The Hipstoric Home Decor Trend Blends Vintage Pieces with Modern Style

An interior designer shares her best tips for seamlessly adding vintage finds to a modern space.

Living room with area rug and lounge chairs
Photo: Tria Giovan

A fusion of the words ‘hip’ and ‘historic,’ the newly coined ‘hipstoric’ home decor trend is set to dominate in 2023, according to interior designers and the experts at Pinterest. Consumers are casting mass-produced pieces aside in favor of reimagined antiques and vintage finds. Combining old with new, this popular eclectic aesthetic is an easy way to add a unique and personal touch to the home and infuse it with a sense of nostalgia.

“I like rooms to feel like they’ve evolved over time and that they have a little history, character, and soul,” says Charleston-based interior designer Alaina Michelle Ralph. Ralph is constantly navigating the dialogue between vintage and modern, driven by her client's desire for personality while respecting the narrative set by the space itself. As she says, “there’s a spot for vintage in every room.” 

Decorating with vintage pieces is an easy way to showcase your unique style, but it’s also one of the more sustainable decor trends. “People are more conscious about fast fashion and inexpensive furniture that ends up in landfills,” Ralph says. “Old furniture stands the test of time. If you can find a piece of furniture that is 100 years old and still sturdy, it’s likely to last another 100 years.”

Not only is vintage home decor durable, unique, and stylish, it’s also less harmful to the planet and often your bank balance, too. “Even in a consignment store, you’re likely to get a great deal on an antique piece,” Ralph explains. She also recommends scouring antique malls, thrift stores, and antique vendors for old treasures. “While antique vendors have a higher price tag, they've been vetted and usually fixed up a little bit, so there's less work involved when you buy from them,” she adds. When shopping for vintage finds, her biggest tip is don’t be afraid to try. "Especially if you’re jumping in at the lower end and thrift shopping, you can afford to take more risks.” 

And when you spend less on pre-loved items, you have more left in your pocket for accessories or quality investment pieces. Put the majority of your budget toward good staple pieces, then accessorize with found decor pieces or a thrifted piece of accent furniture. In hipstoric design, both vintage and modern pieces should flow together seamlessly, reflecting your personal sense of style. To help you nail the aesthetic, Ralph is sharing her best tips for integrating vintage items into an existing modern decor scheme.

1. Start Small, Then Go Big

“Start with accessories and build your way up to bigger pieces,” Ralph suggests. Accessories, like cushions, vases, ornaments, and mirrors are easy to mix and match and can easily be swapped in and out of different rooms or spaces. This allows you to play around with how many vintage pieces you have in any given room and experiment until you find the right balance. “Chairs are also a great way to go as they come in a range of scales and styles," Ralph adds. "Where they sit in the room and how they interact with it can be so compelling."

bedroom with black walls and 3 windows
Annie Schlechter

2. Create Balance with a 75:25 Ratio

When it comes to combining old and new pieces, Ralph says there isn’t a right or wrong way. “I generally tend to do a heavier mix of old versus new, somewhere in the scope of 75% old to 25% new," she explains. She suggests determining the overall feel you want to create to achieve the right balance of vintage and modern. “Are you looking for something modern with a touch of history or something historic that feels like it’s been updated? There are many ways to make it happen, and ultimately it’s like seasoning food; it’s to taste,” she explains. If you don't have a clear vision for the space, the 75:20 rule is a safe place to start.

3. Pay Attention to Scale

“Scale is probably the most important factor when picking different pieces from different generations,” Ralph says. “The first thing I do is to have an idealized floor plan.” Before going shopping, rather than mapping out a plan with specific furniture dimensions, she recommends getting a general idea of the size of furniture pieces that would work in the space. Keep a measuring tape and floor plan to hand when you’re out furniture-hunting so you can check the dimensions are suitable before purchasing.

modern velvet sofa with photograph of florence above
Annie Schlechter

4. Introduce Artwork as a Focal Point

Art is an easy way to incorporate a vintage piece into a modern home. “Modern art can be costly, but vintage art is still pretty affordable,” Ralph explains. “You might find a great painting, but maybe it needs a new frame or vice versa.” Nail down the main elements of the space first, then start hunting for the right art piece, keeping in mind ideal size and color. Once you find the right print, pop it in a modern frame that matches the rest of the space. If you find a newer piece you love, a classic gilt frame is a simple way to give modern artwork a vintage twist and create a dramatic centerpiece.

5. Use Color to Update Vintage Pieces

“Color is a great way to take an old piece and give it new life and make it feel ‘hip,’” Ralph says. “Furniture is the framework, and color is another layer on top.” You can play with the form of the vintage furniture, which might be associated with one era, and upholster it in fabric from another to give it an unexpected flourish. For example, in one of her projects, Ralph covered a Louis XVI chair in leopard print. “I think it’s fun to play with how those different things go together," she explains. "It completely takes that look to a different place."

Living room with area rug and lounge chairs
Tria Giovan

6. Experiment with Layers

Layers of different patterns and textures are a great way to combine old with new. “Layering lets you add things in and see how it looks, editing as you go,” Ralph suggests. Too many worn and aged textures can make a space look unkempt, so it’s essential to create balance with sleek and smooth surfaces. For example, an assortment of contemporary cushions and a fluffy throw can instantly update an old, worn sofa.

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