gilt Italian mirrors that it is inspired by.


Mid-Century Modern Italian Sideboard with Glass Top

This striking Italian sideboard features mahogany veneers applied vertically to notched-front drawers. The top is back-painted blue glass for practical use as a bar or serving surface. The drawers feature hardwood frames and dove-tailed joints. The legs appear saboted but are actually black-lacquered. The veneer surfaces are in very good condition with normal wear visible on the corners of some drawers. The piece has ten drawers for storage.

For more inspiration on mixing old and new in your own designs, check out Robin’s portfolio here. And visit The Golden Triangle at 330 N Clark in the River North Design District to browse their impressive and unique collection.

About Robin Thomas Design: Robin Thomas Design is a Chicago-based, boutique interior design firm with an in-studio gallery featuring a rare and exclusive collection of furnishings and textiles by local and international artisans. With a design philosophy based on individuality, we believe our role is to capture the essence of your vision and elevate it with our unrivaled sourcing and design expertise. This distinct philosophy begins with understanding the value of key elements from the past and integrating those important components into a new sensibility to create grounded, yet modern, individualized interiors. We welcome the opportunity to work on a broad range of projects, from complete homes to room-specific engagements.

About The Golden Triangle: Originally a store for imported collectibles from Thailand, The Golden Triangle has since grown to an 18,000 square foot design destination. For more than 27 years, owners Douglas Van Tress and Chauwarin Tuntisak have hand selected vintage and modern furnishings from around the world. Assembled in curated vignettes, the store boasts an eclectic mix of Asian and European antiques, artifacts, lighting, and other accessories. From designers and trade professionals, to collectors and simply curious shoppers, The Golden Triangle welcomes all individuals with an interest in design and appreciation for beauty. Cultural events are regularly hosted by the store highlighting: global and local design, inspiring artisans, Eastern and Western art, philosophy, history, tradition, and new collections.

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