Antiquing: The Neoclassic Style

In the recent couple of years I have become more interested in incorporating antiques into my designs and my home.  And with that I have noticed some trends in the styles and periods I find myself most drawn to and thought I’d share some of the knowledge I’ve picked up in my antiquing travels.

The most broad term for the types of furniture and accents I find myself buying lately is Neoclassical, which is a sort of umbrella term that includes the sub-styles of Louis XVI, Directoire and Empire styles from France and the Federal and Empire styles in America during the late 18th century.  Based on the historical, classic architecture and design of Greece and Rome– these styles favor straight, rectilinear lines and pure geometric shapes (unlike the more curvy and ornate styles of the Rococo period before it).

Side note: Look Ma! My college degree is being used right now!!!!

OK, just had to call out my use of my (rusty) art history knowledge. Anyway, I love this style, especially when mixed with modern accents to really create an  interesting and tension-filled juxtaposition. Darryl Carter is the master of this look, in my opinion:

Look how that coffee table makes all the antique pieces look so fresh and modern! LOVE!

I rounded up some finds from online sites (some antiques, some new pieces) in the Neoclassical style.  Characteristics and motifs to looks for: straight lines and legs, Greek key patterns, medallions, urns, claw style feet, fluted and or reeded details, garlands, arrows and gilded wood.


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  1. Antiques have so much in their favor. They are solid wood, not veneer over composites. No off-gassing. The workmanship is amazing. Museum-quality stuff aside, the prices are lower than new reproductions. You are contributing to sustainability by giving something a new lease on life rather than sending it to the garbage heap. And, even if you like popular styles like Louis XVI, you’re unlikely to see exactly the same piece everywhere–they are much more unique. We furnished our AirBnBs in Carcassonne with antiques because we want guests to really feel like they’re in France, and not in some cookie-cutter Ikea-filled place that could be anywhere in the world. The dining table in one has a base of carved animals. You don’t see that everywhere.

  2. Beautiful post, from a fellow art history major (still waiting to use my education….) Darryl Carter is amazing , I love everything about that room!

    Antiques would elevate our 40ish year old home from suburban-just-okay to a much fresher and more interesting space. We were blessed with nice quality block paneling in our living spaces that was ripe for painting, but the mouldings and cabinetry everywhere else are dated and incorrectly scaled. Removing them all together and leaving a clean backdrop would made it easy to incorporate a handful of quality pieces that serve as functional furniture and add lots of detail. The neo-classical style is a very generous umbrella, and working within that framework would allow us to keep a couple of inherited pieces in the mix, too, without them seeming anachronistic. There’s a certain grown up but not stuffy sensibility to the look that is really appealing.

  3. I love this style, too, and now I have a new, descriptive term! Another feature that enhances the room featured is the white walls. So many times, antiques are used in older homes with dark colored walls and ponderous window coverings – heavy drapes, fancy valances, etc. – and the lines of the furniture just get lost.

    1. The pedestal is sold on the same site that the link brings you to. Go to Wisteria then search ‘pedestal’ and you’ll find it.

  4. The first time I saw antiques combined with modern, it opened my eyes. Modern furniture mixed with armoires and Japanese tansu chests in a very modern house . This was in the 70s so it was truly inspiring.
    Ever since, my own homes have been a combination of antique and contemporary. It just makes me happy to be surrounded by warmth and beauty and comfort.

  5. Love this post.. thank you!!! I have a Duncan Phyfe sofa in storage that was my parents and have always wanted to use it but have been a afraid it was way too traditional for my home.. this gives me some inspiration. Thank you!!!!!

    1. I was thinking the same thing about using a Duncan Phyfe sofa. I never see them with white fabric, which looks amazing here.

    1. Look into North Bennet Street School! They have a place you can post jobs and teacher or students reply with interest. It can sometimes be a more budget friendly option especially if the piece is sentimental or special in shape/look, but not museum quality and doesn’t justify a huge expenditure to retire.

  6. I have 2 18th or 19th century English Pine Armoires and shlepped them from house to house. So many of my furnitures didn’t fit from one house to the other, but the 2 armoires always did. I also have an antique hutch from a garage sale. It belonged to the sellers great-grandmother who brought it from Panama. How you can sell these family treasures, I will never understand, but of course, I am glad to have bought it.

  7. I have always loved and had antiques in my home. My mother has some gorgeous antiques. Federal period furniture is my love language…

  8. We started buying antiques 21 years ago when we were married because that was all we could afford! (they really can be less than new, much lesser quality pieces). Now I couldn’t do without them! They bring warmth and beauty to our home and our house doesn’t look like everyone else’s home!

  9. As a young(ish… OK I’m almost thirty when did that happen!) person, the vintage/antique items I have definitely go a long way to elevating some of my more basic furnishings. I’ve had a steamer trunk (that belonged to my great grandmother) since the days of my first apartment after university, and a few years ago I added an antique pine one-piece step-back cabinet from Quebec. I love the way they mix with more sharp and modern pieces, but the best thing is how easy they are too love with. Nothing precious (except maybe the original glass in the cabinet doors!). Darryl Carter is definitely a go-to inspiration for this mix :)

  10. Thanks Erin. I’d never been a huge fan of the neoclassical style before, but placing it with something like that contemporary coffee table really gave me a new perspective.

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