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Art of Design: Traditional and Hip - The Next Wave

Joseph Pubillones on

How can we create a room that is both traditional and hip? Many of us inherit furniture and hand-me-downs that have meaning in our lives because of the memories associated with them; perhaps there is a sofa you grew up with or a nice wingback your favorite aunt or uncle gifted to you. You can certainly discard them, but you may not want to. How do you integrate these family heirlooms into a home for your modern family?

Let's face it; not everyone feels at home in fussy rooms. What you're trying to create is a home that has a nod to traditional decor, but not your mother's version of it. Selecting fabric for traditionally shaped seating can be tricky because fabrics that have a print or pattern can define a piece as more traditional. In cases like these, I always suggest using solid fabric in a neutral tone so the focus is more on the shape than the actual style or period of the furniture piece.

Incorporating case goods such as a china cabinet or chest of drawers or bureau can be accomplished in a more contemporary setting when you use one or two pieces as accents and mix it up with other modern or current case goods. This will enable you to strike a balance, and you won't end up with your house looking like an antique shop or a museum. Another suggestion that I can offer for working with antiques is to highlight certain pieces by painting them a color such as white, pale gray or, if you are daring paint, a bold color like tangerine or turquoise. This is a way to add a punch of color, and it will certainly keep your room from looking stodgy.

In terms of art, if you have traditional pieces, hanging them as a collage or in a shape are ways to lend an air of modernity. Art is powerful, and a good way to jazz up a traditional interior is with contemporary art, especially abstract pieces in large formats. It energizes the decor and makes antiques feel fresh.

Accessorizing can have a big impact when paired with traditional decor. Less is more. One single yet significant item on a tabletop makes much more of an impact than a cluttered table full of knickknacks. Decorative pillows should be as large as your seating allows. I prefer a minimum of 24-by-24-inch pillows in a bold color or some fabric with a distinct pattern. The goal is to break some of the traditional rules and expectations so your rooms will look hip.


Finally, adding plants to a room makes it feel and smell alive. Adding a floral arrangement of a single color, such as yellow or white, can revive the most traditional decor. So, you see, incorporating antiques and traditional furniture can be done with a modern and youthful spirit. It's all in the mix.


Joseph Pubillones is the owner of Joseph Pubillones Interiors, an award-winning interior design firm based in Palm Beach, Florida. To find out more about Joseph Pubillones, or to read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at

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