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Four simple tips for decorating with antiques

Interior designer James Thurstan Waterworth shares advice on restoration, mixing pieces from different eras and buying what you love

interior design
Simon Brown

As former European Design Director at Soho House, James Thurstan Waterworth has lead projects across the world. His experiences living and working in LA, New York, London, Hong Kong and Barcelona has informed his aesthetic. Now based in London he designs for both residential and commercial properties, and deals in antiques and mid-century furniture and accessories. Here, he shares his top tips to working with antiques....


There’s no reason why you can’t use any piece in a modern setting, as long as you limit the number of styles. We recently paired a 17th-century Spanish walnut table with a 1960s ‘Curva’ chair by Brazilian designer Joaquim Tenreiro in a modern space. The balance worked incredibly well.

interior design
A bespoke travertine fireplace, bronze mirror by Charlotte Kingsnorth and a mid-century Italian ‘Counterweight’ ceiling lamp feature in this dining room
Simon Brown


It’s easy to get drawn into buying something just because it’s an investment, which is much riskier. If you’re looking online, I strongly advise seeing something in person if possible. You get to know so much more about a piece by touching it and seeing how it has aged.

interior design
Curated objects in a North London Home
Simon Brown


I look for antiques with character and a story to tell. I love 17th- and 18th-century Spanish and Italian walnut pieces, for example, because their colours are so beautiful and their simplicity feels so modern.

interior design
Bed is upholstered in mohair, paired with full-length linen curtains and striking onyx table lamp in a North London project.
Simon Brown


When it comes to restoration, leave as much of the original piece intact as you can. If something needs new upholstery fabric, consider the colours of any surrounding materials and the space it is going into.

This article appeared in ELLE Decoration July issue

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