Susie Novak Interiors
Interior designer serving Oakland, San Francisco, East Bay and Marin California.

Design Blog

Mixing Design Genres II: Traditional Decor Gets A Modern Update

  Modern Traditional.  Image source .

Modern Traditional. Image source.

Last month, we talked about Modern Comfort, which is one of my favorite ways to combine clean, crisp style with the cozy feeling of home.

This month, we’re going to mix modern and traditional decor. This genre is particularly close to my heart, as I live in a 1920s Tudor in Oakland!

When my husband and I first bought the home, we fell in love with the large divided-light windows, wood flooring, and original fireplace. But we also had a modern aesthetic and didn’t want a home that felt overly traditional. We are still — yes still... 5 years later — working on renovations and fixing it up (posts to come soon!).

But let’s get back to you. ;) If you look at the key elements these two styles are known for, you might notice something interesting...

MODERN

  • clean lines, straight edges, flat surfaces
  • geometric patterns
  • minimalist space-filling
  • asymmetric at times
  • neutral colors, minimal usage
  • cement or wide plank wood flooring

TRADITIONAL

  • elaborate curves, sumptuous textures
  • florals, paisleys, strips, patterns galore
  • comfortably full spaces
  • symmetry is king
  • neutral colors to full spectrum
  • parquet and herringbone wood floors, ribbon edging


That’s right, there are a lot of contradicting themes here — but these opposing characteristics are what make it so fun to merge these genres together! 

Best part is, Modern Traditional eliminates the common concerns people have for each genre on its own: modern interiors = tendency to feel cold; traditional interiors = bad rep for being grandmotherly.

  Modern lighting, exposed beams, ornate fireplace... there's so much to love here.  Image source.

Modern lighting, exposed beams, ornate fireplace... there's so much to love here. Image source.

How to Mix Modern with Traditional in Your Home

STEP 1  /  GET INSPIRED

Even though we're talking about modern traditional style, the genre can be used to create any number of atmospheres and moods. It all depends on what you personally like. Here are three well-designed and very DIFFERENT Modern Traditional spaces to help inspire you.


Room A: Light and Airy

The walls are the first thing you notice in this bedroom. The pattern is very traditional but instead of looking like a trip to granny's, a modern approach keeps it feeling fresh and new. How’d they get this balancing act just right?

  • White and light blue-gray tones keep the wallpaper pattern from being loud
  • The royal blue color of the bed stands out prominently
  • Cherry wood tones — from the floor, bedside lamps, and mirror frame — complement the blue bed
  • The furnit ure, lighting, and framed pictures add touches of both modern and traditional

 

Room B: Historic, Grounded, Inventive

I could stare at this parlor all day. The rich wood accents and paneling, the gorgeous trim and arches… there’s no question that it’s a historic home, but it doesn’t look dated. The details that bring modern and traditional together feel effortless:

  • The curved but clean-edged sofas
  • Modern lighting that complements the space perfectly
  • Geometric, modern colored mirror that adds contrast but also brings the palette together
  • Gold gilded framed painting that is consistent in color
  • Crisp white walls paired with warm traditional wood details


Room C: Bright and Glamorous

Here, modern traditional design creates another entirely different atmosphere. The largest traditional influence is the architecture, but the designer incorporated several other elements to gracefully merge these two genres:

  • Painted walls! Sometimes white paint is the best option to freshen up and modernize a space
  • Traditional bistro lighting for the chandelier and flush mounts
  • Modern chairs with clean lines
  • Elegant and traditional touches of black and gold

These are just 3 of many, many ways you can use modern traditional style to create the perfect atmosphere for you. For more inspiration, check out our Modern Traditional Pinterest board!

STEP 2  /  YOUR HOME’S ARCHITECTURE, INVENTORY & THE FUN PART

The architecture of your space will dictate where you begin and how you can incorporate your style:

  • When was the house built and what design genre does it fit into?
  • Are there any architectural details that make the space unique or historical?

You may have to make some tough decisions regarding what's worth keeping and what's worth changing. Take an inventory of all the modern and/or traditional pieces you already own and want to keep, and remember that not everything old is functional or well-made — some pieces may need to be altered.

Pay attention to the style category of the items you intend to keep... and then comes the fun part... browsing for more! Below are some of my favorite shops and sources for finding modern and traditional pieces. 

I recommend pinning like crazy before purchasing anything. This will give you a feel for how your new and existing items will create the big picture: your space's fullness, palette, and overall mood. To keep your design focused, incorporate no more than 2-3 styles!

STEP 3  /  IDENTIFY OR CREATE YOUR "DESIGN BRIDGES"

  Traditional Shape + Modern Frame.  Image source .

Traditional Shape + Modern Frame. Image source.

By now, you know which pieces you want to work with and the overall mood you want to create with them. Next, you'll want to identify your "design bridges." A design bridge is a single element that merges differing styles within a space. For example, a bridge could be a piece of furniture that mixes modern and traditional design, or a traditional coffered ceiling painted a modern color.

Your bridges (it's okay to have more than one in a space) should be very calculated choices that fit your space's color palette, mood, and functional needs. 

Here are just a couple strategies, depending on your starting point:

  • If your home's architecture is traditional and you like ultra-modern furniture, keep some consistency with the furnishings and the light fixtures you select. Lighten up the space itself, such as painting the walls white, to make the traditional architecture feel more modern.
     
  • Wood interiors can often age and darken, so you may want to lighten them up by sanding and staining or painting a lighter color. Lightening up the walls with paint or a stain will also make a traditional interior feel more modern.
     
  • Find pieces whose designs already fuse modern with traditional. You can find some great examples below or in our Modern Traditional Pinterest board here. 
  The clean lines and velvet channeling make this sofa a gorgeous addition to a modern traditional interior.  Image source .

The clean lines and velvet channeling make this sofa a gorgeous addition to a modern traditional interior. Image source.

  Traditional vanity-style bulbs paired with modern black piping.  Image source .

Traditional vanity-style bulbs paired with modern black piping. Image source.

  Tall candlesticks scream traditional, but the lean silhouette and the use of black (instead of a metal like gold or pewter) helps these blend into a modern traditional space.  Image source .

Tall candlesticks scream traditional, but the lean silhouette and the use of black (instead of a metal like gold or pewter) helps these blend into a modern traditional space. Image source.

  Antiqued mirror with a modern presentation. No traditional gilded frames here.    Image source  .

Antiqued mirror with a modern presentation. No traditional gilded frames here. Image source.

    STEP 4  /  ASSEMBLE YOUR SPACE

    Once you have your plan and piece selections, you're ready to pull the room together! You can assemble it all together at once or give yourself a more generous timeline of 5 years. ;) Either way, all that matters in the end is that you have a space that makes you feel proud and at home! 

    For more inspiration, check out our Modern Traditional Pinterest board!

     

    Susie NovakComment