Antique Prints for the Modern House, tips for decorating

Posted: 7/6/2012

by Tam O'Neill

Thumb through any modern décor magazine or browse any online interiors blog and it is clear that clean lines are here to stay. One way to personalize a contemporary interior is by incorporating collections of antique prints as a point of contrast. Natural history prints for example connect us with the outdoors and may create some geographic reference at the same time. Here are some tips to successfully decorate with antique prints in your home.

Play up the texture of the paper, the patina of the sheet. Even a foxing spot here brings a bit of character and adds contrast to a room furnished with modern furnishings.

Karl BlossfeldgFind classic designs with geometric pattern. Egg prints by Francis Morris for example date from 1875. They show cool oval shapes suspended against clean taupe or soft grey backgrounds. Some have a wonderful speckled texture. Morris was out to depict all the eggs (and some of the nests) of all the native British birds. We recommend hanging them in groups of three or six. Try a wonderful Tiffany blue mat to evoke the springtime feeling of robin's eggs.

Look at works by Karl Blossfeldt. Blossfeldt was a German sculpture professor who wanted his art students to be inspired by natural forms. He took close up photographs of carefully cropped botanical imagery with astonishing results. The photos were later published as black and white photogravures and these are perfect additions to a contemporary interior. Some seem architectural, some seem biomorphic, and all display great graphic form and texture. We've invented our own wide black closed corner frame for these which give them great strength on a light colored wall.

George Perry's ConchologyTry some of George Perry's Conchology engravings to evoke a summer at the beach. These hand painted aquatint engravings date from 1811. The geometric shapes are arranged in "collections". Perry invented much of the naming system for shells. The soft blues, aquas and pink tints could easily inspire an entire color scheme. The clever arrangements connect us with others who marveled at the form and color of sea shells centuries ago.

We'd love to hear from you on how you've incorporated antique prints into a modern setting. Send us your photos and ideas. We love to see examples of how you live with antique prints!



ABOUT Tam O'Neill
Tam O'Neill lives in Denver, Colorado and is an academically trained printmaker who collects, buys, sells and writes about prints.