You moon over modern but he’s taken with traditional? Blending two disparate looks, like contemporary and traditional, can be a source of conflict for many couples. Sparks may fly when someone’s style is not as closely aligned with a partner’s as thought. Coming up with an interior design compromise that satisfies both styles is tricky, but I believe opposing forces create some of the most interesting and satisfying results. Here’s how to get those results.

Mixed Decorating Styles – How to Merge Your Tastes

eclectic dining room by BROWN DAVIS INTERIORS, INC.

Simplify and relate

In this eclectic room, contemporary art and traditional elements get along quite nicely (hopefully as nicely as the couple does). Modern art and old-world antiques can live together harmoniously with a bit of editing and discipline.

The success in this room results from the use of silhouette. If you have a curvy piece, like the settee on the right, simplify it by covering it in a solid-color material. In this case the color was drawn from the painting. The settee’s shape plays in perfectly with the shapes in the artwork and sets the tone for other traditional shapes — like those of the dining chairs —to join the conversation.

Look for common elements, like the curved lines in the furniture pieces here, to create harmony.

eclectic living room by Jerry Jacobs Design, Inc.


The architecture here, including the molding and the fireplace, reflects the period when the home was built. To update period architecture, keep the furnishings really simple with clean structured shapes. This will lend a modern vibe and create a nice harmony.

Here the simplified shapes are unified with colour. The sculptural forms of furniture pieces like these will please those who desire strong, clean lines, while the traditionalist will enjoy the overall structure’s being anchored in tradition.


Edit to Compromise

Traditional, yes. But fussy, no. Sometimes the best approach to please both is to keep fewer pieces and celebrate them in a simpler setting. In a purely traditional space, pattern is layered and embellished; strict editing can bring the most pleasing result.

Simply select the pieces you couldn’t live without and edit out the rest. Pick two or three items and stop there. The result will celebrate favorite possessions while pleasing the modern minimalist.

modern living room by The Marion House Book

Push the extremes

This great example shows more of an eclectic mix, but the furniture is all very modern, resting on a modern rug in a traditional setting. You can get this look if you apply a few principles.

First visualize the fixed pieces — here the chandelier and the mirror over the fireplace — as all being part of the structure, and keep those very traditional. When you choose items such as these, look for elements that are extremely different, as the ones here are, or else the result will be a mishmash of ideas. It is only by pushing the tension that the result will be really interesting.

For example, this isn’t just a gold-framed traditional mirror, but one resplendent with baroque detail. The chandelier, too, is very dramatic. The chairs are unquestionably modern. You can make this sort of mix successful when you keep in mind that the key is in juxtaposing very modern furniture against a traditional structure. This is a great reason to visit a local flea market and see what treasures you find.

contemporary living room by DANIELLA VILLAMIL INTERIORS





Enjoy the tension

Divert the tension into your project instead of having it in your relationship. Here we have the inverse of the previous examples: a very modern structure with traditional furniture. You can get this effective result if you remember to keep the fabrics simple, allowing one or two prints to stand out. Choose a strong color like the outstanding blue of this rug to set off the prints, and the mix will feel just right. It will be bold and simplified but still with a nod to tradition.

Tell us: Do you and your partner still struggle to find a result that pleases both? What are the obstacles?