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How to Mix Traditional and Modern Furniture Styles

Create a Home in Your Own Style

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Michelangelo Wardrobe by Selva

Michelangelo Wardrobe by Selva

Photo (c) Selva

When you mix traditional and modern furniture styles you are doing away with labels to create an individualized, multi-layered living space. As it is, furnishing your home should be more about developing your own personal style rather than adhering to any single one unless you are truly passionate about it.

That said, combining modern furniture and accessories with traditional ones can often result in chaos if not planned in advance. To simplify the process, here are three major considerations that might make it easier to combine the two very different styles together:

Traditional Style
Modern Style

Modern or Traditional?

First of all you need to figure out if you want your space to be primarily modern or primarily traditional.

Figure out which style you would prefer to be in a dominating position. You may choose it to be a modern space with antique accents, or a traditional space with contemporary accents. Letting one style dominate is crucial, because you don’t want to create a space where everything is fighting for equal attention.

Basically you are furnishing in one style, while choosing the other one for accent.

Why Do You Love it?

Once you’ve figured out where your loyalties lie, find out why that style appeals to you. Look at the visual attributes of a piece of furniture. When you find yourself attracted to a piece is it because of its shape and lines, or do you admire it for its color and texture?

There is no wrong answer here, and spend as much time as you need tocome up with one that makes you happy. Whenever you see some furniture you like, note down why you like it. Also notice how you describe it to some one else. Do you talk about its sleek lines, or rich texture? Is color what matters to you? If you collect pictures of furniture you like, you will begin to see a pattern. A Pinterest board is a great way to go.

You can then begin to tie in pieces of different styles through their shapes, or material or color and texture, depending on which aspect appeals to you.

Harmony or Contrast?

After figuring out what you like and why you like it, it is time to settle another important question. What kind of a look are you going for: harmony or contrast?

If you want to create harmony for a more restful look, select furniture pieces that are more alike, or just a few degrees apart. For instance, for a harmonized look you may want to pair Hans Wegner chairs with a more traditional wood table. Although these chairs have a very modern sensibility, they are made of wood, which can harmonize with the table.

To create contrast and excitement, juxtapose colors and textures, such as Eames molded plywood chairs in different colorful stains, or the Tolix chaise in steel or colored metal with your traditional table.

Mix it Up

Now that you've figured out which elements are important to you, go ahead and start mixing it up.

  • Let one style dominate, and use the other one for accents.
  • Tie different styles together with the same color, texture, or shape.
  • Get different nuances by creating harmony or contrast when you mix different styles.

    Pictured here is the Michelangelo wardrobe from Selva, which is based on a sixteenth century design. In front is an iconic modern piece from the 20th century. The two work together because of an emphasis on line, and a very formal quality that both share.

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