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 with care, the results can be truly amazing.
I put this principle to work during a recent project for clients Anne and Jeff, who had a large ground- floor living room with a large problem. The room was packed with mismatched furniture and jarring styles: chic sofas rubbed elbows with ornate chairs, modern artwork hung alongside antique paintings.

Unsure how to make it all gel, Anne and Jeff asked if I could help them unify their old and new pieces and 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 samelanguage with color and pattern. To this end, I selected a palette of bright colors (creams, greens, blues and yel- lows) and chose a variety of bold fab- rics (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 dis- tinctive 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, two white and Lucite chairs and hung a cool, globe pen- dant 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 cou- ple’s artwork that combines both tradi- tional 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.