How to Achieve a Modern but Characterful Look

modern look: grey sofa by dark wood side table.

Minimalism vs maximalism? Natural light vs man-made chandeliers? Antique Vs Modern? The world of interior design can be a confusing place. Styling an interior is about creating a cohesive look, but that doesn’t necessarily mean sticking to one style, era, or colour scheme. The best homes utilize a little bit of everything and bring it all together in perfect harmony. But just how do you achieve that perfect characterful look and balance of new and old?

Characterful Look: Painting

The colors of the walls are a great starting point for any budding interior designer. But which way do you go, deep, dark, historical hues, or warm, statements walls?

Start by painting the walls a dark purple colour, think mulberry or deep plum. This is reminiscent of fantastically decadent historical houses. Purple has long been a royal colour, and by adding it to a room you’re giving a nod to its regal heritage. This paint is traditional in colour, and you could be in danger of making a room feel dark and stuffy.

Counter this problem by adding some modern touches to your dark purple room to achieve a really characterful look. Paint on some panelling in a different colour. Painting it on allows you to cheat your way to more expensive wooden panels. It’s also a thoroughly modern technique which will offset the historic colour scheme nicely.

Characterful look: Furniture

Antiques are beautiful and tell a story, but can they ever work successfully alongside a modern white sofa and minimalist interior?

Antique furniture is a lovely touch to any room. It adds a character and a sense of history and tradition. Plus it’s eco friendly and can be bought really cheap and sold for a profit! To avoid your home looking too dated, stick to one or two larger antiques in a living room. A beautiful cabinet for instance and imposing writing desk are more than enough. Don’t let you’re antiques dominate the room. Harmonize by adding a modern chandelier light fitting and more modern sofas to complement the antiques in the room. Mirrors are also a great way to create the illusion of space and light in a room- a good idea if you want to avoid it looking stuffy and antiquated.

Yin and Yang

Clashing fabrics and schemes will surely create a disjointed design idea. How can you harmonize the accessories in your home?

To create the perfect balance of materials in your home try and incorporate natural fabrics and fibres alongside some more contemporary items. Complimentary fabrics work in fashion as well as homes. Woven leather handbags, for instance, are the perfect accessory for soft summery dresses. Similarly, home accessories made out of wood are perfectly complemented by a softer sheepskin rug. Logs and wood are being used as table tops, candle holders, and driftwood ornaments. Avoid nature taking over by clashing natural elements, like a sheepskin rug, with modern art on the walls. For every shell you add to the bathroom, consider how to balance the room with juxtaposing styles.

Subtle Touches

Won’t my attempts at balancing modern and traditional be obvious- how can I combine the two artfully without overdoing it?

Give a subtle nod to modernity and more classic styles rather than going overboard. Don’t take it super literally. Instead consider an arched doorway or mirror, as a hint towards architecture or previous years. Similarly, allow for some minimalism in a room to hint towards modernity. A plant in a modern vase is the perfect example of balance, without making it too obvious.


Lighting affords you another great opportunity to balance old and new and achieve a characterful look. There are plenty of modern techniques for fitting lights. Hanging a light fitting very low over a dining table, for instance, creates tension and atmosphere. A pendant light fitting adds some fun and personality to a room. To give an interior nod to the old, incorporate some oil lamps or Tiffany lamps into a space. These decorative pieces are a subtle way of illuminating a room and acknowledging the past.


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