The idea of adding femininity to a room tends to conjure a very specific mental image – and it’s usually dominated by frills and pink. But the truth of the matter is that there’s nothing quite like a feminine touch to create mystique within your home – and one of the very best ways to invoke it is through the careful use of pretty, prim and proper antiques.
Placed with the right degree of savoir faire, antiques can transform rooms from subtly sweet, to smart and sophisticated, to traditionally elegant in a heartbeat, because antique accessories create the opportunity to decorate, populate and refresh interiors on a whim. Try designing arrangements on consoles, coffee tables and side tables, or creating displays on shelves, mantles and window ledges. Beautiful vignettes can be summoned up using sought-after items like antique linens to build colour and texture. All you have to do is pair them with layers of knick knacks: candles, perfume bottles, hat- and pillboxes, ornate picture frames, stools, hand-mirrors, combs and brushes, trays, stools and side tables all fit the bill perfectly.
“Crystal perfume bottles with silver rims and decorative tops are popular at present,” says Ann Broadly, director at House of Riches in Cottesloe. “Art deco perfume bottles in particular are very popular, because they have clean lines and work well in contemporary homes.” She suggests displaying them on bedside and dressing tables, and mixing them with white china or white coral pieces.
It’s also possible to use crystal and glass accessories to create light play on walls and surfaces, an effect that’s equally achievable with antique lamps and lighting (including chandeliers), mirrors and china.
Items fashioned from precious metals such as brass, copper, silver and gold can also be employed to generate reflections: think candle-holders, picture frames and – also highly sought-after right now – trinket boxes. “Good quality silver trinket boxes are very popular with collectors,” says Ann. “It’s all about the demand for these exquisite pieces.”
Emma Gryg from Subiaco Antiques adds that antique picture frames and crystal vases also top the list of pieces with a romantic feel. “Picture frames are always popular and, if the budget stretches, sterling silver frames are the best,” she says.
“They are steadily going up in value, make a nice gift for either a lady or gent, and can make a great collection as people add to them over the years for birthdays, wedding present or anniversaries. They are perfect keepsakes and never date. Also they’re easy to place around the home, or, if it is a more personal piece, next to the bed or on the dressing table.”
Emma recommends grouping the silver frames and crystal vases together, the whole tableau set off with fresh-cut flowers.
When considering antiques for the dining room, meanwhile, the hero material is silver. Simply layer an eclectic range of silver trays and serving pieces of varying sizes, shapes and colours, to create interest.
Curved furniture shapes typically denote femininity, and it’s a look that can be used to soften the hard lines of contemporary or straight-edged furniture. “The beautiful angular shapes fit well with contemporary living,” Ann says.
Chinoiserie (anything with a Far-Eastern or Oriental theme) is another shortcut to instant exotic charm – from hand-painted wallpaper panels, inlaid screens, lotus-blossom art, ginger jars and willow-pattern plates, to statues, pagoda shapes and Coromandel screens.
Best of all, if you’re seeking to add a female touch, there’s no restriction to who can feature feminine pieces: the available selection transcends the limits of regular collecting.
“There’s no one particular age range enjoying the trend,” says Ann. “Ladies of all ages and from all backgrounds are purchasing these beautiful pieces for their homes.”
It’s a fine line between ‘messy’ and ‘artfully arranged’. Here’s how to walk it with confidence.
Keep it cohesive… but don’t do boring. It’s important to inject your personal style into this look, all the while keeping the look consistent with the rest of your decor, and complementary to other elements in your home.
Mix up the heights of objects. Don’t be afraid to stack things on piles of books, layer pieces of art or photos in front of each other, and groups items of different shapes, heights and finishes on flat surfaces and display tables.
Add a natural element. Your vignettes could include various materials and textures such as shells, flowers and geodes, which really set off the patina of antiques.
Opposites attract. Hunt for collectable accessories at antique shops, and don’t be afraid to mix high to low, with flea market, online and garage sale finds. While items don’t have to look similar, or even hail from the same era, before you buy, you should always consider what other pieces you can pair with them to create visually interesting tablescapes.
This elegant Murano glass bowl dates back to the early 1900s. Available from Subiaco Antiques (photography Tim Lofthouse).
House Of Riches (08) 9384 3850, houseofriches.com.au.
Subiaco Antiques (08) 9388 8333, subiacoantiques.com.au.