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An Intro to the Modern Traditional Style

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We’ve introduced you to Parisian Art Deco, California Casual, Modern Victorian and today we are talking (drumroll please……) ‘Modern Traditional’. The name may need some work (minimal traditional? modern shaker?), but the style does not. It’s what I strove for in our current house and failed and succeeded in various spaces.

Now, what is ‘Modern Traditional’ you may ask? While it may sound like a bit of a contradiction, it’s a little bit traditional (obviously), a little bit rustic, with a hint of modern, and infused with an heirloom and handmade look.

The style takes its elementary cues from the traditional farmhouse style but has shaker-inspired elements mixed in, humble finishes, and it is all done with a slightly modern twist. It feels welcoming, open, carefully curated and warm. You might be thinking ‘wait, how is this any different than Modern Farmhouse?’ Unlike Modern Farmhouse, which can feel quite ‘planned’ and less like it came together over time, this look is a bit more refined and slightly less rustic (think more early settler meets chic English cottage meets super cool Euro hipster). Confused yet? Well, let’s take a look at some inspiring spaces that are infused with this ‘Modern Traditional’ vibe to give you a better idea of the key elements that make up this style that we love so much (though keep in mind that not all of these photos 100% represent the style – while some are spot-on, others lean a little more rustic but we wanted to include them to showcase some of the key elements).

FARMHOUSE TABLES & EAT-IN KITCHENS:

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We mentioned that it has a similar vibe to Modern Farmhouse and this is one of the main elements that it shares with its similarly named sister. Modern Traditional evokes a sense of gathering and family in a very casual, unfussy way. So instead of formal dining rooms with finely detailed paneling like you might find in Modern Victorian, this style will have a large well-loved table in the kitchen that everyone can gather around.

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The table could be painted, stained or unfinished but the finish will always have some age and patina to it to make it look like it’s been passed down from generation to generation (bonus points if you use a table that actually has been). The familial aspect rings strong and true in this style as it has a slightly Quaker, Shaker and Americana feel to it, although it does pull pieces from English and French Country as well.

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The little details like the peg and groove woodworking that you see on the table below or above are key to this style as everything should feel slightly handmade.

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SIMPLE BUT IMPACTFUL DETAILS:

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The details in this style are very quiet, quaint and subtle, and will often have a utilitarian lean to them. Think shaker peg rails like you see above and below as well as the very simple baseboards that don’t draw too much attention to themselves. Neve forget the power of a simple but tall baseboard. NEVER.

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SIMPLE STYLING VIGNETTES:

If you are a maximalist or love layering things to create a vignette, then the Modern Traditional aesthetic might not be for you. This style embodies the ‘less is more’ concept and rather than having multiple items styled together to form a vignette, instead it will use a single item to create a simple yet impactful styling moment. Pieces are all used for function vs just having decorative accessories splayed around the room like in other more ornate styles. No tchotchkes here.

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A single chair on a wall, or a simple row of pots is all the styling that these spaces need (the materials on the floors, ceilings etc. usually do all the talking). And the pieces that are used for styling will always feel homespun. Nothing too modern, mid-century, ornate or shabby chic.

It looks like a child’s ‘time-out’ chair. Only …please don’t sit on it….

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BARE WALLS:

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Rather than loading the walls up with art, this style leans more simple in its curation of art. You will often see bare walls, or maybe one simple art piece leaning against or on the wall. No need to overcrowd things with multiple pieces, a gallery wall or an over scale piece. One simple and quiet piece is often plenty. It’s about treating the eye a little – keeping things restful with a little visual goodie thrown in for good measure. Walls and floors don’t need to be pristinely painted either – in fact, a little wear-and-tear is welcomed (hurray for anyone who has better things to do than touch up their moldings every few months, am I right?).

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LOTS OF SIMPLE PANELING:

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Modern Victorian was all about the ornate and decorative paneling whereas this style is filled with woodwork but in a much more rustic and simple way. The style lends itself to small cottages, rustic farmhouses and older homes so you won’t find anything that is too elaborate or showy. Instead, it could be a simple shiplap, board and batton or horizontal and vertical paneling. The wider planks feel a touch more modern.

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TONAL COLORS AND WHITE ON WHITE:

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If statement walls and patterned wallpaper are your vibe, then Modern Victorian may be closer to what will resonate with you as Modern Traditional is filled with quiet, tonal colors – think soft whites, ivories and eggshells – that feel warm and inviting.

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You won’t find any whites in here that have a blue, or cool undertone and often you will see a tonal color play between whites, grays and creams. The picture below is the perfect example of this – rustic wood beams, white walls and then trim work that is painted a very soft gray color that highlights the details without screaming out, “I AM A QUIET DETAIL”.

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Warm woods in natural, honed finishes are also welcome as a complement to the tonal white-on-white color palette in the style like you see below.

