When you hear the word “antique” you might immediately get a picture in your head….or maybe even a smell! Musty, dusty, and crusty. For many people, when they think about using antiques in their home, they think of a room full of hand-me-down furniture from grandma. And if that’s your style then great! But decorating with and using antiques in your home doesn’t have to remind you of visiting grandma. There are many creative ways to decorate with antiques that allow you to own a pieces of history but with a contemporary look.

14 creative uses for antiques

Before I go on, let me clarify something. An antique is something over 100 years old. The term vintage describes something that is at least 20 years old. For purposes of this article, I’m going to use the word antique interchangeable because I’m referring to items with history.

The key for how to decorate with antiques in a contemporary way is to use them for a purpose other than what they were intended.

Doing this, will allow you to use antique in your home but not make it feel like your grandma has moved in with you!


1. Ironstone

Traditionally meant as serving pieces and dinnerware, ironstone is durable and beautiful….and multi-functional! Below, I’m using a soup tureen as a pot for my ZeeZee plant, but I often use pitchers as vases, bowls as display pieces, etc. If you need a white container, consider using an ironstone piece instead of something generic!

Wine tasting table with plant in ironstone tureen - How to Decorate with Antiques

2. Trophy Cups

I have several of these around my home and while usually, they’re just on display in my guest bedroom, I occasionally pull one to use in a different way. These are great when used as vases, pencil cups, utensil holders, etc. Get creative!

How to Decorate with Antiques - Use a trophy cup as a vase, utensil holder, etc.

3. Grain Sacks

Grain Sacks are old bags, typically from Europe, that were once use to store and carry grain. The weave and stripe detail would specify which farm the grain was from. Given their durability, these are great when used as seat covers, table runners, placemats, pillows, etc. Personally, I like when they have patches, holes, or other markings because they have more character, but surprisingly, you can still find many that are in perfect condition. You can buy some from my shop {here}.

Blue ruffle pillow and grainsack pillow on linen sofa

4. Dresser

An old dresser can be turned into a kitchen island or even a vanity for the bathroom to create a unique statement piece.

How to Decorate with Antiques - Use a vintage dresser as a bathroom vanity

5. Shoe Last

I can be a sucker for industrial objects and shoe lasts are no exception. Historically, lasts were typically made from hardwoods and cast iron because these materials retain their shape, even when in contact with wet materials (like leather) and subjected to the mechanical stresses of stretching and shaping shoes on them.  Now, they work great as doorstops, paper weights, or even bookends!

How to Decorate with Antiques - use vintage skeleton keys to decorate books

6. Tin Ceiling Tiles

Once used to adorn ceilings of old buildings, tin ceiling tiles have beautiful designs. These pieces now make fantastic wall decor and are much more unique than a generic print found at the store.

French elegant master bathroom with built in closets and antique tin ceiling tiles

7. Books

Yes, books are meant to be ready and you should read them. But antique books are just so beautiful, that they make gorgeous display pieces! If you stack a few up, they work great as a pedestal to add height.

Vignette of vase with a candle, book, and dish.

8. Dough Bowl

Once used for mixing dough, these dough bowls make great centerpieces for dining tables, console tables, and more! I often use mind to store magazines underneath my coffee table. They come in a variety of sizes depending on how you plan to use them.

Pottery Barn console with dough bowl
via Pottery Barn

9. Demijohn

A demijohn (or carboy), refers to a glass vessel with a large body and small neck that was used for transporting liquids such as beer, mead and wine, and is enclosed in wickerwork.  Nowadays, these bottles work perfectly as tall vases or even group together as display pieces.

Pottery barn dining table with demijohn as a vase - How to Decorate with Antiques
via Pottery Barn

10. Keys

Old skeleton keys have a lot of charm, so they look nice when sitting on a coffee table or grouped in a bowl. I have a special one that I keep under a cloche with other important items, but I often just put them on top of an old book.

Large French vintage skeleton keys

11. Breadboard

Old bread boards look great as well decor or kitchen backsplashes. But I find that the large, European ones are the perfect size for charcuterie boards!

wooden cutting board collection on mantel - How to Decorate with Antiques

12. Confit Pot

Confit pots were mustard and green pots used for storing cooked meats and then buried in the ground or stored in stone-lined larders. Now, you can but decorative versions of these post, like the one below from Pottery Barn, to use as vases or display pieces.

Family room with confit pot vase
via Pottery Barn

13. Bottle Drying Racks

Once used to dry bottles, I’ve found that these racks are perfect for holding everyday coffee mugs on the kitchen counter. It’s a practical and decorative way to store coffee mugs! Wall versions are great for mugs as well, but I’ve seen them used to hang flowers or dry herbs, too.

14. Olive Bucket

Once used during olive harvest for picking and washing the fruit, olive baskets are now used as decorative containers, either inside or out. I sometimes use mine to store firewood on the hearth, but here, I’m using it for extra pillows and throws.

These are just some of the creative ways to decorate with antiques, but there are so many more! Items with a bit of history bring some personality and character to your home.

So the next time you go to buy a vase, or container, or scrap of fabric, give some though as to whether there’s an antique that could do the job. Sure you could get a decorative pot from Pottery Barn to put on your counter, but how much cooler would it be if it were an antique confit pot that was once buried in the soil of France?!

Because why own something new if you can own something with a cool story?

Love antiques? See what I’m selling in la Brocante Boutique!

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  1. Nancy Brantley says:

    I’m with you using antiques instead of new! Why have what everyone else has in their home from box stores?? Great post with pictures.

  2. Hello Kim. Thank you for all the wonderful decorating tips and great pictures. I have a smaller version of your white ironstone tureen that belonged to my grandmother. Unfortunately, I broke the lid but now I know how to use it. Placed a small Birds Nest Fern in it and it’s perfect! Thanks so much for the inspiration!
    Best, Jakalyn

  3. Always love getting your email ‘s. Always a lot of great decorating ideas! In your first picture you had a small white and blue statue with a crown. Do you sell this? Would love to have one. Thank you. Carol Waggoner

    1. User Avatar Tidbits&Twine says:

      Hi Carol!

      Thank you so much for taking the time to read my posts! Super funny story about that reproduction santos bust. I got it from HomeGoods a few years ago for something like $20. She’s came with a yellow outfit but I chalk painted it blue. She also has moveable arms, but my husband thought it was so funny to pose her arms differently every morning before I woke up that they eventually broke off! Two months ago I was at an antique fair and a vendor told me that it was a “real” antique and tried to sell it to me for $90! Ummmmm…..it’s not an antique and so not worth $90! As for where you can get one…I have good news and bad. Antique Farmhouse was selling a set of three but I just looked and they are sold out. That’s the only place I’ve seen them other than the one I stumbled upon at HomeGoods. But here is the link anyway. Put your email on the list to be notified when back in stock! https://www.antiquefarmhouse.com/santos-bust.html

      Good luck!

      :) Kim

      1. Carol Waggoner says:

        Thank you for responding Kim. I’m a big shopper of homegoods. I may run into it someday. Enjoy reading your posts and seeing your home! Thanks again!

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