In this post: Love French style but don’t love the expense of high end antiques? Here are 10 ways to save money on French decor by mixing real and faux.⇒
You can’t beat the authenticity that antiques bring to a home.
But you can come close.
Without a doubt the single most effective way to bring French Country style to your home is by decorating with real French furniture from days gone by. But that can cost you a pretty penny.
Instead, the approach I like to take to stay on budget is to balance my more expensive purchases with less costly reproductions. I splurge on a few key pieces in each room to lend a genuine feel, but temper the outlay with good quality newer pieces.
Only you can decide how to proportion your purchases, as we each work within our own budgets. But even if you just punctuate a DIY painted table with an antique silver bowl, you will have added a sense of pedigree to your decor.
Since this is exactly how I decorate my own home, I’ve compiled 10 ways to use French decor and stay on budget by mixing real and faux. In fact, I’ve broken it into 10 categories where I’ll show you how I use both options in my home.
I’m crazy about crystal and brass chandeliers. They add the ultimate dose of tasteful bling to a room and if I had my choice, I’d have one in every room. I love the look of antique lighting, but while this is one category where you can get a good deal on an antique, by the time you rewire it and get it to work in your updated home, you could be adding a lot to the cost. Still, I love to carefully look for deals. In our dining room, above, I bought a vintage piece that was already rewired. The dining room is an important space where most of my pieces were on the newer side, so I felt this was a good place to spring for vintage.
In our kitchen, however, above the island, I used 3 new mini chandeliers. Because I needed three in this spot, price was important. It also was unlikely I would find three of the same vintage pieces, so this was a good spot to choose to buy new.
In the breakfast room, I felt vintage was important, because again, the furniture here was all bought new. I wanted an aged piece to add gravitas to the room. The reproduction table and chairs are where I saved money in this case.
2. French style chairs
Dining chairs are one of the easiest categories to save money on by buying reproduction pieces. From the tufted side chair, seen below to the cane back chairs in the image below that, you can get a great French look without breaking the bank.
By contrast, the gilded end chairs, above, bring that vintage flourish to a space dominated by mostly new pieces. So here I splurged on authenticity, but I only bought two, keeping the side chairs new and less expensive.
It’s worth noting that when it comes to gilding, reproductions can look cheap, so it’s a place to consider buying true antiques. You can save by limiting quantities, as I did, or by buying pieces not in perfect condition. Obviously, you want to ensure that the pieces are structurally sound, but if you need to do some reupholstering, it’s not the end of the world.
The mix of the chairs in our breakfast space is always a fan favorite, and a favorite of mine, as well. They’re all new, but if you choose to do the same with vintage chairs, mixed but similar styles is a great way to go. It’s far easier to find one or two chairs in a vintage shop at a good price, than to find a full set.
3. Gilded clocks
A wonderful way to bring the flavor of French decor into your house is with gilded clocks. You have to be careful here, when using reproductions, to find items that don’t look cheap and cheesy (as mentioned above with gilded chairs).
The clock on my mantel is a new piece, but the gold is subtle enough to avoid that mass produced look. I actually painted it a bit with a dry brush technique, to bring out the highs and lows and give it a more antiqued look.
This is a prime example of how I mix old and new, as the mirror is vintage while the clock and urns are new.
My newest acquisition is the wonderful clock above. This one is a true French antique, but I was lucky enough to find one that actually works. It sits upon a vintage wood chest, but much else in the room is on the newer side.
Another old piece is the smaller clock below. This one doesn’t work, so it wasn’t very expensive, but I just love the lines and what it lends to the space. It’s just a tiny grace note that adds a touch of old world style to a guest room that doesn’t have very many vintage pieces in it. If you don’t need a working clock in a room, due to all the digital devices in our homes, buying a piece without the innards will definitely save you money.
4. Garden statues
The wonderful chippy cherub, below, was found in a garden center that carries vintage items as well as new ones. Its chipping is the real thing and it’s quite heavy, but I wish I could find more old pieces like this. Cherubs and angels read French Country to me, but vintage garden pieces are hard to find.
The piece below is a lightweight resin piece and the distressing is not as genuine as the piece above, but it was much less costly and the addition of the crown gives it that authentic look. The chest it sits upon is also a reproduction, while the mirror behind it was found at an antique market.
As much as I love mirrors, that’s how much I also favor sconces, with many of my mirrors flanked by a pair. The ones below are brand new but I love the aged vibe they bring to the space. While this one is actually a candle holder, I’ve seen the same model wired for bulbs. (See the resource list at the bottom of the post.)
By contrast, the sconces in my entryway below, were brought back from the Amalfi Coast, which is my favorite way to find antique pieces (although hubby was not so thrilled to be carrying them all throughout Italy!)
These were wired to work with bulbs, but had European wiring that did not match our own, so I chose to slip in candles and leave it at that. They sit next to a reproduction mirror, that is featured in a category below.
(I do hope to someday have them rewired, but that’s apparently not a simple undertaking.)
6. Gilded and trumeau mirrors
Mirrors are among my favorite decor items. I have them in almost every room and I love the way they bounce the light around a room. I also love the opportunity they provide to add gorgeous decorative framing to your walls. True antique mirrors can be quite pricey but they are also stunning, so I add them sparingly. The one above is one of the oldest pieces I own, French and from the early 1800s. It’s among my favorite pieces, yet I’ve seen reproductions of this very style which would offer a great way to save money and still get the look.
