Trend I Love: Old Portraits in Modern Interiors

I spent a nice day this weekend wandering through the Museum of Fine Art here in Boston (a must of you are visiting) and kept saying to Andrew how some of the gilt frames on the old works were nearly as stunning as the paintings.  I kept imagining what it would be like to have some of the massive, amazing old portraits in your home.  Which leads me here- to showcasing modern interiors utilizing old, antique portraits in them.  There is something so wonderful about the juxtaposition of the very old and very traditional withing a more modern setting.  I think in 2014 you’ll see people incorporate more traditional items into design, be it a small item or a large sofa. What do you think of this look?


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To get this look scour antique shops and eBay (key search worlds “antique portrait” “oil painting portrait” “gilt frame”).  You can also look for empty gilt frames and fill them with the art of your choice (even a reproduction portrait- the frame will make it look more authentic as long as it’s not a famous portrait!)  I did this in my old bathroom- I found a vintage gilt frame (it’s chipped and I feel that adds to it) for $25 at an antique store and then got a sketch by Gretchen Kelly on Etsy and brought it to my local frame store who mounted it and added glass, backing and a wire for under $75! I adore having this in the bathroom as it’s unexpected and looks great against the black wall (you’ll see more of this space in the book!)



  1. I really like that look! Especially the old man in the kitchen. The portraits add warmth, depth and interest. I have some large, old photos of people that I don’t know (bought them for the ornate frames) but I don’t think I’ll hang them up in my house. They look creepy… :D

  2. Erin,

    You have to read “The Girl You Left Behind” by Jojo Meyes. This is a central concept of the book. You will love!


  3. I love this post, thanks! Leaning towards more traditional furnishings, I like to mix-in abstract and modern art pieces, to add a bit of the unexpected. I really need to get my butt over to the MFA. I hope the Singer-Sargent watercolor exhibit is still going on.

  4. I’ve always loved that contrast, mostly antique furniture with contempory. You’ve given me some ideas to try in our home…

  5. And if you love the frame but not the art inside, put a mirror in it (may want to antique the mirror as well).

  6. Love this post!! I just got back from a week in the English Countryside for New Years and fell in love with old portraits all over again, not to mention Aga stoves, brass fixtures, wellies…pretty much everything! I know what I’ll be looking for the next time I hit up a flea market.

  7. love this, but i need to ask a question–any time I have seen this look, i assumed the owners know the people featured in the pictures–but not true? Love the frames…

  8. Thank you so much, Erin!
    …for featuring my work amongst such beautiful old master portraits of vintage dames! I too love this mix of old with contemporary. This is a very inspiring post and gives me some new ideas for wall shots to add to my Etsy Shop!

  9. I love this look and proudly hang a tilted framed floral still life I inherited from my grandmother. I was in my 20’s when I asked her for it and she had me put my name on the back. Can’t wait to see your book!

  10. As a realist painter, this is exactly how I have my house decorated (contemporary furniture with portraits and still life in gilt frames). Love this post.

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  12. Erin, I absolutely agree with you. An eclectic mix of old and new creates an interesting and individual home, particularly if you have some old genuine family portraits. We should raid our parents attics!

  13. Hi Erin, What a great look! Especially the dark portraits against a white wall. My favorite — the big portrait of a man in done in grays and blues hanging in the kitchen! Love.

  14. Really cool contrast between the modern interiors and the traditional gilt frames. I also like the over-sized frames that help add scale to a room.

  15. I’ve been obsessing over antique portraits in modern spaces lately. I’m raiding my parents storage and bringing some home! Love the black bathroom, I painted mine matte black and have a sepia photo of a kid in a wash basin from the 20s. So fun! looks like we might design twins separated at birth… did I mention I did black, white, and green for the holidays too?!?
    xo Lea Hart

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