That old decor rule, and how to break it

When it comes to designing and decorating, the common question people ask is, “What’s your style — are you traditional or modern?” Many folks think they need to fit into one of these two categories. I beg to differ. A well-appointed space should incorporate a layering of old and new, plus some mixing of styles.

The “Rule” Design a room or a home in one style and stick with it from top to bottom.

To Follow the Rule It’s quite simple: If you are designing a traditional space, choose furnishings with classical lines and arrange them in a traditional setup, such as a sofa complemented by a loveseat and accent chair.

Keep things balanced and symmetrical — for instance, a mirror balanced on either side of the sofa, with vases on matching end tables.

If modern is your style, the room should be linear, cleanlined and not cluttered. Choose furniture with sleek metal detailing, sofas with small arms that are structured, and use a single unifying, bold colour that will highlight the architecture of the room.

To Break the Rule Incorporating old and new pieces is what will give a home that je ne sais quoi feeling. Follow these simple tips to achieve not only a well-designed space, but one that will truly become your own.

Look to the architecture of the room first. For instance, if it’s an Arts & Crafts-style home, choose some furnishings that highlight this style, such as simple, functional and substantial pieces in natural woods. Then insert contrast by incorporating modern lighting, rugs and accessories. Ikea and Urban Barn have nice items that can give your room an of-the-moment touch.

Tie the room together by repeating colour, in paint, upholstery and accessories.

Pay attention to the woods in the furnishings. Some types, such as pine, are full of knots and might be too busy for a contemporary look, whereas teak and laminated wood immediately spell modern.

For an eclectic loft space, use a modern glass dining table and pair it with Louis XIV-style chairs and a baroque-style mirror to give the space a sense of design history. Structube has some great remakes of these chairs at super prices, or look to a local antique shop, where you can find vintage chairs, accessories and mirrors.

Break the rule that says you must stick to a single approach to seating. Romans used to eat and party while lounging on sofas, so why limit yourself to one three-seater? Try two, or three, or just a bunch of occasional chairs, depending on the size of your living room. Like a great novel, a room needs to come to life and tell us a story. It’s the mixing of styles and periods that can provide the richness.

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