Monday Inspiration: Why every room needs an antique

Well here we still are then and I hope you are still well. Being at home and writing all day isn’t really that different for me, but I am finding it hard to summon up any motivation to exercise and, for some inexplicable reason, I’m finding it much harder to decide what to wear for a day spent at home than I ever did when I had to go out to meetings. But I am determined that I will be dressed every day because I fear if I don’t do that I will do nothing and it will be a short slide into entire days spent in bed reading …. although, now I come to think of it, there are worse things. So I rise (later than usual, I dress (more indecisively than usual) but you can forget about baking banana bread and feeding sourdough starters. Ain’t no-one got time for that – even in a lockdown.

kitchen design by Rose Uniacke
kitchen design by Rose Uniacke

Although if I had a kitchen like this…. Mine has painted wooden doors but I increasingly find I am drawn to salvage type fronts and doors made from old floorboards and reclaimed shop fittings. I have often spoken of the bathroom that doesn’t look all sleek and modern but like a room in which you happen to bathe and there is a growing move towards kitchens that have the same vibe; witness the removal of overhead cupboards as many of us decide open shelves are more attractive.  Yes they may attract more dust but in open plan spaces, or rooms that have to double as dining, sitting and even, office areas, having a kitchen that feels more like it has furniture in it rather than fittings works really well.

wood and neutrals, tongue and groove and gallery wall via @carpendaughter
wood and neutrals via @carpendaughter

This dining area above is also really welcoming with its tongue and groove panelled walls and built in banquet. It’s small but its designer has embraced that cosiness with the wooden walls and the gallery wall echoing the window opposite. You have to go with what you’ve got and if it’s small then work with it rather than try to make it something it’s not by leaving it bare and unadorned to make it feel more spacious. This often doesn’t work and just looks cold and empty. Here the colours are pale but there is texture and character.

The dark wooden chairs work with the picture frames and cushions to make it feel cosy and bright at the same time. I have a similarly narrow dining area and we have put the table lengthways down the space which probably makes it look even longer and narrower. A slightly smaller table might be able to sit across like this one and fill the space but, in our case, we need to access the door where, in the image above, the window is so we had no choice. Another good option for a narrow boxy space is a round or, hard to find, oval table.

home office soft neutrals via @mark_lewis_i_d image by rory gardiner @arorygardiner
home office via @mark_lewis_i_d image by rory gardiner @arorygardiner

Leaving the kitchen but staying with the tongue and groove to this home office area. If you have an alcove, this kind of work space is easy enough to create as you just add shelves to store all your stuff and make sure that the bottom one is high enough to fit a chair under – standard desk/table height is 73cm. If you’re not sitting there for hours then a stool that slides right underneath so you can fit a door and close off the space at the end of the day is a good idea. Or perhaps you can pinch a chair from the kitchen table so that it can return afterwards. The panelling brings character but it’s the old church chair that really elevates this space so much more than a modern one would do.

antique desk and panelling via @elle_the_home_bird
antique desk and panelling via @elle_the_home_bird

Another home office, another, less rustic and more period, type of panelling. And this antique table and chair makes the perfect desk set up that would work well in a room that wasn’t designed as an office and had to double up with other functions -dining or lounging for example. The drawer means you could put the laptop and notebooks away and replace them with decorative items when it wasn’t needed for work.

One thing, if at all possible, if your desk can’t face a window is to have it sideways not just for the light and air but for the view. If you can’t arrange that then try and put a picture of an outside view on the wall in front of you.

linen bedding and antique door via loom_and_last
linen bedding and antique door via loom_and_last

Moving into the bedroom and this is a product shot, but it’s made all the more inviting by the old door and vintage mirror, both of which bring so much more character to the room. If you live in a modern house then don’t worry, you can always add antiques in the form of the furniture rather than the fixtures. Just as a mid-century modern chair will work in any period, so will an antique table.

Below, the bedhead has been made from reclaimed floorboards and I love the way the wall lights have been arranged to be a decorative wall feature as well as a practical, and space-saving, addition. I made a sliding door from leftover floorboards in the loft and you can often find small amounts of boards on ebay that aren’t enough for a room but will work for something else.

So don’t worry, if you haven’t got the budget for antiques, which can be pricey, see what you can find in salvage and use that to bring character to your rooms.

soft neutrals via @mark_lewis_i_d image by rory gardiner @arorygardiner
soft neutrals via @mark_lewis_i_d image by rory gardiner @arorygardiner
Kate Watson-Smyth

The author Kate Watson-Smyth

I’m a journalist who writes about interiors mainly for The Financial Times but I have also written regularly for The Independent and The Daily Mail. My house has been in Living Etc, HeartHome and featured in The Wall Street Journal & Corriere della Sera. I also run an interior styling consultancy Mad About Your House. Welcome to my Mad House.


  1. Gorgeous photos Kate. Never made banana cake and I’m a grandma! There’s a hash tag something like…I am fking well dressing up. So having spotted it the Blogger dressed to the nines takes her dog for a walk….to be upstaged by a 4 year old on a scooter wearing full ballet outfit and a feather boa!

  2. I too need some semblance of Normalcy in my life. Husband and I have been at home for over a month now (South Carolina, US). Banana bread has been made so many times, we have loaves in the freezer. A dear friend died last Friday and there are no funerals, except for family. Life is very strange.

  3. I loved this post as well, The mix of rustic and refined has always appealed to me. And I have been lusting after linen bedding. Thanks Kate!

  4. Thank you for lifting my day with these lovely images. I am in Vermont in lockdown on a rainy day and your post brought me smiles!

  5. All fabulous and warm images. Abs love the Rose Uniacke kitchen … and that epic window 😮
    Banana Bread? Nope 👎

  6. Love every single room but disagree on banana bread. A bit like using an antique in every room – no waste just great way to use brown bananas and very very easy to make – actually the only thing I can bake.Once read about a female athlete who ran marathons on nothing but banana bread and have eaten them ever since – lovely for breakfast.So a bit like a female athlete without the running part.

    1. I know – I have often made banana bread and everyone loves it. I’m probably just being contrary because everyone is making it and it seems to have become the symbol of lockdown life at the moment!

  7. Oh spot on! Those photos are just so inspirational and somehow make me feel like I’ve travelled a bit this morning. Thank you

  8. Absolutely gorgeous. I love each image today. I love the mix of old and new and couldn’t really imagine living without my old treasures/junk around me.

  9. Gabriel Marquez got suited and booted everyday to sit down at his typewriter…….guess you’re in good company.

  10. So many perfect images in today’s piece, I love them.
    As for banana bread…….save me!

    1. Just sat down to read this – much later than I usually do (been sanding down our garden bench this morning as part of its supposedly annual maintenance) and having also just made Nigel Slater’s chocolate muscovado banana cake – it’s an ace recipe!
      Love the images today.

  11. Oh my. Today’s post has made my morning. Not one, not two, but all the images have brought a warm place for me to go to when I need comforting. Thank you Kate.

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