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HUTCHES & CABINETS WITH GLASS FRONT CABINETRY:

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Girl, you don’t have to ask me twice to put a glass cabinet in my kitchen on our first date. That kitchen up there is what dreams (and the Modern Traditional) style are made of. The shaker-style cabinet door is something you will always find with this look. And although the shaker-style door has become huge in kitchen designs of all varieties (which typically means that it will fade in trend to something new… ), this style of door will always be timeless within Modern Traditional.

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You will also see a lot of stand-alone furniture pieces used throughout the home or retrofit to work in the space. Above and below the repurposed antique dressers for use in the bathroom and the antique piece instantly brings a sense of heritage to the room.

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If you inherited your grandmother’s vintage hutch then pull it out of the garage and display it proudly if this is your style. Glass front cabinetry and hutches are a key design element, and rather than something that is low and long (like many credenzas in the mid-century style) Modern Traditional tends to favor more tall and lean shapes (likely from the space constraints over homes from yesteryear). They can even take a more modern look like you see below as the shape, style and function keep it from feeling too modern in the space.

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TRADITIONAL CHARACTER WITH SIMPLIFIED DETAILS:

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There are two main types of furniture in this style. Shaker-inspired furniture that takes its cues from the traditional shaker style but does it in a more modern way, or authentic and antique shaker pieces (paired with some more modern pieces like lighting). Let’s first talk about the furniture inspired by the antique pieces.

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You will see very simple detailing, Windsor-style chairs, and long benches to name a few that are done in a more streamlined and modern way. Rather than the hand-scraped look of the antique pieces you will instead see them very finely honed and often treated with little to no stain or paint to showcase the craftsmanship of the piece and the utilitarian bent that it has.

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The furniture focuses on the details of the craftsmanship rather than decorative elements. For instance, those pieces seen above – they’re all about the wood, the artisanal touch of the carpenter who labored over them for hours/days (weeks?).

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These chairs above that Jessica Helgerson used in a recent project are a perfect example of that. They are inspired by traditional Windsor chairs but are done in a much more modern way. It’s all very quiet and humble with an undeniable magnetism. Don’t you just want to sit at that table and hold a warm cup of tea while you catch your BFF/mom/great aunt up on your life? It would be impossible to be uncomfortable in that room (and thus, the beauty of Modern Traditional).

ANTIQUE SHAKER STYLE FURNITURE:

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Alternatively, you will also find a lot of antique Shaker, English and traditional furniture in here. The pieces – as everything in the style – will lean more classic and will have refined details and simple lines.

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Remember when I dabbled in this style? That cabinet is my favorite piece of furniture in my house. It’s so simple but special … and in the voice of somebody super fabulous … and that color

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Antique Windsor chairs and benches are again very popular in this style and can be used as stand-alone pieces on a wall to create a vignette (never underestimate the power of styling with just a single chair), or around a table (in an eat-in kitchen, of course).

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HANDMADE TILE:

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Handmade furniture, homegrown details…of course handmade tile would be part of creating this look. Whether that be in the kitchen, bathroom or anywhere else you’d use tile, you won’t see anything too fancy in shape or finish here – it’s all about simple shapes like squares and rectangles (subway) that are handmade and hand-finished to show the texture, variance and differences between each.

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Wunderbar Küche Klein Kbenhavns Mbelsnedkeri Dnische Kchen Zum
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It’s less about a pattern or color and more about telling the story in a textural way with the tiles. Lots of whites, creams and ivories in various shades create the perfect backdrop for your ‘Modern Traditional’ kitchen (and bathroom).

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At this point, I am sure you have some questions on the trend, but first off…we want to know, are you into this trend? Do you love it? Do you hate it? Do you think you could actually make it work in your home or is it not for you? Do you think you could simplify your styling and decor to be more utilitarian and clean, or are you the type that loves to have a plethora of things around you at all times?

Let us know below in the comments and we will try to get all of your questions answered. And stay tuned for a few more posts about this style where we walk you through specific lighting, furniture, art and decor pieces to make it work in your own home with suggestions for pieces that you can buy online.

I for one want this in my house – it’s what I strived for when I designed our current nome. I didn’t succeed in every room but I’m more encouraged now more than ever to embrace this wonderful, modern traditional style …

  1. I absolutely love this style (and to my mind it falls into the Scandi-way of decorating).

    I try to emulate elements of this at home but… my love of displaying object d’art usually means I never achieve these levels of “purity”.

    That doesn’t mean, however, that these pictures don’t make my heart go pita-patter – because they do!

    And if anyone in the UK is interested in locating cheap Windsor style chairs, Ebay is awash with secondhand Ercol ones at very reasonable prices. That’s where I located mine.

  2. Very pretty. Gives me serious farmhouse #goals.

  3. This is me!! The commenters after other posts like this who were like, “dude…I could stare at this _________ style for days and days” made no sense to me. NOW I UNDERSTAND THE PASSION. I could never ever ever tire of these pictures!

