I’m in the unique position of having a compact, urban lifestyle but taste that tends more toward the antique. Now, in Europe and in some older parts of east coast cities, mixing the two is far from unheard of. In fact, historical apartment buildings in Paris are defined as much by their interior decor as their architecture. But if you live in a more modern building, it can be hard to pull off a lush, expansive antique decor. Urban chic design is my favorite compromise between the two, taking a little of the classy, sophisticated historical influence of antiques and adding a unique modern twist.
What Do We Get From Antiques?
Culturally, America has gotten a whole heck of a lot more casual over the last hundred years. Big formal dining rooms are being steadily replaced by wide open kitchens where hosts and guests can cook and eat together casually. These days we’re more likely to pop over to a friend’s house and watch a movie on netflix than, say, to watch their daughter showcase her piano and needlepoint. But the simple shape of antique furniture hearkens back to the poise and sophistication of a more formal time….even if it happens to be made out of bright blue plastic like this ArmChair from PolArt.
Shop PolArt Chairs:
Inside Out Antiques
But while PolArt has a whole collection of colorful, high quality cast plastic antiques, to me urban chic is a little more tongue in cheek. That’s why I love, love, love PolArt’s Inside Out collection, which takes the traditional silhouette of iconic antique designs and cuts them into a solid glossy white block. This Grandfather Clock is one of my favorite examples (the TV Stand a close second), which uses bright, dark, bold colors to make the antique design stand out, while the sleek white exterior maintains a more modern polish.
Many older designs are starting to make a comeback, from turquoise bathrooms to French country kitchens, but I really enjoy the modern twist on things like this armoire style Book Case. They offer the full functionality of a more modern piece, while still giving a wink and a nod to historical designs, creating an entirely new urban chic aesthetic. Instead of staying 100% true to historical designs, urban chic furniture is a little more willing to play with tradition and give it a little modern artistic flair for a contemporary urban home.
Flattening Your Faves
Similar to urban chic cutout designs are pieces like this Paris end table from Bellini that emulate the elaborately tooled legs of antique designs with flattened, folded silhouette style versions. Instead of round legs, these are wedge shaped, but at a distance still give the impression of shapely antique styles. This flattening is done in some other applications as well, from matching chairs (like those pictured with the grandfather clock) to lighting fixtures like the chandelier below, again paying homage to antique design while creating an entirely modern, urban chic aesthetic.
Not Just For Your Living Room
While many urban chic products are designed with the living room in mind, it’s absolutely a style that can work well in just about any room, from ornate glossy white recreations of classic princess beds to sleek, inventive pieces like this Natasha bathroom vanity from Decolav. This vanity uses the same flattened silhouette design to create a 2-D version of an antique tooled leg, and pairs it with a highly modern, belt-style drawer pull, offering all the iconic elegance of an antique with a smart, sassy modern bent. Even in a relatively small bathroom, this is a piece that’s absolutely eye catching, and acts as a perfect focal point without taking up much of your precious bathroom real estate.
Light It Up
Shop Nuevo Pendants and Chandeliers:
All that said, perhaps my favorite use of the urban chic reductive silhouette design is when it’s applied to antique lighting fixtures. Now, I’m all for chandeliers (as regular readers will no doubt have noticed!), but many antique crystal chandeliers can bee too dressy for a small urban space, and can sometimes seem more pretentious than elegant. This Bari Pendant from Nuevo is probably hands down one of my favorite chandeliers, simply for the way it flattens the iconic crystal chandelier shape, reducing it to the simplest modern form while still remaining strangely elegant. Perfect for a space that’s maybe too small for a more elaborate decor, this chandelier and other pieces like it nod to historical precedent while creating an urban chic style that’s better suited for a contemporary home. Do you like this type of urban chic style, or do you prefer authentic antiques, or a more minimalist modern style? Let me know in the comments!