Traditional interior design can mean a lot of different things depending on your audience.
For some purists, this may mean decorating with antiques or reproductions of period furniture of a certain style and fabrics that correspond to that particular era. Others choose to follow overall traditional edicts about interior design, but allow themselves the freedom to translate their designs to today by using fabrics, colors and accessories that are more current.
From whatever point of view you decorate your home, there are some common ground rules to be followed.
Scale and proportion are among the most important aspects of traditional design. Whether you own an older home steeped in traditional architecture or a newer, larger version, the scale and proportion of your furniture must be in accord with the home. While your heart may be smitten with the idea of your Grandmother's buffet in your dining room, it might be better suited as a nightstand in your bedroom. Similarly, reproduction furniture might be too large for your cottage. Selecting the right piece starts with getting a handle on the scale of your home and its rooms.
Another interesting aspect of traditional design are the finishes on your case-goods. Traditional interior design usually wants to give the impression that your belongings have been collected over time. Therefore, your furniture should be collected with varying types of finishes, from stain to painted pieces. Of course, these finishes should be complementary while not necessarily matching. I do not advise that all furniture be of different finishes -- that would look appalling. But I do advocate for a mix of similar finishes, leaving unique finishes such as paint or a faux finish for one or two items in the room that require attention. The goal is to achieve balance, and this means something different from person to person.
Finally, the question on everyone's mind: Is it OK to mix furniture from different periods in my traditional home? The answer is overwhelmingly YES! Unless you are doing a movie set or working in a museum where accuracy is the object, traditional interiors should reflect you. As long as the proportion, scale and finish of each of the items are either similar or complementary, they can be mixed.
Traditional interior design needn't be staid or boring. In today's world, it's about how you mix things up. Your imagination is the only thing that can hold you back.
• Joseph Pubillones is the owner of Joseph Pubillones Interiors, an award-winning interior design firm based in Palm Beach, Fla.
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