Old & New — Books

Some of the most striking interiors combine well-worn pieces with new ones, or classic period antiques with modern materials. Picture a Mid-Century Modern Arne Jacobsen chair paired with a contemporary Scandinavian desk, or a weathered, painted-wood cabinet suspended above a sparkling glass vessel sink.


Place cutting-edge stainless steel kitchen appliances beside the rustic planks of an old farmhouse table, or mingle a vintage chandelier and a purple velvet Louis in a living room of fresh upholstered linen furnishings. It’s style and warmth.

These are the mixes that Katherine Sorrell showcases in her book Old & New: Combining Past and Present In Contemporary Homes, from Ryland Peters and Small. Deceptively compact, this book is stuffed with fresh photographs and detailed descriptions of successful pairings and why the rooms work.

Sorrell breaks the book into two sections:

    The Spaces

  • Living
  • Cooking and Eating
  • Sleeping
  • Bathing
    The Elements

  • Furniture
  • Lighting
  • Textiles
  • Ceramics
  • Glassware

She groups the spaces into styles like “Relaxed Modern, Global Fusion, Retro-Inspired, or Gold & Glamour,” while giving specific suggestions about pieces to mix to achieve these styles. Sorrell includes notes about scale, colors and textures that work well together, and ideas about where you might locate new and old elements, or reproductions with a vintage look.


I found her “Getting it Right” pages a helpful list of hints and tips to make the spaces work. A theme throughout the book is not to overfill a space with too many pieces or accessories. This prevents clutter and helps contrasting components shine.


The Elements details the ingredients we can bring into a space and where to use these to best affect, from a delicate bone-china teacup to a utilitarian denim throw pillow. The Furniture section packs helpful information into a few pages.


If you appreciate rooms with personality and punch, check out Old & New. I found it a treasure trove of great ideas that’s a quick and easy read. It’s small enough to plop in your purse and bring along on your next treasure hunt, and informative enough to warrant a spot on your design bookshelf.

Where have you mixed old and new successfully? Tell us about your room.

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