Incorporating Modern Art into a Traditional Space



Just because you inherited your grandmother’s burgundy wingback chair doesn’t mean you are stuck forever in a design scheme of antique florals and English teacups. (Not that there’s anything wrong with those things if you love them, of course!) One of the more rewarding stylistic challenges is to juxtapose seemingly opposing elements to enhance the overall space. Let’s explore this idea a little further, looking at modern art that’s found a home – quite successfully, I might add – in traditional spaces.


The bold colors of these paintings are breathtaking, which is why setting them against a traditional buttery yellow wall is genius. And the lower-set chair rail painted in a pale tan further emphasizes the artwork. Golden picture frames seem to bring the wall color in as an additional framing component, and they add sheen and substance as well. I love how the modern artwork is hung traditionally via picture rail molding (on fabric-covered chains).


Modern art is often knee-jerkingly thought of as simply abstract swirls and dots. While abstract paintings are one component of the modern art genre, they comprise a very small part. Consider this idea for modern art: hang ceramic floor tiles as wall art. (These shown here are actually a clay tile with a glazed coating, but ceramic tiles would work as well.) Set in a traditional space that pays homage to nature (think brick wall, wooden floors, and natural woven rug), the tile-as-modern-wall-art fits right at home.


Gather a bunch of compatible modern art pieces and frame them in simple contemporary frames with white mats. Then create an art gallery wall. (It helps that the wall itself is kept white, to let the artwork itself pop and not compete with a wall color.) Although the overall space shown here is on the contemporary end of eclectic, the strategy of hanging a modern art gallery wall in a traditional space would be equally successful…and unexpectedly fun!


“Go bold or go home.” In this grand-scale traditional space where the color Tan reigns supreme, nothing could be better suited to cover the only full wall space than this large-scale modern art in irreverently bold color. The artwork chosen here is aptly suited for the space – note the square shape of each art piece, which ties in to the rest of the room, from the rug pattern to the square-based furniture to the windows. The artwork dominates and adds personality to an otherwise fairly predictable (albeit friendly and comfortable!) living space.


Modern artwork tends to be paired with something – a piece of furniture, a shelf, or another piece of formative art. In this traditional entryway, however, the pair of modern paintings is hung simply and unadorned, a vertical set of horizontal lines left to “speak” for themselves. Which is a great stylistic choice here, in an otherwise bright white space with excellent architectural detail but no space (or need) for extra stuff. The unframed modern art is bright and graphic and, through its own simplicity of scale, showcases the beautiful surrounding space.

Picture sources: 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5.


Published by in Interiors, on February 20th, 2013

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