New takes on design classics for the modern home

Karen Hume
Written by Karen Hume
Russells Consultant
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There’s an old French saying, “Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose". It means, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Trends come and go and not everybody likes everything to be ultra-modern anyway. So, here’s how to bring elements of the old into the new and keep your home looking modern…or even better, timeless!

Don’t overdo it

If it’s all classic/vintage it begins to look a bit cliché or gimmicky. The other issue you’ll run into is clashing styles or periods. Decide what you quite like (eg, art deco, mid-century modern, country) and seek out key elements that represent what you like about it.

Find balance

Make sure your home doesn’t look like a total fad. Timeless and modern design is understated, simple and sophisticated but at the same time not bland or boring. The key is the quality of the item itself. It doesn’t matter if it’s from yesterday, today or tomorrow, they can all work together if it is right for the space and feel of the room.

Learn to upcycle

When it comes to furniture and accessories, a new coat of paint or fabric change can totally transform something from an old piece of tat into a fabulous example of new-retro chic. You’ll find lots of useful furniture makeover guides on the Better Homes and Gardens website. For large ornate pieces consider talking to your local panel beater about spraying it.

Change the hardware

A simple trick to modernise any door or drawer is to update the hardware/handles. Why not use the opportunity to choose a modern bright colour or simply something that contrasts.

Stratos by James Dunlop in Tourmaline

Gloss up furniture

A shiny new coat of gloss paint says goodbye vintage and hello modern. Sometimes it’s better to reserve the really bright, trendy colours for smaller accent pieces such as dining chairs as opposed to something bulky and dominant like an entertainment unit.


Changing your headboard and bedding to something contemporary will give your bedroom an instant modern lift.

Curtains and blinds

Nets were so common once upon a time but are now considered an ugly interior design faux pas. However, they were really functional! Sheers or voiles are the modern interpretation, a soft, transparent fabric that filters light and stops people seeing in while allowing you to still see out. Team them up with curtains or blinds for a contemporary, luxurious look and feel.

Hang them high if possible. Another way to update your windows is to fix the curtain rod or track far above the window frame, almost to the ceiling if you have nice high spaces. This gives the illusion of height and offers a fresh, sleek modern look. This may not be an option in all homes due to the lack of fixing so investigate whether your walls can take it first before setting your heart on this idea.

Sometimes updating your current curtains or blinds could be as simple as changing the hardware to something more modern.

Colour schemes, paint and wallpaper

Modern and timeless décor is often simple. Neutrals achieve this because they make the perfect backdrop for other things. However, colour can be a great way to bridge the gap and bring in the modern element needed to tie the room together. When you do deviate from neutrals, be smart and do it in way that’s easy and cost-effective to update once that colour is too dated, eg. smaller accessories or smaller pieces of furniture, cushions or throws, feature wall etc.

Feature wall

Passing trends gain popularity for a reason – people like them. So there is a place to include them in your décor as long as you have the right balance. A great place to reflect a trend of the day is a feature wall decorated in the latest hot colour or wallpaper pattern or featuring a trendy artwork, for example.

Dream Weaver by James Dunlop in Chalk

Wood floors

If you’re modernising an older home through renovations, don’t overlook what might lie beneath. Wooden floors don’t have to retain the natural look. Paint them in a modern pattern or colour.

Genuine white wash wood floors (not a vinyl plank that looks like it) really brighten a room and give it a casually sophisticated feel, especially in the kitchen. At the other end of the spectrum, you could stain them quite dark as a stylish contrast with white or light kitchen cabinets.

Another more modern take on wooden floors is opting for a plank much wider than traditional. It’s really rather attractive and quite bold and daring being so different from the norm. Like we’ve already said, the most important tip for hardwood floors is to choose what works, not just what might be on trend right now.

Learn what to consider in picking the right curtains for your home

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