The use of antiques as a design choice is becoming more common now, but was unusual in the old days. Older pieces of furniture and decor were typically relegated to the lesser-used rooms in the house, while the more frequently-visited rooms were laid out in the modern fashion of the day.

Architects of the past included interior design elements in their work, including furniture, rugs, wall hangings, pottery, ceramics in their designs. Cabinet pictures, paintings designed specifically to fit into a certain area such as the wall space above a couch, are incorporated into architectural plans. Mirrors have traditionally been included in interior spaces to make them appear more spacious than they actually are. Another architectural design element is the mural, which was often used during the 17th-century Baroque design era much like a mirror, to make a room look bigger.

For most of the history of interior design, only the homes of the rich, powerful and important were considered worthy of study. Only in the very recent past have art galleries, museums and scholars begun to consider the home furnishings of everyday people.

Since the 1840s, collectors who specialize in particular categories of antique furnishings have helped preserve their meanings and uses. Collectors valued decorative objects so highly that these objects began to be taken out of use for their original purposes and placed instead on shelves and in collections.