When it comes to furniture for your home, you’ve got endless options. Beyond color and placement, there are also many different design styles to choose from. But if you’re mix-and-matching furniture design types, how can you create the balance necessary for a stylishly comfortable home?

While it’s true that traditional furniture and modern furniture are very different in their characteristics, you can find the perfect combination to bring harmony to any room in your home. Let’s dive into the differences between traditional and modern furniture and how to combine the two.

What Is Traditional Furniture?

Traditional furniture is an elaborate and formal furniture design style that originated in Europe in the 1600s. Also referred to as classic furniture, traditional furniture is defined by its use of intricate designs that signal wealth and opulence. Since 17th-century furniture makers got paid by the hour, the more intricate the design, the more the piece cost.

When it comes to the traditional style, furniture has a luxurious and grand aesthetic. The traditional design style doesn’t have a lot of sharp edges but rather gentle curves and flourishes, which give it a beautiful, timeless look.

Here are some of the characteristics that traditional furniture is well-known for:

  • Dark Woods – Traditional furniture often uses woods with rich tones like walnut, cherry, mahogany, and oak. This helps create a comfortable, elegant look.
  • Gold Accents – Gold accents reflect wealth, making it the perfect detail for the traditional furniture style.
  • Plush Fabrics – Nothing says luxury like lounging on a soft, plush fabric. For traditional furniture, think velvet couches and upholstered headboards.
  • Patterned Upholstery – Whether it’s floral or stripes, patterned upholstery is just another way that traditional furniture makes your home unique.
  • Symmetry – The furniture itself is symmetrical, but it’s also often arranged in a way that brings symmetry and balance to the room.

The current antique furniture obsession makes it clear that traditional furniture and decor are here to stay. The style may be hundreds of years old, but it still offers a timeless feel that people love today.

What Is Modern Furniture?

Modern furniture is a type of furniture style that focuses on minimalism, simplicity, and functionality. The modern design movement started in the 1800s and early 1900s, peaking in the early 20th century with a revival in the 1940s to 1960s, known as mid-century modern.

Modern furniture is not to be confused with contemporary furniture, which incorporates modern design trends and various styles and traditions. Most modern furniture share similar characteristics:

  • Minimal and uncluttered – Modern furniture is all about clean lines and minimal ornamentation.
  • Function over form – While traditional furniture is all about aesthetics, modern furniture focused on functionality above all else.
  • Natural composition – Modern furniture is usually made from natural materials like wood, leather, and linen.
  • Mixed materials – In addition to natural materials, modern furniture often incorporates stainless steel, aluminum, nickel, and plastic.
  • Neutral colors – Dark neutral colors like black, dark brown, gray, and navy blue are commonly seen in modern furniture.

While mid-century modern furniture was born from the modern design movement, it has its own unique characteristics that sets it apart from modern furniture and decor.

The unique shapes that you might recognize from retro furniture are typical of this design style. For example, rather than the straight lines you might find with modern outdoor furniture, retro outdoor furniture in the mid-century modern design style will likely incorporate more curves, odd shapes, and geometric shapes.

Midcentury modern furniture also incorporates more colors than the modern design style. It’s not uncommon to find a bold accent or upholstery with a saturated hue.

How to Combine Modern and Traditional Furniture

Often, people have furniture that they love and want to keep, even if it doesn’t fit their typical design tastes. There’s no need to get rid of your older or antique furniture just because you want to incorporate a more modern style.

Here are a few tips for combining modern and traditional furniture, no matter which room you’re designing:

1. Consider the architectural style

Before you start designing the room, start with an understanding of the architectural style. Do the bones in your room or home lean more toward traditional architecture or modern?

The traditional architecture will have features like decorative trim or molding, high ceilings, and other types of ornate details. On the other hand, a modern room tends to have a more open layout, very little to no ornamentation, and a clean look. Understanding which type of architecture you’re working with will help you make decisions about the furniture and decor.

2. Decide which style you’d like to dominate the room.

Before you start shopping for new furniture, you need to take stock of the furniture you already have and decide which design style you would like to dominate the room.

For example, you might opt for mostly modern furniture with a few antique pieces like an accent table or dresser. If you want to stick with a traditional look, you could modernize it with decor that brings a modern look and feel to the room.

3. Use art, rugs, and lighting to balance out the room.

Art, rugs, and lighting are three essential elements for most living spaces. Use these small but mighty pieces to balance the look and feel of your room. Want to stick with mostly modern furniture? An antique chandelier above an understated modern dining room table gives the room an extra touch of opulence.

If you plan to use mostly traditional furniture in a room, you can still give it touches of the contemporary using modern elements. A modern lamp on an antique dresser or modern wall art hanging in your traditional living room brings in elements of the modern without overwhelming the space.

4. Place the furniture strategically.

When incorporating both traditional and modern furniture in a room you’ll want to balance the styles. You don’t want to have all your antique pieces on one side of the room and your modern pieces on the other.

Instead of emphasizing the differences in style, you can instead have them balance each other out. Distribute the furniture equally so that the room is in harmony.

How to Make Traditional Furniture Look Modern

One of the easiest ways to make traditional furniture look more modern is to balance out the room with modern furniture and decor. Just being in proximity to modern furniture gives traditional furniture a new life. Putting modern pillows on a traditional sofa or placing modern accents like a lamp and decor on your antique dresser help to change the look and feel of the piece itself.

If you have traditional furniture that you want to update a bit, you can always make changes to make it look more modern. Sometimes all a traditional piece of furniture needs is a new coat of paint or wood stain to freshen up its look.

Also, consider upholstery options. A more modern fabric like linen or a neutral-colored fabric can lend a more modern look to a traditional piece. Sometimes just getting the existing upholstery professionally cleaned can breathe new life into a traditional piece.

Whether you’re looking for traditional furniture or modern furniture, Ashley is here to help. Browse our furniture to find something that’s a perfect fit for your home.