While traditional furniture and decor has plenty of history and can be quite beautiful, when it’s overdone—it can feel rather heavy, dark, and dated. And although the modern style has a clean, exciting vibe, it’s also sometimes a bit too stark, colorless, or uncomfortable. Luckily, there’s a happy medium in between these two decorating themes: new traditional. This blend of the old and the new celebrates the best of each, creating a look that is both timeless and timely. Here are ten bedrooms that show you how to do new traditional right, starting with this beautiful, soothing room from Sarah Richardson Design.
Update Your Area Rug
Old traditional: Oriental rugs
New traditional: geometric prints, animal hides, or rugs woven from natural materials such as jute, seagrass, or sisal.
Whether your bedroom floor is covered with wall-to-wall carpet or bare wood, an area rug is a great way to add a dose of color, texture, or pattern to the space. Oriental rugs are the very definition of a traditional, classic style—you’ll add a lot more pizzazz to your room with something more contemporary on the floor. Keep it sedate with a natural rug, like the one shown here, or go bright and cheerful with a geometric print; either way, you’ll add a fresh flavor to your traditional furniture.
Classic Lines, Unfussy Details
Old traditional: dark, ornate, and heavy furniture.
New traditional: classic lines, but less fussy details.
One way to maintain the classic, elegant style of traditional decor while adding modern flair is to choose furniture that follows traditional shapes while omitting the ornate details that were popular in the past. So instead of an armchair or bench with claw feet or elaborately turned legs, choose a luxuriously upholstered, classically shaped piece with simple legs instead. For example, in the bedroom featured here, the traditional bedside table and a small chest of drawers are beautifully complemented by the traditionally shaped, yet contemporarily styled loveseat, ottoman, and armchair.
Mix Up Your Eras
Old traditional: a room filled with furniture from the same time period.
New traditional: a blend of old and new styles.
When it comes to furniture, the word “traditional” is really an umbrella term referring to modern-day takes on many of the furniture styles popular during the 1700s and 1800s, such as Queen Anne or Victorian. Today’s traditional is often less ornate, dark, and heavy than the original styles it’s modeled on, but it’s still more ornately trimmed and styled than contemporary designs.
A bedroom decorated with all traditional furniture tends to look somewhat dated, but it’s easy to shake things up a bit by adding a few pieces of contemporary decor to the mix. For example, the beautiful, traditional bed shown here might be too dark and imposing in a room filled with equally traditional pieces. But if you add in a mirrored, retro bedside table, an intriguing hanging light, unexpected polka dot shams, and a brightly colored abstract painting hung way down low—the room (decorated by Rachel Reider Interiors) has a delightfully eclectic, welcoming, and relaxing.
Go With a Gallery Wall
Old traditional: one large piece of framed artwork over the bed.
New traditional: a gallery wall or several medium-sized pieces over the bed or dresser.
When it comes to your bedroom artwork, the best rule is to choose what you love. If that’s one large piece in the position of honor over your headboard or dresser, go for it. If you are looking to try something new, especially if you want to give a modern sensibility to traditional furniture—consider hanging a grouping of medium-sized pieces, or a gallery of smaller artwork as Ty Larkins Interiors did for this bedroom.
Forget the Fussy Drapes
Old traditional: heavy, ornate draperies topped with valences and trimmed with ruffles.
New traditional: simple drapes topping window shades or decorative shades on their own. No fancy valences, swags, ruffles, or tiebacks.
The surest way to make a traditionally furnished room look dated is to cover the windows with fussy, ruffled, and heavy draperies. Instead, choose simple curtains, whether solid or patterned and hang them over a shade if necessary for extra privacy. Or follow the example of the bedroom shown here, and forego draperies altogether in favor of gorgeous Roman shades that are bold enough (and opaque enough) to hold their own without the need of valences or cornices. The result is fresh and clean, yet still elegantly classic.
Have Some Fun
Old traditional: formal artwork on the walls, such as framed paintings.
New traditional: whatever strikes your fancy.
While formal artwork is always a suitable choice, it’s no longer your only option if you prefer traditional furniture. Instead, why not have some fun with a unique wall hanging, a mural, a quilt, or even a collection of hats, mirrors, plates, or whatever else makes you smile? A touch of whimsy is a surefire way to bring traditional furnishings out of the past and into the present.
Old traditional: a complete set of matching bedroom furniture.
New traditional: furniture that complements, but does not match.
While it might be easy and safe to buy a matching set of bedroom furniture, there’s always the danger that such a room is going to look boring or devoid of personality. In the new traditional style, eclectic mixing and matching of furniture gives the room a lively, interesting, and most of all, personalized vibe that is far more fun than a bedroom straight off the showroom floor. So go ahead and set your midcentury modern dresser next to your traditional sleigh bed; as long as you choose pieces that complement each other and use color, shape, and scale to harmonize the space—you’ll do just fine.
Keep It Simple
Old traditional: lots of collectibles or knickknacks.
New traditional: just a few pieces that you really love.
The most common words people choose when describing their dream bedroom are “relaxing,” “peaceful,” and “calm.” To get that soothing look, it helps to have clean and simple surroundings, without a lot of clutter or fuss. That’s why the new traditional style foregoes large collections of bric-a-brac in favor of a more streamlined look. That definitely doesn’t mean without personality or as stark as minimalism; it merely means that decorative accessories should be limited to just a few special pieces.
Switch to a Drum Lampshade
Old traditional: fussy lampshade styles, including pleated, scalloped, bell, and pagoda.
New traditional: clean and simple drum lampshades, whether white, black, a bright color, or pattern.
If you want to give your bedroom a quick and easy update from old-fashioned to new traditional, just swap out your bedside lamp’s flared or elaborately designed lampshade for a more fashionable drum shade. The clean simplicity of a drum lampshade provides a welcome contrast to traditional furniture’s ornate lines and trim.