If there is one piece of advice I have heard more designers offer, it is to "buy what you love and it will all go together." While I understand the intention behind that statement, it often seems more complicated for those of us who aren't professionals, and achieving that perfect balance of old and new items can be especially illusive.
Why buy vintage?
Vintage and antique items bring a sense of permanence and authenticity to a room, which is an especially important design element if your home is new or nondescript construction. I love thinking about the lives that my rugs led before they came into my shop -- it gives them a bit of soul -- and vintage and antique furnishings and accessories are no different. And as a bonus, they are great for the environment, cutting down on items that would otherwise be considered trash. One can often acquire better-made vintage pieces at more affordable prices than when purchasing new, though antiques with known or rare provenance are an exception.
Start small ... but not too small.
If you are new to vintage shopping, I would suggest starting with "smalls" before jumping in on a piece of furniture. A piece of art, a cool lamp, or even a piece of pottery is an affordable way to introduce vintage items and they are easily mixed into a modern space. With small items, I try to follow the "pineapple rule" and rarely choose anything smaller than a pineapple. Choosing larger items over small ones can mean the difference between having a curated collection instead of a bunch of tchotchkes. Utilitarian items are a fun place to start, as well, and are often exceptions to the pineapple rule. Think: a cool analog alarm clock, a crock for holding utensils in the kitchen, or a vase for a bedside bud.
Choose sleek lighting.
To keep a space from feeling too precious, choose sleek, modern lighting. It will bring an instant edge to your room and is one of the simplest ways to personalize your space. I personally love the contrast of sleek lighting in a traditional space as it reminds of a chic Parisian apartment -- it has something to say, but doesn't take itself too seriously.
Keep the color palette restrained.
Whether you prefer a light, neutral palette or a dark and moody one, sticking closely to it is a sure-fire way to hold on to the chic-factor. A tight color palette will also promote heavy editing, which will help you maintain a paired-down aesthetic. One exception to this rule is art, which should not match the room's colors, but rather speak to or inspire its inhabitants, whether it is new or old.
Balance it all with texture.
Texture is perfect for bridging the gap between your vintage and contemporary pieces because it transcends time periods. A basket is more or less the same today as it was 100 years ago, and that goes for braided seagrass rugs, wicker furnishings, and more. Textural pieces also feel less serious, and add an always-welcome dose of warmth and comfort.
I hope helped you can gain confidence in mixing antique and vintage items in your home, and it goes without saying that I believe a vintage rug is a great choice for adding authenticity, color, and texture to your space. Take a look at my current offerings here, and as always, get in touch if I can help you find something specific.