This is the unexpected secret to making a modern house feel warm

A 19th-century barn ladder lends warm contrast to this otherwise contemporary room. Photos by Sara Essex Bradley.

When setting out to find all the perfect pieces to fill the contemporary-style home that graces the cover of inRegister’s October issue, interior designer Kenneth Brown made one surprising stop: Baton Rouge’s Fireside Antiques. It might sound counterintuitive to add antique furnishings to a clean and modern house, but that’s exactly what Brown says was needed to keep each room as accessible and inviting as it is sleek and chic.

“When you do all modern, it becomes very stale and institutional,” Brown says. “That’s why I mixed in a lot of antiques.”

Indeed, Brown sourced centuries-old items for almost every room. Mixing these warm and weathered pieces with cool materials like marble and metal lend a softness to each space that can’t be achieved with everything brand new and fresh off the showroom floor. What else did these artifacts add? Their own stories–rich with history and ready to start a conversation.

As fresh as it feels, this living room features two antique items.

Take the distinctive-looking wood coffee table that graces the living room. Turns out it originally wasn’t a table at all, but rather a “riddling rack” used in the making of Champagne in a process known as “remuage,” says Fireside Antiques design/sales consultant Paul Hewitt. “After a resting period, the bottles are held in the rack at an angle, with their necks facing downward,” Hewitt explains. “They are periodically rotated by hand, loosening and coaxing the sediment into the neck of the bottle so that it can be removed from the bottles under pressure, in a process called disgorgement. This leaves the wine clear, with a more palatable coloration. The riddling rack came from Reims, in the Champagne-producing region of France, and dates to the 19th century. We reimagined the straight, linear rack into a Parsons-style coffee or cocktail table.”

Elsewhere in the living room, a floral-motif lamp adds an organic shape to the otherwise clean-lined room. This early 20th-century French fixture, which Hewitt calls a “functional work of art,” has been rewired and outfitted with low-wattage bulbs. “It is made of copper and brass with a base made of cast stone,” Hewitt says. “Its whimsical nature immediately drew us to it when sourcing in the French countryside, and we simply had to have it. It did not make it onto our showroom floor before Kenneth saw it and scooped it up!”

The home’s large entry hall makes another strong statement with its dark lenge wood-veneered gallery wall, but amid all the bold colors, a warm wood ladder holds its own. “The ladder is an English country ladder from the 19th century,” Hewitt says. “It would have been used in a pastoral setting, likely a barn, where it would have been used to access a loft where hay and other goods would have been stored and kept dry.”

See the rest of this house in this story from the October issue of inRegister, available on newsstands now. And click here for more tips on decorating with antiques from Fireside Antiques’ Laura Roland.