    Also-the statment about collected over time/Heirloom/handmade/not planned – so on target! I find immense joy in patiently waiting for the right thing. It might take me a long time to find it, but when I do it’s a gift and a surprise. The joy of the journey is really wrapped up in this style. It’s not going to the store and buying everything I like all at once.

    I’ll be swooning over this post a lot a lot! Love it. Thanks!

  4. Hi Emily!
    Just wanted to be the first one to comment because, well, the comments lately have been triggering my inner mediator/ couple counsellor/ kindergarten teacher. I wanted to set a nice tone on your blog for the day.
    There is nobody who is providing as much content as you – nobody who is as interested in their readers as you. It is your humanity, your openness, and your transparency on all levels that drive people to come here again and again – and it is your truth that likely compels them to feel like they can also use this as a sounding board, which can get negative in a hurry. You have my permission to not read them (who am I – a creative, a mom, a co-dependent type, a design nerd thanks to you) Just don’t read them. Have someone else skim them and show you the salient ones that can help you in your process. Don’t let anyone hijack your day. Boundaries are good. Just like fences. Have a peaceful, loving, and productive day.

    1. That was nice for all of us to read – not just Emily & her team. Thanks Lindsey!

      1. Thanks Rae!

    2. Thank you so much Lindsey for all of that. I am going to print it out and tape it all over the house. Brian and I just had a long talk about it and we fear its fairly unsustainable as-is. The biggest irony is that my openness is what has made this blog a success … and i LOVE responding to comments and engaging with readers. TRULY. 95% of my followers are so nice. Reading criticism can be debilitating but it also gives me so much insight into society and you and does in fact make me constantly chase the better version of myself. Its such a double edged sword, but I’m also super lucky. Most companies would kill for this kind of feedback on a daily basis. My skin is so thick. I know that I put myself out there and ask for it! So why do I cry when I get feedback that ranges from love to hate? Probably because I’m tired. Probably because having 2 small kids is incredibly exhausting. Ok I have to go because i have a big shoot today for a magazine and I can’t have puffy eyes 🙂 But THANK YOU SO MUCH. It sounds like you actually read the blog enough to know me and that means A LOT. xx

      1. You are so welcome, Emily. My heart was hurting for you yesterday. Now go put that oxygen mask on yourself first, stat! xo

    3. From one Lindsey to another, thank you for this. Every bit of what you said is true. And to Emily, keep at it, sister. You rock, and so does your blog content. Also, the Modern Traditional style is totally speaking my language.

    4. Lindsey, so true. Emily your blog is my go to every day you write it. Love the content, you are teaching me so much! Plus your parenting things are hysterical, real and heart felt. I pass them along to my girls who are raising kids in the same phases as yours. You are a breath of fresh air and a master teacher! Thank you.

    5. This!!! Many of those comments the other day were not constructive. There is a way to voice your opinion or make suggestions positively and that wasn’t it. I have never commented on your blog but I wanted to represent the majority of readers who love you and what you do. I agree, don’t read those types of comments.

  5. I wonder if this is my style?! I lean towards Scandi, but have hand-me-down vintage and antique furniture thrown in – think claw-foot ginormous oval (round when all leaves removed) tiger oak table and I don’t even know the style of one chair in my living room but it has lion heads on the ‘hands’ (end of arms) and lion’s feet on the front legs with a bar in the back to change the position of the arm rest. Those pieces and a piano that looks straight 50s/60s with my my modern, simple furniture with lots of religous, old world art. All with the tone-on-tone chalky white paint, (some grey) simple, wide plank floors, huge and uncovered windows, open shelves in kitchen with wood island top and the rest of the counters are concrete. I don’t know…hodge-podge or this! 🙂

    1. I am DYING to see images of your home!! Sounds so lovely!!

  6. This post speaks to my soul. No joke, I feel all the warm fuzzies. While I can’t say I stick to this style to a tee, it is my absolute favorite. I’ve had a hard time pinpointing my style because I love so many elements in a plethora of style genres. What has surprised me most lately, is to find out that I LOVE Traditional pieces. The items themselves don’t surprise me, but the title does. Things that for 20 years I’ve referred to as “country” I’m realizing are actually traditional. For instance, I’ve always put Shaker style furniture in the “Country” category. Am I making any sense?? I’ve called my style Modern Country for years, but perhaps I’m Modern Traditional?? My question is, what is the difference between Country style and Traditional style? Would you say Country style is more crafty? Gingham? Or perhaps cowboy-esque? I’ve always referred to Traditional style as more of “stuffy-southern”. Lots of light bulb moments, but would still love some clarification. Xoxo

    1. I think country and traditional are definitely in the same bucket, but I too, lean FAR more into the country side than the super traditional side (except then i’ll want to recreate Downton Abby in my fantasies … I think “country” leans more casual and “traditional” leans more formal, but they have a lot of the same lines and themes. But who knows. I didn’t go to design school 🙂

    2. I think Country would be the same furniture, paneling, etc but with more decor on top of it like gingham, calico, more art, etc. Same cupcake, different frosting.

