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April 29, 2021
How to Lean Modern as a ‘Traditionalist’
By Hillary Taylor

Some people think that because they live for all things neoclassical, chintz and a good chinoiserie, they will never “go modern”. I, however, disagree. One must recognize that the two spheres of design in fact strengthen the other and thus, they should be embraced.

As a ‘Traditionalist’ myself, I genuinely love the defining elements of such design, however I also believe in the beauty of harnessing a slightly different aesthetic when a certain opportunity beckons.

At the home’s entry, horizontal lines lend to a contemporary tone. We added extra life with two or three traditional pieces- an antique Empire Mirror- and an aged and pieced dhurrie.

I have had the pleasure of working with my clients on such an intimate level, that often, I design not just their primary residence, but other homes where they live to seek respite. A second home, or a place with a very strong tie to a particular landscape, can welcome moments of modernity and can often be a stage for exploring a slightly different mood. From the mountains to the beach, nature can often set the tone for how the interior of the home is considered. Though it sounds contradictory, the landscape is often the focus of life in these homes, not necessarily all of the trimmings indoors.


Wicker is always in and is often associated with classic design. Here, the perfect marriage of modern and traditional.


As I reflect on our Casa Leggera project, this home answers to those notions. It is modern yet traditional. It flirts with modern design elements, but keeps a classic sensibility. This project is indeed a weekend home, with an incredible desert setting set against dramatic sandstone mountains, lava rock and tumbling textures of fauna and flora. In other words, the landscape is the main character. She is center stage, and as a designer, it is our job to honor and enhance her role.


Clean linear lines are abundant in the kitchen to include the vertically planked cerused cabinetry. The open shelving allows for curvilinear accessories to soften the otherwise rectilinear space and bring traditional practicality to an otherwise contemporary kitchen. The handmade tiles on the walls also lend another layer of texture- also softening and contrasting the other hard surfaces in this space.

In a remarkable landscape that provides one with a particular sense of zen from the beautiful chaos of our lives, it can be freeing to strip down our homes with a rather edited approach. 

Outside, a dramatic desert landscape sets the stage to explore a slightly different mood indoors.

Drink in the view! Large windows with a deep tie to architectural details frame the outdoor landscape. Soft woven accents in the pillow embroidery, boucle upholstery, rattan, and antique Native American basket take the edge off the contemporary lines.

Here are a few of my favorite ways to incorporate modern design into a classical interior: 

Stripes! Though somewhat of a modern feel to this space, the stripe design on this ping pong table is a playful nod to the stripe-loving prepster!

A dose of texture-driven tranquility. Screens are a hallmark of traditional design, and here they add a nice layer in an otherwise contemporary bedroom.
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