11 Ways to Modernise a Traditional Room


Feel like updating your lounge or dining room, but just don’t know where to start? If your space is decorated in a traditional style, then overhauling it to meet modern trends may seem like a mammoth task. But all it may take is a few changes to bring your space up to date!

Here are a few of my favourite tips for adding a modern look to a traditional room.

1. Use a modern frame with vintage art, or vice versa

Modern Traditional Room
Image Credit: Sarah Haley

When adding a touch of modernity to a traditional room, it’s important that you don’t go overboard if you want to retain the overall traditional feel of the space. Marrying vintage art pieces with a modern, simple black frame does just that; or, you could place some modern art in an antique frame. A combination of the two could look stunning.


2. Replace the rug

Modern rug
Image Credit: Emily May

Sometimes, all you need to do is change one key piece in a room to completely alter the look and feel of the whole space. My basic rule of interior design is: complement, or contrast. A bright, modern rug will contrast beautifully with most traditional furniture and décor. For it to work well, though, go bold and big. Think a large rug in canary yellow, or a zebra print.


3. Add bold scatter cushions

A traditional sofa can look fantastic with modern accessories, as long as you go bold. Scatter cushions are a brilliant way to add a modern touch to a traditional sofa; go for cushions with a pop art print, or opt for bright colours that contrast against the muted hues of your sofa.

Choosing cushions or throws in an unusual fabric can work well, too. Shiny metallic fabric will contrast fantastically against chenille or cotton; and leather can also work brilliantly as a contrast piece. Think outside the box and get creative!


4. Hang modern art above a traditional sofa

Modern art
Image Credit: jiffy009

Another way to add a modern touch to your sofa is to consider the pieces that surround it. Swap the traditional watercolour you may have hanging above the settee for something more modern; or replace the antique end tables with mirrored ones.


5. Add a coloured frame to your photo collection

Coloured frames
Image Credit: Sarah Haley

Traditionally, the living room would feature many framed family photographs adorning the walls, sometimes even filling a wall completely. This can create a dramatic look, but to make the feature really pop, it’s a great idea to add a few brightly coloured frames into the mix to break up the muted colours of traditional frames.

Think neon pink, bright yellow and lime green – just a few frames in these sorts of colours can transform a wall filled with photographs from a heavy, dull feature, into a modern, fun one.


6. Reupholster your dining chairs

Dining chairs
Image Credit: telokaspo

If your dining suite is a little on the chintzy side, then adding new fabric to the seats could really give the whole thing a new lease of life. Opt for a trending colour like duck egg blue for a fresh look.

Kate at Country Skills Blog explains how to reupholster your chairs in this post. “If the chair frame is still sound, then DIY re-upholstery or re-covering of the chair pads is a job which should be within the grasp of anyone with a few basic craft and DIY skills,” says Kate.

And don’t stop with the fabric. If you want to give your dining table and chairs a further lift, add a couple of coats of chalk paint in a pastel hue. You could even paint your chairs in contrasting colours to the table, or have each chair in a different colour completely.

The current trend is to have a more mismatched set of dining chairs, so painting and reupholstering the ones you already own will allow you to experiment with this idea. Plus, the art of ‘upcycling’ old furniture is very current, so giving your traditional furniture a makeover will be the perfect way to marry old with new.


7. Choose a modern lampshade

Modern lampshade
Montana 3 Seater Sofa from SofaSofa

Lampshades allow us to make use of the ceiling space in a beautiful way, but they’re often forgotten about. Swap your existing lampshade for a large, bold choice, and you’ll see an instant transformation. Paper options are great for a modern feel, but go for an unusual shape, or basically anything other than a globe – those lampshades are seen in student houses everywhere!


8. Add modern handles

Modern doorhandles
Image Credit: Gina

This can work for traditional doors, as well as pieces of furniture. Changing the door handle or drawer knob can really lift the look of the whole piece; and choosing a fun handle can add a lovely, whimsical feel to the room.

Go for a bright contrasting colour or pattern, or choose a handle in an unusual shape, like a hare’s head or an alarm clock (these items exist, trust me!). To make your traditional furniture feel really modern, go for mismatched handles on each drawer or door. You can tie them together by sticking with a colour scheme or theme, if you like.


9. Stencil your furniture

Stencil furniture
Image Credit: Lord Jim

As well as painting your furniture in a different colour, you could add a modern touch by using a stencil. Either opt for a modern design – something simple like chevrons would work wonderfully – or choose a traditional design in keeping with your furniture. You can make traditional stencil designs feel modern by using bright colours or pretty pastels.

Monica Gale from Stampin’ Up explains how to create your own stencils, which can be used on fabric or wood. “Making your own stencils is a breeze, especially if you have an e-cutter (but it’s not essential).

“You can simply scale your image to size in MDS, print it on normal copy paper, tape the paper securely to a cutting mat, lay a piece of window sheet over the top, and tape that into place. Then using a scalpel and a steady hand, you can cut away around your design.”


10. Clear away the clutter

The traditional look often involves lots of nick knacks and ornaments taking up shelf space and lying on top of furniture. Though these items may all have sentimental value, chances are that your room looks dated as a result.

Your traditional furniture will look a lot more modern if you pare back the ornaments – or, as some crueller folks may call it, clutter – for a more minimalist approach. Choose a few stand out ornaments to use as focus pieces, and put the rest away into the attic. You space will look much cleaner and fresher as a result, and dusting will be easier too!


11. Use wall art

Wall art
Image Credit: Dave Fayram

Wall art – the type that adorns the wall without a frame – can add a pop of modernity to any space, and can contrast beautifully with traditional furniture and drapes. Wall stickers are easy to put up, and because they aren’t permanent they’re a particularly good option for rented homes.

Go for a monochrome, silhouette type sticker to keep in with the current trend. Popular wall sticker options include grandfather clocks, trees, and flocks of birds and lettering, all of which can look utterly fabulous.


Something old, something new…

Marrying traditional style with modern pieces is very in at the moment, so if you’ve already got a traditionally decorated room, it shouldn’t be too difficult to bring it bang up to date. The main thing is to listen to your instincts – after all, if you like the effect that you’ve created, then that’s all that matters! Get creative, and have some fun.

Posted in Accessories, DIY, Homemaking, Interior Design, Lifestyle, Sofas, Soft furnishings, Traditional Sofas on 24th Jun 2015


2 comments on “11 Ways to Modernise a Traditional Room”

  • Interesting article and eye catching images.Thanks for this creative blog.

    bryanashleyy posted 30th Jun 2015 at 12:26 pm

    • Thanks Bryan, I'm glad you enjoyed it! Please feel free to give us your feedback on future articles - we are still trying to find our voice in the vast interior design blogosphere!

      All the best,


      SofaSofa posted 30th Jun 2015 at 4:02 pm

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