      1. Also – more baskets 🙂

  7. This is a beautiful gathering of photos and you have included my favorite vignette from your own home — the corner with the black chair.

    I would like to posit that this style really only works as Modern Traditional in older homes with some authentic “rustic” to them. These same furnishings in new build or 80’s contemporary can become the very planned Modern Farmhouse style that you mention. Especially new build with faux aged elements built in such as reclaimed & weathered doors hung in a brand-new home. In newer homes I am drawn to styling that leans harder into the Modern than the rustic.

    1. My house is a 70’s-80’s vaulted ceiling ranch with some strange angles and black steel framed windows – pretty modern – and I think my Modern Traditional style works really well here. I think the key is keeping the traditional elements simple (not fussy/formal/elegant) so they feel at home next to the modern elements. Also having a 50/50 blend makes both styles feel intentional in my home.

      1. Thanks for that description Julie. I can picture how that could work beautifully in your home and it gives me hope for my 80’s contemporary cottage. If I do something to handle all the oak this might work for my home. (So much oak, all the woodwork, doors, even the curtain rods right now)

  8. I’d name it a contemporary farmhouse style. It’s not traditional. Also the word modern we might want to reserve for things similar to MCM. Other word for what we see today that is not modern is contemporary. A word ‘neo’ also comes to mind for a new take on an older style.
    Love to see the style although it’s not me 🙂

    1. I think maybe you are right. Maybe ‘updated’ is the right term instead of modern? But then ‘updated traditional’ doesn’t feel totally accurate. Maybe its ‘minimalist country’? Maybe ‘scandinavian country’? But we agree, and we struggled with naming this style….. stay tuned for an update.

      1. Neo country? lol.

      2. Ahh, yes. Minimalist country or scandinavian country seem much more fitting.

        1. Please nothing with country in it. Too soon.

      3. this post is totally me!! It doesn’t matter to me what term do you use!! There are many of us that like this style and we didn’t really know what it really was. If you know what I mean. I love the Scandinavish, Farmish, Modern traditional style. The name doesn’t really matter to me. But, oh well I didn’t go to design school anyways. Keep it up Emily!! We love you!!!

    2. Agree! The style is beautiful, collected and wears it’s age with pride. I adore it, but I don’t think anything about it is traditional. It’s more “curated minimal farmhouse.” Maybe “curated neo-farmhouse?”

  9. Love this style – unlike some of the other styles you’ve featured (which I’ve enjoyed learning about but can’t really execute), this one can work nicely with my house, a New England salt box. Looking forward to the future posts with round ups!

  10. I’d call this style “Millenial Primitive.” It’s minimalistic, yet warm, authentic and historic, yet engineered for modern life. Full of detail and life and character, but still efficient! I love it.

    1. OMG MAYBE YOU ARE RIGHT. SHOOT. Group texting my team right now. UGH. But can we day ‘millenial primitive’ outloud? It somehow takes away the authenticity of it. Maybe its ‘updated primitive’? or Modern primitive? Primitive minimalism?

      1. It’s definitely Primitive, but what made me use the word Millennial was both a nod to our current time period, as well as the Millennial generation. I was born in 1981, so I’m on the line, but I definitely identify with the Millennial’s desire for authenticity, craftsmanship, uniqueness, and emphasis on utility and beauty as one concept. What we’re seeing in these pictures is a shift from what dominated the Generation X aesthetic – mass-produced, homogenous, neutral – to the opposite – hand-crafted, special, striking!

        Not to say that GenX produced nothing of beauty or uniqueness, but those qualities were not valued as highly or at least widely as in this generation.

        Maybe I should pitch a series of blogs about design generations and how (or why) they embraced different styles!

      2. (I posted a reply earlier, but I guess it didn’t go through.) I used the word Millennial very thoughtfully, referring to both the current time period and the current generation! 🙂 I was born in 1981, so I’m on the generational line, but I very much identify with the Millennial’s desire for authenticity, craftsmanship, artistry, and the concept of utility and beauty as one. This style is 100% about those values, and is a meaningful shift from the Generation X aesthetic that was often mass produced, homogenous, and neutral. Now, we’re seeing design everywhere that is hand-crafted, unique, and striking!

        Not to say that GenX produced no good design, but a real gift of the Millennial generation is it’s attention to integrated, harmonious design for REAL LIFE, with no unnecessary ornamentation. That’s what I think we’re seeing in these photos that resonates with us!

        1. Right as I hit “post,” my original comment posted. Ah, technology…makes me feel DEFINITELY not a Millennial. HA.

      3. Millennial traditionalism!

        I’m a millennial and Primitive sounds like cavemen

        Love your blog!!! Keep it up. Nothing is perfect or permanent.

