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Mixing Contemporary and Traditional Design

Updated on February 18, 2012

Mixing Contemporary and Traditional Design


How to get the perfect Mix of Contemporary and Traditional

How many times have I been asked about combining traditional and contemporary design elements in one space? Does it work? How can we do that? Will it be too busy? Is white too cold?

These questions are an important part of the design process. Thorough and consistent communication between all parties involved in the process is one of the key ingredients to a successful project. Sometimes, couples are trying to merge two distinctly different styles of design elements, and the process involves compromise. It involves a little give and take from each party. This melding process can be stressful, but the key is to achieve a sense of balance, and this is an art.

Let's look at an example of Mixing Opposites, which is clearly represented in photo "B." This project is a great example of combining old and new, traditional and contemporary, dark and light, primitive and modern and yet, the space does achieve a great sense of balance.

The second image is included specifically for the purpose of, pointing out the two distinctly different pieces of Art, which are hanging in this space. The modern sculpture displayed on the right wall is clearly, diabolically opposite, to the piece of art hanging above of the fireplace.

Let’s look at the structural elements in this space. The application of the stone surround, selected for the fireplace, is very simplistic, both in weight and color. The wood floors are dark and fairly smooth with very little sheen. And, when you look at the ceiling details, you can see it is much lighter than the color applied to the floors.

The ceiling is textured, mat and light in color, clearly the opposite of the floor. Interestingly, the wood which has been applied on the ceiling, actually helps to absorb the light in the room, both the natural sunlight and the reflection coming from the glass windows. This space is truly a collection of opposites in many respects.

  • old and new
  • dark and light
  • rough and smooth
  • shiny and mat
  • contemporary and traditional
  • form and function
  • Minimalism vs. Maximal-ism

It's interesting to look at each element in this space. We have a baby grand piano which is black and definitely high gloss. And then the small, primitive side tables which both in size and texture are clearly extremes. The wood pieces are primarily dark and bring both weight and texture to the space. The antique columns, used as an entry into the room, help to define the perimeter of an otherwise, open space. They almost act as a frame, to the open floor plan, which is specifically a much more contemporary, architectural element.

The furniture is covered in a very simple artist canvas. It's a natural fabric with flex or trash, in the weave when it is woven. The construction of the fabric is very basic and relatively inexpensive, so it plays to a more casual attitude. Yet the pillows reflect the light in the space, as they are constructed with a woven iridescent yarn, in a raised and circular design. Again, it is a play of "opposites" in a very subliminal way.

As a Designer, I love working in a mono-chromatic scheme. It's not all about only white and/or bone. That's not usually something that most clients feel comfortable using in their homes. In fact, I use an interesting concept when we’re selecting the color scheme for a project. I like to go study or analyze the existing colors present in the surrounding "environment," both inside and outside of the job site.

This whole issue around selecting a color scheme for a project is a fascinating and challenging task. Depending upon the views from inside, and the available light at different times of the day, I like to collect colors from a paint deck and play with these to decide what works best.

I refer to these colors as my “organic palette,” already living on the project site. It's amazing how simple it is, to incorporate these organic colors from indoors and outdoors, to come up with a wonderful color palette for the interior color scheme. And, it actually helps to anchor the new space, so it cohabitates naturally as a part of the environment.

This is an incredible art. To successfully combine different design elements and to achieve a sense of balance, blending the lights and dark's, the old and new, formal and casual, and to have everything come together. Opposites can attract!!

This should look as though it is an effortless process, but there are times, when I can honestly say, it does become an obsession. The balance between form and function, color and texture, need to all come together to produce an emotional experience. This has got to be the key "mantra" of any accomplished Interior Designer. When successfully executed, the completed project does have a heart of its own.

This particular project is a great example of opposites. The Traditional and Contemporary elements, mix well together, to create a wonderful stage to call “home.” We’ve taken two lives, two distinctly different personal tastes, and have combined them artistically and successfully. This is one of those projects which I can look back on, and it still makes me feel ~ quite passionate.

Let me know if this has been helpful. If you're dealing with a challenging situation and would like to submit photos to Meisel's Design, we'd be glad to give you an opinion.



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    • Mindy Meisel profile imageAUTHOR

      Mindy Meisel 

      8 years ago from Austin, Texas

      Thank you Eddy ~ Happy to follow you too!

    • Bldg an Architect profile image

      Bldg an Architect 

      8 years ago

      Interesting hub. Love the photos.

    • Mindy Meisel profile imageAUTHOR

      Mindy Meisel 

      8 years ago from Austin, Texas

      Since I'm relatively new to writing and publishing I'd be open to any positive or negative criticism you may have regarding any of my other Hubs.


    • Eiddwen profile image


      8 years ago from Wales

      A great hub and I look forward to following you on here.

      Take care and enjoy your day.



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