Two rules interior designers will consistently remind us about decorating are to keep in mind your home’s original architecture and to try to stay true to your home’s roots. This doesn’t mean going full-blown Victorian with your furniture in a historic terrace home but rather to respect the original bones of the space, look for materials that were found in the era your home was created, and give a few nods to the time period in your décor. That said, you also don’t want your home to feel as though it belongs in another era, so keeping that balance between traditional and modern home decorating is an art that could always use some fine-tuning.
Whether you’ve just moved into an Edwardian apartment in San Francisco or you’re trying to give your Colonial house in Connecticut a little more edge, there are countless ways to modernize a traditional home. Of course, you could go ahead and browse contemporary shops to see what catches your eye, but if you need a little more direction, we have a few modern home decorating tricks for you below. Ready to give your home a modern flair? Just try a few of these easy updates.
Hang Contemporary Art
There are few things we love more than contemporary art juxtaposed with the thoughtful architectural detail of a traditional home. Seek out artwork with colors that complement your existing furnishings, and you’ve got a foolproof combination.
Stack Your Books
Historically, books have always been arranged vertically in libraries, so by stacking them horizontally you can easily give any room an updated look. To get super modern, create multiple stacks of books with several inches of space in between them. For a more transitional aesthetic, try a mix of vertically and horizontally arranged books.
One of the simplest ways to freshen up any home is to integrate bright colors. A rich canary yellow will feel decidedly modern, while a bright yet soft mint green can create a youthful and traditional look. A Klein blue will instantly give your space a bold, modern edge. Choose your own adventure.
Be in the Clear
Be it a Lucite coffee table, a glass bar cart, or an acrylic chandelier, a bit of transparency always lightens up the heaviness of dark woods and upholstered furniture you often see in traditional homes. Luckily, you don’t have to worry about matching as clear items blend right in! Add one piece for an instant contemporary touch.
Stick With Solid Colors
Fussy and intricate patterns can quickly take on a granny vibe, so if you want to modernize your space, sticking with solids is a safe way to do so. Use texture, mixed metals and finishes, and shapely furniture to add interest and keep the pattern to a minimum.
European, American, and Chinese furniture are common in traditional homes, so to infuse a little variety into the mix, seek out décor from Africa, South America, Southeast Asia, or wherever life takes you. Vintage tiles or antique urns are a simple way to add a worldly flair to your space.
Layer Similar Elements
Displaying a series of art prints from the same collection is a staple in traditional décor, but when it’s a series of identical graphic prints, it feels decidedly bold. Is there another classic pattern or art movement you love? Lay it on thick for a twist on tradition.
Create an Unexpected Moment
We expect to see a console table and a mirror at the foot of a staircase, but what about a pair of chairs? Not so much. Or how about a low bench displaying leaning artwork and a single greenery branch? One wouldn’t dare. Play around with unusual arrangements and surprising juxtapositions until you create something that makes you say, wow!
Try a Unique Layout
Floating a daybed in the middle of a petite room isn’t something one would naturally think of—unless you’re an interior designer—but it works, and it’s remarkably cozy. When it comes to your furniture layout, listen to your instinct, and then disregard it. You may love what unfolds.
Play With Scale
One of the easiest ways to create a statement is to play with scale. A traditional designer would install a sconce a third of the side of this swing-arm light fixture, but its size is what makes this space memorable. Go big or go home.
What else would you add to this list? Share your wisdom with us.
This story was originally published by Julia Millay-Walsh on February 23rd, 2015. It was updated by Gabrielle Savoie.