April 29, 2011

The ‘new traditional’ look in interior decorating


The lines have become blurred.  But that’s a good thing.


Looks evolve over time:   fashion does as well as home decor.  Otherwise, we’d still be sporting animal skins as clothing and living in caves.  The direction of traditional home decor has shifted in the last few years. Traditional has become less ‘fussy’ and more clean; less  strictly period ‘Queen Anne’  or ‘Louis French’ …and more relaxed.  The look  is more evolved or collected-looking and its more common to see modern mixed with traditional.  Hence, traditional is actually harder to define or describe.

It’s particularly tricky when we’re trying to figure out the prospective client’s preferences. The joke in the office is that clients always lie.  They say traditional;  they really mean contemporary.  They say modern; they really mean contemporary…   That’s why we always encourage clients to collect pictures of rooms they like.  As they say ‘pictures are worth 1000 words.’

traditional room injected with freshness

So what are the telling signs of the ‘new traditional’ look? For a very fresh perspective check out Traditional Home’s new on-line magazine: Tradhome.  I particularly love the video clip of Charlotte Moss and Jonathon Adler, two design stars.  They really describe this new look very well.  Charlotte, a traditionalist at heart, says tradition lends itself to redefinition; perhaps juxtaposing a Louis commode with a modern painting above it.

Modern accessories juxtaposed over a traditional sideboard

Jonathon, though more of a modernist, loves to use traditional floorplans as a foundation.  They both love to use a fresh modern fabric on an antique chair and Adler suggests using a fresh coat of paint, perhaps pure white, on an antique chair. Recently I’ve seen furniture manufacturers come out with brightly painted french commodes.  They look stunning: modern set in tradition.

Decorative Crafts

Another significant aspect of this ‘new’ look is the use of organic and natural materials both in fabrics and furniture.  Fellow designers just back from High Point report a huge trend towards this.  I first noticed this trend to almost raw furniture a couple years back with Restoration Hardware’s direction in their wood finishes.  Now, many manufacturers have their version of this.  I think its a backlash to this high tech world we live in.  People crave things that look natural and of the earth.

If silk was the fabric for the last decade, then linen is it for the next.  Whether 100% or blends or just polyester copies, every supplier has its version.  We’ve been seeing them for a couple of years in the high end market.  Now they are slowly trickling down everywhere.  Whether its a simple upholstery or plain linen side panels (a.k.a. curtains) linen has a relaxed elegance about it – kind of like Europeans in their linen clothes.  In the higher end of the market you find stunning embroideries on linen.  Some are hand sewn like Oscar de la Renta’s new fabric line for Lee Jofa.  Others are machine made, but both reminiscent of a time long ago when this was a true craft.

Oscar de la Renta for Lee Jofa


AND SPEAKING OF RELAXED ELEGANCE AND TRADITIONS BEING REINVENTED….just finished watching the royal wedding….what a wonderful example…..Kate and William



Evolving traditions….a good thing.


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