Makeovers

A Funky Take on Tradition

How to mix modern and traditional styles to create a fresh new look. | Designed by Allison Willson, Photography by Lauren Kolyn

by Allison Willson,

Sarah Richardson Design, Designed by Allison Willson

Define Your Design Equation

One of the biggest assumptions people make when starting a renovation is that you need to strip the space clean - that a bare room is the best starting point. I think, that with a few design tricks, you can embrace the character of the existing space while breathing new life into it. Our client was set on a super modern makeover, which normally equates to fewer details, no profile and flat surfaces. This room is closed off from the rest of the house, meaning we didn't have to worry about how the space looked in relation to the adjacent room; however, since this home was very traditional, I wanted to incorporate a bit of that aesthetic into my design. The challenge was helping our clients see that we could create a contemporary look by taking an eclectic approach. The result was a fresh, brand new experience.

Injecting contemporary spaces with a bit of the unexpected is at the core of my design style; it creates rooms that are truly unique. It does require that you treat each space like a balancing act - adding one element requires the addition of an opposing one. If you're working with traditional panelling, try treating it in a modern way (my top 5 tips below!). If you have vintage accessories like gilded candlesticks, pair them with clean accessories like an oversized bowl. Set shapely dining chairs around a simple table, and balance out a contemporary bench by surrounding it with soft, textured pillows and drapery.

Sarah Richardson Design, Designed by Allison Willson

5 Tips for a Contemporary Twist

  1. High gloss paint: We gave the traditional mouldings a modern edge with high gloss paint. To offset this, we sourced vintage radiators to give the appearance of a once classic, now current room. The result yields a space that feels modern, while deflecting from what’s considered conventional.

  2. Offbeat wallpaper: Rebecca Atwood’s marbleized wallpaper is very cool, in both aesthetic and tone. Having every panel inset with this funkier choice tempers the traditional feel, in effect unifying the different elements.

  3. Faux-vintage rug: At first glance, this rug may seem like an aged piece. However, this second life rug was made to look distressed and slightly worn. The clean weave mixed with the distressed look achieves the balance we were after.  

  4. Oversized lighting: This whimsical lighting fixture is definitely high impact! It has a bubbly, organic composition that works well with the watery movement of the wallpaper pattern, while contrasting nicely with the rigid table.

  5. Calm & cool palette: At face value, the chosen colours can be construed as cold, but there’s something very relaxing about the way this palette softens the room. The combination of the paint, organic feeling and cool-toned wallpaper, and soft fabrics tempers the room's edgier elements. 

Sarah Richardson Design, Designed by Allison Willson
Sarah Richardson Design, Designed by Allison Willson

Strike a Balance

We chose to showcase the Meredith Bingham painting in a floater frame because it provides a seamless look that balances the busier details. In keeping with the opposing nature of the room’s elements, we opted for simple furnishings with fewer decorative objects. The circular mirror and bubble-inspired light fixture were incorporated to break up the rectangular panels and overarching linear design. It was a conscious choice to add in contrasting shapes, which alternates nicely between the hard lines and soft textures. To be honest, finding a piece of art that complemented the space in more ways than one was a stroke of luck; we realized after the fact, that it blended with the organic feel of the mirror, pendant and wallpaper. The console featuring a simple door profile and decorative hardware was custom made with the intention of highlighting the balance of traditional and modern styles.

Sarah Richardson Design, Designed by Allison Willson
Sarah Richardson Design, Designed by Allison Willson
Sarah Richardson Design, Designed by Allison Willson
Sarah Richardson Design, Designed by Allison Willson

Source Guide:

Wallpaper, Rebecca Atwood ‘Marble Cloud’ | Roman blinds (custom), fabric by Villa Nova Messina Freshwater V3137/13 | drapery (custom), fabric by Sarah Richardson for Kravet ‘Birley White’ | drapery rod, Designer Fabrics | mirror, rug, orchid pot, ELTE | sideboard, sideboard hardware, Cocoon | chairs, ‘Coco Dining Chair’, bench, 'Jude Bench', Sarah Richardson Design Bespoke Furniture Collection | chair fabric, Kravet ‘Minimal Harbour Grey 23684.21 | chair piping, ‘Double Faced Wool Storm Cloud 3030/03’, bench fabric, ‘Soho Plush 5109/01 Smoke, Pollack | pillow fabric, Osborne & Little ‘Cascade F6834-03’ | candlesticks, vintage | three vases, bowl by Martha Sturdy, from Hollace Cluny | pendant, Oly Studios from South Hill Home | sconces, vintage from Residential Lighting | 3-tiered side table, vintage, Green’s Antiques | box on side table, West Elm | vase, bowl on side table, MUD Australia from Salt & Pepper Co. | painting, artist Meredith Bingham from Canvas Gallery

Photography by Lauren Kolyn