Mixing old and new for an eclectic look

Designer Monty Baus may obsess about historic homes with rich, storied pasts, but his interiors are anything but old-fashioned. His designs skillfully juxtapose old pieces in modern spaces to give rooms a fresh, livable look.

"The more the mix, the better," Baus says.

He steers clients away from being pigeon-holed in any one era's style. Instead, he encourages today's catalog generation to try mixing pieces-old and new-for a more collected, eclectic look that reflects their personalities.

The collected look may be chic today, but it's a style that Baus has employed for decades. As one of four partners of the former Beck-Mohawk Gallery in German Village, he artfully assembled Ming ceramic figures with Shaker furniture, American Indian blankets and late 20th-century paintings.

More recently, he mixed $300 French plates with 50-cent, yellow-handled flatware and jute-tied linen napkins for a kitchen table in the 2012 BIA Parade of Homes. To personalize the impressive art collection of two East Coast transplants, he dug through cabinets to find their daughter's ceramic project, which he whimsically displayed alongside an expensive mantel piece. Even in his own home in Zanesville (he commutes four to five days a week to his German Village studio), he has a lodge-style dining room table surrounded with 1950s aluminum office chairs.

Baus' background in antiques helps him appreciate current reproductions and also provides inspiration for spaces. Inspired after a tour of historic homes in Charleston, he recreated stone-like wallpaper from an 1830s Georgian home as a wall mural for a newer home in New Albany. Working with a decorative painter, he and the homeowners personalized the design with crickets and other insects painted along the trompe l'oeil grouted stone wall.

Ever the history buff, Baus is especially excited about a pro bono project he's working on that pays tribute to the late Corbett Reynolds, who in 1977 hosted the Red Party, an all-night dance party at his West Side club, Rudely Elegant. The event was the country's longest-running circuit party. On
Sept. 7, Baus and other volunteers will re-create the Red Party in an airplane hangar to benefit the AIDS Resource Center Ohio, one of Reynolds' cherished causes.

mix and match with confidence

To pull off a mixed style without looking wacky or eccentric, Baus offers these tips:

Pay attention to proportion. Avoid using all small or all large items. If you're unsure whether you've included enough variety in size, make a template of the proposed piece. Instead of salt-and-peppering collections around a room, gather them in groups of odd numbers. Mix art from different periods. Display an 1850s print with a painting just purchased in the Short North. Assemble the things you love, knowing you're making an autobiographical statement. Repurpose items from "Grandma Girt" found in your attic or basement. Baus created a sculptural display of wooden glove forms, designed a geographic wall installation of crew boat seats, reupholstered family heirlooms with modern fabrics and turned a sentimental horseshoe into a conversation piece by mounting it on an iron stand.

Don't be afraid to make mistakes. Try pairing opposites, like an industrial accent table and contemporary sofa. Trust your eye and gut, Baus says. If you're still unsure, especially about big-ticket items, consult a pro.