The trumeau mirror above is a reproduction piece that presides over my dining room. It may not have that same “crumbling authenticity” as the antique mirror, but it was significantly cheaper and still adds the right look to the room. To bolster it with a more genuine vintage feel, I’ve paired it with the chippy garden statue and the crystal girandole, both bought through antique sellers. The juxtaposition of these pieces is the real secret sauce, as the older pieces lend credibility to the scene.
The mirror, above, is similar to a reproduction one I own, yet this one is antique. It sits above an old French dresser that I’ve painted and is another example of how I mix old and new together, as it’s flanked by new vases, made to look timeworn. In a space without a high ceiling, you can get away with a smaller piece, which is another way to save money when opting for vintage.
The similar reproduction piece is much larger and grander and would’ve cost a fortune as a true antique. But in our entry foyer, it’s placed above an antique server which lends it that air of authenticity. (See the very last photo in this post.)
7. Candlestick holders
Another favorite decor category I cannot seem to get enough of is candlestick holders! I wish I could find more pieces like the altar candlestick below, quite possibly the oldest piece I own, I found it in Florence and it hails from the 1700’s. A reproduction piece would be far less costly and when done well they can be quite pretty. But I still enjoy having one or two of the real thing.
The pair of silver candlesticks (again, in the last photo of this post) is also antique, found in one of my favorite markets in London. The shop owner told me it was originally from Prague and among the things I love most about antiques are the stories they bring with them. The patina is lovely and as it’s a relatively small piece (compared to a piece of furniture), it was worth the small splurge.
To round out the balance with the pricier pieces, I also collect reproduction candlesticks like the ones below. They don’t bear the same pedigree, but these are reasonably tall and that’s a good place to save a bit of money. As always, when styled on a table, I like the new pair to flank an antique dough bowl so that the mixed look still carries a vintage feel.
8. Floral china
I’m utterly enchanted by antique china and I love to mix varied patterns together. You never have to worry about having a full set if you mix and match, and for me it only adds to the charm. The dinner plate below was passed down in our family, while the salad plate is one of my vintage market finds. The demitasse cup and saucer (in the next photo) are part of a set I found in the dustiest old shop in a sweet Paris neighborhood.
When I look at the pieces I’ve collected this way, I immediately remember exactly where I was when I discovered them, often hiding on a shelf tucked behind other things, waiting to be unearthed. This is one of the greatest delights of decorating with antiques.
Yet at the same time, I’m happy to supplement my collection of vintage china with brand new pieces that work just as well in the mix. Many of these old companies still produce new products, like the Royal Albert salad plate in the photo below. It’s a bit brighter than the faded patterns it sits with, but it’s equally lovely and when balanced with older pieces, it takes on a vintage look.
Pieces that are still currently being produced are often less expensive than vintage, as they lack that sense of scarcity, and you can also get as many as you need.
9. Chests of drawers
I just love vintage French and English chests! The patina of the wood, the delicacy of the trim and often the curvy lines are quite beautiful. But antique furniture can be very expensive and this is a category that offers many options for saving money.
I own a burled wood chest that is an antique piece and I love the beauty of the wood grain. But the drawers do not slide very easily and there’s a gaping split in the wood top. This is likely what made the piece affordable, but when it comes to storage furniture, it’s nice to have items that function well.
The diminutive chest above is an older piece with lovely embellishments that were well enhanced by paint (the piece was already painted when I came to it, and I just re-did the paint job.)
But in a room where you already have enough antique style, there are many reproduction chests that offer great optics with attainable pricing. In our guest room, below, we have this new Gustavian chest that is beautifully made with a lovely finish. The drawers slide easily and it’s a pleasure to use.
We also have this pretty painted white chest in my daughter’s bedroom and the simple fact is, when used for actual storage, particularly in a younger person’s room, you cannot beat a new piece. If this was mixed with a vintage lamp and some antique decorative pieces on the bureau surface, it would have a more genuine aged feel.
10. Silver vases and decor
The final category I will address today comprises silver pieces used as vases, pitchers, planters and more. There’s a broad range of pricing when it comes to vintage silver, depending on various factors including the age, content and quality of the silver. But real antique silver can cost a small fortune.
The toothpick (q-tip) holder above is a new piece with gorgeous lines and a very affordable price. Unlike vintage silver, it may shine a bit too much, but a solid piece like this would be expensive in antique sterling. It sits on my bathroom counter where I have lots of vintage items, so to add it in among the mix works very well.
The champagne bucket above is an older piece but here I saved money by going with silver-plate. It picks up a nice patina and blends comfortably with pieces old and new. I did the same with the charming pitcher below, a very old piece, but also in silver-plate. I tend to save my sterling purchases for much smaller pieces with a lower price tag, like antique napkin rings, small bowls and lightweight vanity items.
The categories I’ve highlighted offer some of the best options for adding French Country style, through antiques, to your home. But as you can see, each of these categories also offers wonderful new options to mix in with your older pieces.
For me, mixing real and faux is not just a matter of balancing expenses but also lends more interest to the decor in my home. I try to ensure that every single room has something truly French and genuinely old to provide an air of authenticity to the space. At the same time, newer pieces guarantee an updated look while also offering practicality.
Everything in moderation they say, and this certainly applies to decorating, as well. So go ahead and splurge on that vintage piece that you absolutely have to have. But if you tap out most of your budget on the one piece, head to the reproduction section of your favorite online shop to finish your room. Your wallet (and maybe your husband) will thank you!
More French Decor Posts
- The Ultimate Guide to French Country Decor Essentials
- Transforming a Modern Townhouse into a French Country Home
- 5 Affordable Room Makeovers: How to Modernize French Country Decor
- The 6 Defining French-Inspired Style Elements I Use In Every Room
- Using Flea Market Finds to Add French Style to the Home
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