      4. Or millennial Bespoke!

      5. Refined Rusticity?

    2. Yes, exactly this. Or else Brooklyn Does English Historical;).

      1. That’s a good question, about the authenticity of it – I would ask if that really matters? I mean, few people who decorate this way are living in an apartment in Brooklyn decorated with the farm furniture of their family’s place upstate, right? It is an acquisition, it is a style, and as someone who is 61, I see it as very particular to the 21st century.

        Maybe it’s 21st Century Primitive?

        1. This one is fun/tricky to name, isn’t it? I like primitive minimal and practically all you need are I’s and M’s to spell it!

          1. I was thinking Modern Primitive as I was looking through the pictures!

        2. Actually you would be surprised…I am from New England and my friends and I who moved to NY had various primitive things from family we inherited and took to the bohemian life in the coming city:)

          1. *big city. Ugh iphones!

  11. I love this and I would say this is my style, too. I have an East Coast center hall Colonial – I’ve decorated with more contemporary lighting, shaker cabinets, some stacked tile, but have left all the traditional moldings and trim. I also mix contemporary and traditional furniture. It fits both sides of my personality and I think it works! Love this post!

  12. OMG: I’m a Modern Traditionalist! Never would have labeled myself that before…but I did know that while I liked other elements of other styles, they didn’t fit in an overarching/organizing style that this one resoundingly does. Because of the detailed walk through and amusing and highly analytical nature of this post ( and all your posts, really) , I get it, and am happily claiming this. Doing so helps ground me and my current/future efforts.

    So YES: let’s have more of this. More detail into the elements of this style- and others.

    Your narrative and tone is so what brings me here every morning before kid/pet/husband/ pleasures and duties pull be away. This blog helps me understand and language what I love so that I can more effectively and confidently manifest my own style with projects big and small.

    What else I love: your detailed and authentic process of what works/what didn’t in various spaces, especially your own. I’m a first time reno-er and have to keep my marriage going during this chaos as well as the kids and work. What I don’t have time for is making huge costly mistakes because key small aspects (sconce placement, switch light cover placement, etc…) we’re thought out well. I’ve been spending so much time on your website, Remodelista and a couple others (Ambers kitchens are especially great- thanks for introducing me to her) pre-reno and and very much during this insanely nuanced and complicated process in order to think my way through as many elements of style, the purchases I want to make, transition concerns, finishes, you name it. THIS blog, above all others, helps me with the big and small concerns- and I love you for that. You’ve helped me do it right the first time.

    I love how your blog has changed to meet the changing nature of the business, your family, etc… So smart and savvy of you.

    I only ask now that you post your Bathroom Rules post ASAP! 🙂

    1. THANK YOU SO MUCH. Our kids constantly talk about filling up our ‘inside buckets’ – they come up to us and give huge hugs and say ‘mama is your bucket full?’ and I say ‘yes but not full enough!’ and they give me another hug. You just filled up my bucket. THANK YOU.

      Re the bathroom rules – the reason its tabled for now is because until this year I didn’t know them myself, so I have to write it in a way that reflects that I, too, need that post. Its more done out of current research than my own projects. I have broken so many rules and many of them ITS FINE and even GREAT to break them. But some of them I’m like ‘whoops’ 🙂

  13. I love this style. I pinned just about everything. Thank you for this style round-up!

  14. Oh my gosh I absolutely love this. I want you to do a million posts about all the ways I can use this style in my home! Ha – okay, that may be a little overboard but this is exactly the style I’m going for in my 1920s English Cottage style bungalow.

    Questions:
    Painting mouldings vs keeping them white? If painting, I guess you’d suggest low contrast.

    A lot of the tile in the examples breaks at a certain point. Would floor/counter-to-ceiling be a more modern way to apply it to strike that balance?

    Only sort of related – how do picture rails work? I hate the look of the cords hanging down, is there a way to disguise (or embrace) this? I have no art in my new house because I can’t figure it out.

    1. 1. I think you can paint mouldings a gray – i’ve seen this a lot and almost considered it at the mountain house, but its much safer to keep white.
      2. I think tile floor to ceiling is more contemporary, for sure. a Wainscot height is more traditional for sure.
      3. I recently found these brass rods that hang from a picture rail. Google ‘french picture rods’. they are amazing. Nickey Kehoe has them in their store which is where I found them.

    2. Also re: picture rails – using brass wire to hang pictures is supposed to be the least visible option. Something about how the light reflects off the wire.

      And if you want to use the picture rails in your house because you’re afraid of damaging the plaster on your walls, check out OOK hooks. They are perfect for old house plaster walls. They make a tiny hole but are super sturdy. I recently even used them on one of my exterior walls (brick masonry with plaster) where I’ve avoided hanging anything before and it works great there too. I used both picture rails and hooks to hang stuff in the bedroom.

