Fresh Classic: Updated Traditional Style in DC House Tours

Fresh Classic: Updated Traditional Style in DC House Tours

Leah Moss
Dec 15, 2009

On a modern-leaning site, it's common to hear traditional style equated with dated decor. Heavy, stodgy, fussy, and bland are familiar complaints against the style in general, however after witnessing the uplifting classic beauty reigning in these DC house tours, we hope that you'll change your mind!

Last week's tour of Marty's traditional home on Apartment Therapy: LA got us thinking about how traditional style can be incorporated into modern homes in a way that is both fresh and classic. Check out these favorite examples of trad chic from Apartment Therapy: DC house tours— anything but dark and dated! While the styles vary greatly from home to home, there are a few common themes to glean:

Simple window treatments, and a notable absence of heavy, window-drowning drapery that's often associated with trad style.
At least one over-scale decorative item or salon-style arrangement of smaller accent pieces. The thing I like least about typical traditional homes is the small scale of decorative pieces, art work, and light fixtures. Small items, scattered about often end up looking like clutter rather than something to notice or cherish. In these house tours, on the other hand, most rooms use at least one large scale element as a focal point whether it be an oversize mirror, a large gallery/salon style arrangement of paintings or antique plates (or both), or a giant pendant— instant breath of fresh air!
A mix of finishes and period styles. Often traditional style is really an exhibition of one period: Empire, Queen Anne, Louis, etc., but in these homes we noticed a mix of periods which gave the rooms a more eclectic, fresh air. Also, many play with a variety of wood finishes unlike the common— often dated— practice of sticking with the exact same walnut or mahogany stain throughout for all furnishings in a room.
A balance of light and dark. Classic dark furniture is often juxtaposed against a crisp, light backdrop of color on the walls. In some houses, would-be heavy trad furnishings are painted white so as not to weigh down the room.
Room for furniture to breathe. Rooms aren't cluttered with tons of heavy pieces in a cramped space.
Neutral upholstery. In most of the homes, pattern and vibrant colors are reserved for accent pieces and smaller furnishings rather than the large pieces of furniture.
Updated upholstery/ painted traditional furniture. In some homes, classic furniture is given a contemporary face lift with new, modern fabric or a coat of black or white paint.
Something off. Most of the houses lighten the home with at least one decortive element that departs from standard traditional style— a graphic rug, a quirky drawing or sculpture, etc.

Featured Tours:

What's your favorite element of traditional style?

(Images: 1-9: Leah Moss for Apartment Therapy DC, 10-12: Rachel Grad for Apartment Therapy DC, 13-15: Layla Palmer Apartment Therapy DC, 16:Rhoda of Southern Hospitality for Apartment Therapy)

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