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4 Tips for mixing traditional and modern décor

Perhaps you’ve got a significant other who wants to stick their Eames lounge chair in your traditional living room. Or maybe you need to incorporate your grandmother’s Louis XIV chair into your mostly mid-century modern home. Whatever the reason behind your need to combine distinctly different design styles in the same space, here are a four tips to help you achieve a successful transitional style interior.

Transitional home decor

1Unbalancing act

Interior design is all about creating balance and harmony, but that doesn’t mean achieving a 50/50 ratio for both design styles. Representing both styles equally will simply result in an interior that looks confused and poorly designed. Pick one as the dominant style and incorporate the second style with smaller furniture pieces or decorative accessories.

K.I.S.S. - Keep it simple, sister

2K.I.S.S. – Keep it simple, sister

Nothing turns a room from chic to cheap quicker than clutter, so take it easy on the accessories. If you want your Tiffany table lamp to pop on your sleek modern tulip end table, don’t clutter up the surface with a bunch of other accessories like decorative vases or picture frames. The design rule may normally be to display accessories in groups of three, but it’s not always the best decision in a transitional space.

Grouping too many accessories of opposing design styles together can leave your living room looking like a yard sale. A good rule of thumb in transitional spaces is to count each design style as its own item in a grouping, then find a decorative accessory that ties together elements from each.

In this example, we count the Tiffany lamp as item one and the modern end table as item two. Then we add a decorative bowl with a modern design that echoes the organic flowers and the red accents in the traditional lamp.

  1. Lamps Plus – Dale Tiffany San Antonio accent lamp
  2. Knoll – Saarinen tulip table
  3. Overstock – hand-blown glass bowl

Unexpected color & bold upholstery

3Unexpected color & bold upholstery

The simplest way to incorporate a traditional vintage piece into a modern décor is by updating it. But don’t simply refurbish antique furniture to its original condition. That fresh coat of paint and brand-new upholstery need to give the piece a contemporary feel. Give old-fashioned accessories a modern look with bright, unconventional colors and funky patterned fabric.

We love the kitschy look that flamingo-pink paint brings to this ornate picture frame, and the antique armchair looks positively modern with its geometric upholstery and fire-engine red trim. Even modern furniture can be given a traditional twist by stenciling a fancy formal design on sleek modern pieces, as seen on this chest of drawers.

  1. Etsy – vintage mantel piece
  2. Etsy – vintage chest of drawers
  3. Etsy – red armchairs with geometric upholstery

Two styles in one

4Two styles in one

Sometimes it’s better to let the professionals figure out how to fuse two opposing styles. Designers often re-imagine vintage styles by creating them out of modern materials, like this Louis XV-style chair made out of transparent polycarbonate, designed by Philippe Starck.

Other designers simply reference multiple style elements in the same piece, as seen in this dining table by Modani. This table is designed to mimic the silhouette of a classic turned table leg, but is actually constructed of flat, two-dimensional materials for a sleek, modern look.

Because of the duality of styles within the furniture, these pieces can be incorporated easily into interiors that are mostly modern or typically traditional.

  1. Kartell – Louis Ghost chair
  2. Modani – Gabrieli dining table

More interior design tips

3 Neutral color palettes to complement any deécor
Jillian Harris — Design trends meet personal style
How to give your furniture a facelift


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