  15. Shaker everything, forever. I like my Shaker-everything in the light-bright-California mode, but this strikes me as a bit more husband-friendly. REALLY hoping to see a furniture round-up, like, this week 🙂

  16. So pretty! I thought my Portland house was going more California casual, but I think this is more the look I’m trying to achieve. Reminds me of Leanne Ford’s style. Where is the “get the look” you usually include? 🙂 🙂

    1. Its coming! we’ll break it down by furniture, lighting, accessories … stay tuned. so glad you like it and yes i LOVE Leanne Ford. She’s super lovely in person, too. xx

      1. Thanks! I reference the get the looks ALL THE TIME.

  17. Thanks Emily! I love this style and hope to channel this look in my own home. I notice most of the windows are bare. What would you recommend for windows that need privacy?

    1. I would love Emily’s view on this one!! We have windows galore and live on a corner lot, so window coverings are crucial for privacy. We’re currently using antique shutters on the bottom half of the window only and I find that fits in well with this aesthetic. But I’ve also considered planting tall trees/bushes at our fence line so we can take the shutters down and let the house breathe a little. Hope that helps! 🙂

  18. Great post! My home is very California Casual but my vacation home is definitely Modern Traditional. I’m loving all these inspiration pictures. Thanks for the great content.

  19. So – question – you mention that this style is more appropriate for small cottages, farmhouses, or older homes. When will you guys do style trend posts for things that are appropriate for the cookie cutter 1950-1970s tract homes that MANY MANY MANY of us actually live in. Yesterday you mentioned quickly that you were designing a Portland home of this type and working on cabinetry that was “appropriate” however we know zero about that yet here on the blog. I LOVE this blog and am constantly inspired by it – but am totally sad when virtually all the style suggestions and trends would look contrived or awkward in my not-quite ranch, not-quite mid century, not-quite anything but “suburban special” home. Please help us bridge the gap!!

    1. A 1950’s – 1970’s home is a midcentury ranch, which we can definitely cover, but perhaps have a lot, too? I need photos to help understand your particular dilemma but it seems like going mid-century would be the best move? Email your photos through design agony and we can tackle it!

    2. Julie – You should check out Dana Miller’s blog, House Tweaking. She stopped blogging over a year ago, but she totally revamped a pretty blah 1960s ranch into an amazing contemporary/MCM home, and she is my inspiration for my 1964 split-level!

      1. I second that recommendation! House Tweaking was a great blog to follow – I loved what she did with that house!

  20. This style is my jam… the rustic floors. I mean I wiped drool from my chin when I spied that thick, tall hunk of baseboard!!! was that stone? I do need a good pop of color layered in somewhere. What is the style that marries this to boho because I think that’s me. Okay, it’s me on a Wednesday. I’m constantly changing my mind, shifting my furniture. I thrive on this. Small changes making a big impact. Is there a way to keep this look sharp but slouchy? Do you get what I’m saying? Victorian modern is just a little too stuffy. I like modern traditional with a margarita.

    1. HAHAHAHA ‘modern traditional with a margarita’. I love that. xx

  21. I loooovvvee it. Have been trying to pinpoint the name of the style of my house and think this is the closest I will get. We are redoing our mudroom and putting in vertical shiplap for the walls and I think a narrow concrete light gray herringbone floor. If you do a “tiny bathroom sink/console” roundup in this style, I would forever be in debt.

  22. Aaaaah – We just bought a house but haven’t closed yet and I’m ITCHING to get my hands on it. The kitchen appears to be for someone who doesn’t cook a lot…which is not me! It’s also just not family friendly in a modern way. Thanks for the the update on what’s “now” – will definitely reference in a couple months when we take ownership, and I can start working on our new place!

  23. I don’t know how to do this style but I’m feeling it.

  24. This is 100% me. When I built a new house in 2016, I told my builder I wanted Modern Shaker. And that’s exactly what I got. And it is AMAZING. Now I’m having fun finding the right furniture to complement the look. So I NEED to see your recommendations on what to buy where.

  25. I really love this style. Thank you for introducing it! I do apparently incorporate this in my home to a degree, but I thought it was just because I inherited some furniture pieces that are pretty much toddler proof and even look better with a beating (unlike that poor ikea cabinet).

  26. just wanted to say that this style is beautiful, and can’t wait to see the rest of this series!

  27. This is the post that is closest to my style which is what I call “collected”. I love clean lines, family hand-me-downs, and handmade pieces used as art. I rotate the pieces so when seen, there is no distraction from their beauty. If this happens to be a style you haven’t posted, please help. I am always looking to improve. Thanks for your constant inspiration. Your posts make my day.

  28. I reallyreallyreally love this style. It’s my sweet spot for this 70s house we have looking out from the San Diego inland mountains. Though I do think Minimal Traditional is maybe a better description… modern trad sounds almost generic (like transitional) and unclear IMO!

