Successfully merging traditional and modern styles

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Interior designer Barbara Gardner and her husband bought their home on Bird Key because it was on the water, had great views, was spacious enough for two home offices and could accommodate guests. Plus, it was close to downtown and St. Armands.

Barbara favors traditional styling, and was bringing antiques as well as traditional and transitional furniture from the couple’s previous home, but the Bird Key house was contemporary. Because she is a resourceful, experienced and talented designer, Barbara saw possibilities for merging two styles that would result in a unique and successful design scheme.

“In my rather formal dining room, I left the shiny marble floor which reads contemporary,” Barbara said. “I resisted laying down a big area rug because I wanted the room to have an airy fresh look Florida contemporary element.”

Additionally she had the ceiling painted a rich metallic gold. It’s a definite contemporary wow feature. She installed a classic crystal chandelier that she’s used in previous homes and had crown molding installed – two traditional elements. The table and chairs are traditional in styling, but the upholstered chair cushions are more modern. Barbara’s table setting is a combination of vintage china and silver mixed with brand new pieces from a fine department store. Candles and a fresh flower arrangement complete her dining room.

“A room or a home doesn’t have to be just one style,” she said. “Carefully mixing styles and specific elements from different time periods and different cultures can result in a room that has real personality and represents the vision of its owners. Don’t be afraid the change the style of the place you call home. Make it your own.”

Tips for making a traditional room more contemporary:

• Add a big bold piece of modern art to the room

• Cover a traditional chair in a fresh modern fabric

• Adjust the paint color on the walls

• Opt for a sensational ceiling treatment

• Consider wallpaper

• A shiny floor reads contemporary

• Install a modern-style light fixture

• Put something Lucite in the room

Tips for making a contemporary room more traditional:

• Install crown molding and deep baseboards

• Choose a mirror with an ornate “old master” frame

• Add an antique to the furniture mix

• Replace tile floor with dark hardwood

• Switch out sliding glass doors for French door

• Pick an area carpet that has a classic look


Marsha Fottler regularly contributes to local, regional and national publications with articles on residential, commercial and restaurant design as well as food.