Tricks of the Trade: Take Traditional from Boring to Bold

Does your traditional décor need a face-lift?

Most of us don’t have the time or budget to completely redecorate, but wouldn’t it be nice to take what you have and spice it up?

Here are a few suggestions for simple changes you can make today to transform your living spaces from boring to bold.

Clear it out.

Start by clearing out the room—empty the bookshelves, clear the tables, remove the lamps, take down the artwork, and roll up the rugs. Walk around your home and rethink how and where you use your furniture, rugs and accessories.

Before you start putting things back, ask yourself some tough questions:

  • Do I love this or just feel guilty because it cost a lot of money?
  • If this were my grandmother’s, would I want to keep it?
  • Does it add any value to my life, aesthetic or otherwise?

Remember, you don’t want to cover every surface or wall, but rather take what you love and find the perfect spot for it. Don’t be afraid to be adventurous with color and shape.

Make your room authentic to you.

Get rid of any artwork or tchotchkes that don’t have meaning. Too many accessories can complicate a space unless there is some sense to the clutter, i.e., a treasured collection displayed together.

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Photo by Scott Shigley 

More importantly, think about what would make the room useful and inviting to you and your family. Anything that interferes with those goals should be ditched (for example, a “precious” antique end table that wobbles or not-so-precious oriental rug that’s dated and drab).

Revisit your window treatments.

If your drapes are the first thing you notice when you enter a room, then it’s time to pare them back. Leggy Bird Designs recognizes how expensive window treatments can be, so rather than getting rid of them, they work with a professional to repurpose or reuse what’s there. Remove heavy swags, jabots and valances, but keep the drapery panels. Swap out ornate drapery hardware (rods, finials) for simpler, cleaner designs. Remove decorative trim or tassels.

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Simple yet luxurious drapes blend beautifully in this master bedroom by SuzAnn Kletzein of SuzAnn Kletzein Design.

If you’re ready to ditch window treatments altogether, think about painting the trim to make your windows stand out as an architectural element.

Order some planned chaos.

Get rid of suites of furniture and mix it up. Mix finishes and periods in a room. It’s the juxtaposition of different finishes and styles that gives a room interest and style.

Consider the scale of your pieces, as well as coloring and detail, making sure each piece flatters the next. And always be certain your furnishings and patterns are equally lit and displayed so that one area of the room is not busier than another.

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This game room designed by SuzAnn Kletzein of SuzAnn Kletzein Design features a playful mix of traditional and antique furniture, emboldened by contemporary furniture, lighting and rug.

Invest in classic-modern furniture or lighting.

Simple is beautiful. Classic-modern pieces let the materials speak for themselves and offer a calming counterpoint to more traditional elements. Examples would be a George Nakashima table or lighting from George Nelson.

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Spare wooden tables from Room & Board pair beautifully with a more traditional sofa, adding texture and density.

Get adventuresome with your art.

Just because you have traditional décor doesn’t mean you need to buy traditional art, advises Anne Loucks, owner of Anne Loucks Gallery in Glencoe. You create energy and style when juxtaposing engaging contemporary art with traditional elements. The contrast makes the art stand out while the traditional elements become even more beautiful and pronounced.

Think beyond paintings and experiment with photography.

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Showcasing Chicago’s remarkable natural resources, fine art photographer Ted Glasoe’s work offers a dramatic focal point for any room.