    Here the design is quiet which I need with kids and and my personality, my favorite white + wood + black basic palette without the self consciousness of California Casual, something where I can mix worn traditional and clean lined pieces, and the handmade/rustic element adding authenticity and homeyness. We moved 4 months ago and I never thought I had a lot of Stuff, but honestly half our stuff is still in boxes in the garage and I haven’t missed it. Simple, almost plain is sooo good.
    I just wish my kitchen cabinets were Shaker – they are pretty simple and we painted them off white but they do have an ogee trim on the inside edge profile.

    Can’t wait to read more on this style!

  29. I LOVE this! Why can’t I pull it off? Partly because I live in a So Cal 1990’s track home and it would take too much to replace every single surface to get the look. I think the other part is plain old skill. “Vintage” looks like dirty garage sale when I do it. Oh how I wish I could get you or one of the many talented readers here to help me!!

    Thanks for posting. I could look a these pics all day long!

  30. I love the pared down vibe of these spaces. I’m purging things on a monthly basis, but I’m not there yet. I feel like my style and home have the bones of modern traditional, but then I bring on the books, candles, flowers, pottery, fruit bowls, and all that stuff that warms it up, for me. Thanks to EHD for explaining this style.

    As an aside, I’d love for the comments section to be a bit more interactive…not necessarily with EHD, but with each other. Is there a way to allow for pics to be posted? So many times a reader makes a comment and I would love to actually see what she/he is referring to. Or sometimes a reader posts a question and I think others readers could post a pic of a solution. Thanks again for all that you do to make design so much FUN for a lot of us. 😘

  31. I have been trying to nail down what my style is for 15 years and THIS IS IT! I hope to see more posts (maybe a Pinterest board?) to help me refine it at home. Thank you!

  32. I LOVE this style! But I can’t make it work in our new build home. Maybe one day we’ll get to renovate an old home where this style will fit in. That would be a dream come true!

  33. I would dub this style more Primitive-Minimalist. It has more of a country bent, than a traditional one. I’m thinking Gwen from The Makerista’s style is more Modern Traditional, no?

    Whatever you want to call it, it is my fave! Thanks for the inspiring post.

    1. I thought of The Makerista as well!

  34. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU for distinguishing this from the modern farmhouse trend.

  35. Seems like this isn’t Modern Traditional but more of Modern Country. I think Modern Traditional more like the Studio McGee look.

  36. This is the style of my dreams, heart, soul and mind. Thank you for so perfectly articulating it. It helps me to have direction in our own home. It just resonates. The way it is inviting, welcoming, and not alienating. And warm! Thank you. I was beaming the entire time reading this!

  37. Maybe “Modern Shaker”? Definitely a heavy Shaker influence. Love it.

  38. 1. I love this trend. It’s me. I hope I can make it work in my home.
    2. I love you. You’re my first read of the day and my go-to source when I’m struggling with making my house a home. You’re funny and authentic, and a funny authentic MOM, which I love.
    3. Mean people suck. Yesterday is yesterday.
    4. Have a fantastic day!

    1. thank you. you have no idea how much that tiny comment means to me these days. thank you 🙂

  39. I love to look at it, but I would not like to live in it. Too minimal and feels almost too carefully thought out to me. I loved be the textures, colors and lines esthetically, but I need more warmth and variability for my actual home.

  40. I love it! If I was able to live all by myself I could achieve it, but I love living with my family….and they have stuff. Yesterday, we were calling one of these looks that have newer materials inspired by old materials Historically Fresh.

  41. Superb post! I really relate to this style and spent waaaay too long reading and swooning over this post, the content and segueing to the image source sites.
    Just the perfect Emily content and substance!
    Kudos!

  42. This is so interesting, because I would say that my taste is modern traditional but I am not into most of the pics you posted. I would say that the traditional parts of most of these pictures are rustic, and that’s what doesn’t jive with me. I would absolutely love for you to check out this post which has pictures of my style (which again, I consider modern traditional). How would you distinguish your view of modern traditional from mine? I’d be interested to see what you think!!! The 3rd photo on my post most closely represents modern traditional in my mind. http://www.ourcorneroftheworldblog.com/2304/

    1. Jalene, I love your blog and your style. You’re right- I think what you’ve got going on is more accurate to Modern Traditional. I posted below that I think what Emily posted should be called Rustic Minimalist. The handmade, unfinished wood, raw look screams rustic to me. And the sparseness of it all is so minimalist. Just my two cents, but I love your look.

      1. Thank you so much! Im glad you checked it out!! I need to get back to regular blogging!

  43. Ciao, I live in Tuscany and work with a lot of architectural salvage and country furniture, project managing restoration of farmhouses and sourcing for overseas clients (many in the USA). This is so totally what the modern farmhouse is about and translates so well to other places. I just loved this article, you have pinpointed so many different angles and aspects of this great theme on design… thank you!

