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An expertís guide to using antiques in your home


Itís easier than you think, says one of our interior designers, especially with our expert help


The Danish chairs in this Holland Park apartment designed by Anna Monich have been recovered in blue velvet. A Chinese vase sits beneath the owner's collection of framed photographs from his travels

A few carefully chosen pieces of furniture or an interesting object or two can inject character into the home and reveal your style and taste like little else. Finding the right antiques and artwork, however, can be time-consuming and labour-intensive. Which is where we come in. We will match you with one of our interior designers and, as part of their brief, they will take the pressure off by sourcing signature items that suit your taste and bring an extra layer of interest into your home. 

The new owner of a ground floor apartment in Holland Park approached us because although it had recently been refurbished, he needed help sourcing furniture. He was keen to mix some of his existing pieces sourced in New York, with new classic and contemporary pieces. We advised that the project should begin with the design concept to ensure that he and the designer agreed about the look and feel, then move on to furniture layouts before sourcing. 

We put him in touch with Anna Monich, an interior designer with a fascination for the history of objects. “Researching the history of different styles of decorative objects and furniture is my passion,” Anna says. “What my clients like about the antiques I find for them is that there is a story behind each one. They can tell their friends how each one was made, what materials were used and where it came from.”

We thought that Anna with her enthusiasm for furniture and her contacts with antique dealers, would create the unique space he wanted, and one that would have both style and longevity.

Here, she talks us through her design process.

Finding the right piece

To understand her client’s taste, what will work well in their home, and what will reflect their personality, Anna spends time getting to know them before she suggests what they might buy. “They tell me about their background, culture, what they do, how they spend their time, where they have travelled,” she says. “My job as an interior designer is to digest the client’s brief and then to create something unique.”

Once she has grasped what the client prefers, Anna adds her own touch, before the client chooses what they do and don’t like from a selection she has sourced. “I don’t want to brag, but they usually like most of what I find!” she says. “I like to take their taste a step further, and suggest things they would never have thought of, which they find exciting.”

As part of her design package, Anna takes her clients on a half-day shopping trip where their search for unique pieces takes them to her favourite antique shops. “I like to engage them,” she says. “Going shopping together also helps to broaden the range of objects we end up choosing, in terms of style and period.”

The architectural style of the house also informs her choices. “Some apartments can’t take very old pieces,” she says. “They suit contemporary furniture which doesn’t sit very comfortably alongside antiques.” 

Injection of character is especially important in new builds. “The lack of period details – cornices, picture rails, mouldings – mean they are more of a blank canvas,” says Anna. “I always find at least one piece to include that has personality.”

The oil painting in the Holland Park apartment sits above a contemporary sideboard that complements it. The shelving units display items the owner found when travelling 

Building a collection

When Anna designs an interior she curates complementary objects – a bespoke ‘collection’ that is personal to her client and reflects their interests and lifestyle. For the apartment in Holland Park, London, she produced a brochure of things she had sourced at various places including design and furniture shows Maison D’Objet in Paris and Salon di Mobile in Milan and unique furniture emporium Talisman in London. “The pieces came from completely different places with different historical references, but they all work together,” says Anna. “This is when an interior becomes a collection.”

She describes the style of the apartment as ‘classic meets modern’. “It’s about contrasts,” she says. “I have included things you wouldn’t expect to work together that do.” This is evident in the hallway, where a 1930s mobile sits beside an industrial standard lamp, also made in the 1930s, an American sideboard from the 1980s and a classical torso sculpture. “You wouldn’t necessarily put the lamp next to that sculpture,” she says, “but it’s the perfect story to tell because the lamp was designed in Italy which has an appreciation of the classical. It all works together.”

A mix of styles in the hallway: a 1980s sideboard, a classical torso and a mobile designed in the 1930s

Integrating the old with the new

As well as introducing new and sometimes surprising things into the scheme, Anna also works with what the client already has. This could be a piece of furniture that needs reupholstering or repainting or reframing and displaying pieces of artwork. The owner of the Holland Park apartment had a selection of Disney posters and photographs which he had collected during his time working for the company: Anna clustered the artwork on the wall behind the bed. Other items that he had brought back from his travels in Asia are now displayed on a shelving unit: “They say this is a young, well-travelled man who has an eye for interesting and curious things,” she says. The colourful oil painting beside them was the starting point for the general colour scheme and was integrated into the overall design by careful selection of complementary pieces. “I sourced the sideboard to co-ordinate with it,” says Anna. “It’s a contemporary piece and has become one of David’s favourite things.”

A collection of Disney posters reflecting the owner's interests hangs over the bed

Everything Anna introduces into her design schemes has the owner at its heart. “We live in a time of individuality,” she says. “Everything is bespoke. I take a lot of inspiration from fashion and how it allows you to layer something vintage with something new to create a unique look. It’s the same approach I have to interior design. It’s like accessorising the room with different materials and finishes.”

The result is what you see in this pictures: a home filled with interesting and beautiful things that not only reflect the character of the owner but will give him pleasure and satisfaction for years to come.

Next time, we consider the importance of a good llighting scheme and how we can help you create one.