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How to Make Traditional Decor Feel Fresh

By: Sarah Beaumont

November 21, 2017

Image via One Kings Lane


After years of Cali casual and boho slouchy interiors, Traditionalism is making a graceful comeback, from wingback chairs to chintz to heirloom rugs. The great thing about traditional design is that it’s timeless, sophisticated and perpetually in style. The challenge is making it feel fresh. Whether you live in a prewar apartment that’s begging for an upgrade or simply have a taste for tradition, these neo-trad tricks will set your décor in a fresh direction.


Clear the Way for Contemporary Elements

Neo-traditional decor feels fresh when contemporary materials and shapes make an appearance. That might mean a sputnik chandelier in a traditional dining room or a lucite coffee table in a classic sitting room. The transparent pieces in both rooms lighten up the dark woods and heavy fabrics.

Stick with the Silhouettes, Scratch the Patterns

We’re all for the occasional buffalo check, but if you want to keep your traditional décor from feeling stuffy, stick with solid colors. A chesterfield sofa with floral upholstery has a total granny vibe, but if you swap it for a colorful velvet or soft leather, you’ll get a modernized take on a traditional silhouette.

Switch Up Your Hardware

A traditional kitchen can feel so fresh and so clean, but it requires a few contemporary elements to really make it pop. Think Caesarstone countertops, hardwood floors, and a ceramic tile backsplash. Then swap out old cabinet and drawer knobs for sleek handles or consider adding brass pendant lights above the sink or counter.

Work in Worldly Items

Traditional homes often include elements of American, European and Chinese design, but it doesn’t hurt to mix it up by incorporating décor from a variety of cultural landscapes. Instead of an Oriental rug opt for a kilim. Bring in a handcrafted side table from South Africa. Frame and hang photos from your travels. The occasional global accent creates texture and visual interest.

Mix in Modernism

Lighting fixtures are a simple and subtle way to bring in modernism without overwhelming the rest of the design. Opt for angular mantis-style sconces or a clean-lined floor lamp. These modern elements provide a minimalist counterpoint to the traditional maximalism.

Go for Vibrant, Bright Colors

A dash of yellow here and a burst of blue there. In this kitchen, the traditional shapes feel fresh thanks to the color blocked hues of robin’s egg blue and fire engine red. Just make sure to keep a cohesive palette and don’t overdo it.

Make it Monochromatic

On the opposite side of the spectrum, consider scaling back on color altogether. Opt for a black and white palette, which creates high contrast and makes traditional patterns, like chinoiserie, feel fresh.

Carry Forth with Contemporary Art

Even if all of your furniture is traditional, your art doesn’t have to consist of family portraits and antique oil paintings. The juxtaposition between contemporary art and traditional design is undeniably eye-catching.

Loosen Your Layout

What’s the simplest way to freshen a traditional space? Play with your layout. Rather than having all your furniture sit stiffly against walls, allow it to float around the room. If you want to encourage conversation, pull your pieces in close towards the center of the space.

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