Creating either a traditional design or a modern one is straightforward. Creating a space that marries the two styles can lead to a design divorce. If done incorrectly, the outcome can be awkward, but if done successfully, the results can be truly amazing.
I put this principle to work for clients Anne and Jeff, who had a large living room that was packed with mismatched furniture and jarring styles: Chic sofas rubbed elbows with ornate chairs; modern artwork hung alongside antique paintings.
Anne and Jeff asked if I could turn the discordant room into a harmonious space.
The couple had a contemporary chocolate-brown sofa and loveseat they wanted to keep. So I decided to start the process with those two pieces, bring in some of their antiques and make everything speak the same language with color and pattern. To this end, I selected a palette of bright colors (creams, greens, blues and yellows) and a variety of bold fabrics (linens, paisleys and weaves).
My next task was to give some of the older pieces a new lease on life. I sent out an antique sofa and two cane chairs to be painted white and reupholstered — a blue/green woven fabric for the sofa and a funky paisley for the chairs. I also cut an old dining-room hutch in half and painted the bottom turquoise-blue — a color you wouldn't normally see on such a traditional piece.
I then organized the room into separate zones and brought in new furnishings. I created a reading area by the room's glass doors, which I furnished with new shades in a distinctive arabesque pattern. I put the repurposed antique sofa against one wall and flanked it with two white bookcases. I also put in a new round wooden table and two white and Lucite chairs and hung a cool, globe pendant light above it all.
Next to this, I created a lounge area with the brown sofa and loveseat. I added a square glass coffee table, the two antique cane chairs and a floor lamp with an ostrich-feather shade. Above the main sofa, I created a gallery of the couple's artwork that combines both traditional and modern pieces. The whole seating area faces a wall that houses the repurposed turquoise hutch, which now holds a flat-screen television.
I moved Anne and Jeff's piano into a corner beside the seating area and chose a large, ornate wall mirror to anchor that area. I then painted an existing chandelier white and hung it above the piano. Beside the piano, I created a small seating area with a white leather egg chair and an arc lamp.
I also put in accessories, like carvings, bowls, vases and pillows, to mix things up even further.