Something Old, Something New 3

Interior Designer Shares 
Tips on How to Mix Styles

How to mix traditional style with modern? As an interior designer, this is a question I am asked often. Today, modern décor is very popular. Many people want a modern update but do not want to give up all of their old traditional pieces. Decorating a room with different furniture styles is fashionable and fresh—but for many, it can also be hard to pull off.

In Oklahoma, we tend to love our traditional furnishings, and most of us do not like extremes. Fortunately, Oklahomans really do fit the something old, something new model. Mixing styles creates a more transitional look that works really well. It allows us to keep our comfortable “something old” furnishings, and simply replace or add “something new,” such as accessories, a new chair or sofa.

To best illustrate this process we have created two spaces. In the before photo is a space that looks very similar to traditional homes in Oklahoma. The after photo is the same space but in a transitional style with a modern flare. For a little more direction, here are seven easy steps.

De-clutter and Simplify

Gone are the days of overstuffed furniture and ornate accessories. Remove dust-collecting greenery, dried flower arrangements and many of your traditional accessories. Keep only a few things you love. Here we kept the chairs, rug and a few accessories, then updated the brown leather sofa, opting for less tufting and clean lines.

Break Away From the Walls

Move your furniture away from the walls. Floating furniture in the middle of a room isn’t something one would naturally think of, but it works and it’s remarkably cozy. As you can see in our model, we moved all of the furniture away from the wall. Just that one step gives the space more movement and interest.

Add Non-traditional Art

This is the easiest and most economical way to update your space. An abstract painting is a good choice and can instantly add that modern touch to your space without doing anything else. We mixed it up with some metal geometric wall décor. The organic table sculpture between the two traditional chairs helps tie the room together.

Introduce a Key Mid-Century Style Piece of Furniture

Think clean lines, sleek surfaces and sculptural forms. This modern inspired chair is a perfect example, with its sweeping Danish-style exposed wood frame and its expressive, sculptural, organic body. The gray color of the fabric mixes well with the space due to its neutral warm tone. Because we used a warm gray instead of a cool gray, it blends with the warm colors of the “old” furnishings and coordinates with the gray in the art.

Lighten and Brighten

Forget the matchy-matchy look; add white or bright colors, along with light and airy elements. White not only brightens, it also makes your furnishings and architectural elements pop. We used the background in our abstract art to bring in a large amount of white. Keep adding pieces that bringing in things that suggest a light and airy feel like mirror, glass and metal, as well as furnishings you can see through.

Play With Scale

Most people would use art a third of the size of this piece, but its size is what makes this look memorable. The height of the new étagère, in a vertical form, makes the art legitimate to the space as well as giving the room an airy feel since you can see through it, in a modern industrial look that works well with “old” traditional elements. Not only does this piece satisfy previously mentioned modern qualities, it is also is a great way to display new modern accessories.

Go Global

European, American, and Chinese furniture is common in traditional homes, so to infuse a little variety into the mix, seek out décor from Africa, South America, or Southeast Asia. Geometric prints and natural elements such as rough-hewn wood and teak are influences from these regions. Geometric forms can be seen again on the lamps and in the print on the pillows. Some of these prints have an African vibe, while the banana leaf vases and sculptural wood forms seem South American in origin. Add a touch of the South Pacific with a simple tropical leaf, or succulents in a bowl, a very modern touch.

Gia Rose, IIDA/ASID/AIGA, is an interior designer and gallery manager at Designer’s Market in Oklahoma City.