    1. Thanks for the valuable content you place on the site
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    2. Simply Awesome 🙂 Nice Design JNVST Result 2018 loved it 🙂

  44. Someone commented this should be called Minimal Traditional rather than Modern Traditional – I would agree. This is a great style if you love that classic look but wants less of the frou-frou. We just moved into a “new” house (built in 1918), and the previous owners did a full and lovely renovation that worked very well for their “traditional” traditional style – lots of swag curtains and velvet tie-backs and dark green and mauve floral wallpaper. I would venture to say that for many younger families, this is a more palatable (and child-friendly!) way to go traditional?

  45. 🤤

  46. I love this! All of it. We are currently restoring an 1857 historic home with much of the mod-trad inspiration you have shown here (If I could live in This Old Hudson and the Devol and Plain English showrooms I would!). My husband has coined it Heritage Chic. Our new-fashioned design vision marries the restrained elegance of a Georgian country house with the voguish creativity of a Parisian atelier. This is an effortless, accumulated look that is timeless – and certainly the building blocks for good, classic design.

  47. This is very interesting to me- I don’t see this style as traditional at all. When I think of traditional, I think of formal highly shined wood furniture, and modern has that sleek, white, clean lined look. To me, this looks very rustic and I would call it Rustic Minimalism or Contemporary Rustic. The rooms looks rustic and sparse- not traditional, which is typically associated with upholstered furniture, plush rugs, wood paneling/ and modern- crisp edges/lines. To me, rustic= handmade, imperfect, exposed beams, unfinished wood, rough edges which is what you’re showing here. I think a lot of what you’ve captured looks like Lauren Liess’ style to me!

    1. I agree with you. I agree that this is more Minimalist Rustic as was pointed out above. Traditional has a very specific meaning in design (exactly what you said) , as far as I know, and I don’t think what has been presented here is it.

      1. Hahaha, Lauren Liess is my #1 design crush of all time and I have studied her work closely while working on the reno and decor of our new house, so no wonder I love this post 😉 She described a lot of her rooms with key style words like “raw” and “strong” and of course they have that organic, nature is in my soul sort of vibe.

  48. This is me to a T! Love this post! It is quite hard to name this style, not quite farmhouse, a little modern, simple, clean, functional, stunning quiet details and definitely handmade and antique vibes!
    More please!!!

  49. Hi Emily!
    Well I just love these photos, and I love reading your emails… I do think you are incredibly thoughtful about your process and the way you invite the reader in…it so personal, that means a lot to be included in your process.

    This look reminds me so much of how I decorated when I was newly married with heirlooms and hand me downs…creating our first home in the Valley I have such a great memory of it and I will never forget shopping at the Rose Bowl with two babies and my husband in the mid 90s…Shabby Chic was everything to me not just as a design credo but also as a lifestyle and I love seeing this generation of designers
    embrace a similar aesthetic and mindset.

    You were doing a great job and great service is all…thank you!
    XO,
    Lara

  50. When you do the “get the look” please try and include some more living room inspiration shots for this style! I love it sooooo much!

  51. I adore the rustic farmhouse chic look. I agree with a previous commenter that it is reminiscent of the Scandinavian minimalistic style of decor. How do you think this style would look if it were full of color instead of washed in white? I always wonder about that.

  52. This isn’t what I thought Modern Traditional was, but maybe I’m confusing it with “New Traditional,” which has a less rustic, cleaner look. I would describe this style as Rustic Minimal Farmhouse. I also agree with other commenters who have pointed out that “Modern” design comes from a period of time that’s already passed (Mid-Century Modern being one of the most popular styles from that period). A lot of people use “Modern” and “Contemporary” interchangeably, but technically they’re not the same thing. Kind of nit-picky to point that out, though, especially since I am guilty of using “Modern” to describe current design styles.

  53. Emily, you have been eerily reading my mind these past few days. We are planning a kitchen reno and I was just thinking about how you’ve been in your kitchen for a year and wondering how you felt about it and poof! There was yesterday’s post. Today’s couldn’t be more welcome as it’s time to start picking out furniture, lighting, and decor. I can’t wait to read the updates along with suggestions for what we can find online. Keep those posts coming, please!

    1. Oh! And a question I have about this trend is flooring. We’re refinishing the existing oak floors in our house. What should we turn to in terms of stain to achieve the modern traditional look? Thanks!

  54. Love this aesthetic!! It is very much my jam. I’ve always called it Mid Mod Vermont. More, please!

  55. This is IT! What I aimed for in my 100 year old house and the underlying decorative schemes and decisions were broadly this but all my impulse purchases are brightly coloured or metallic and glam because sometimes I just can’t help myself… if I could restrain myself though, this is the ultimate style. Looking forward to the rest of this series!
    ps. Thanks for all that you publish here. I know there’s been some backlash against the ‘content creation’ but to me it’s a public service that you’re providing and so many of us really appreciate it. The standards are consistently so high.

  56. LOVE IT!

  57. Beautiful! Very timeless and serene. I think a more succinct name may be Kinfolkesque 😉

  58. Thank you for sharing! Yes, please more modern traditional! I’m working with this style for our home and would love to see more input, round ups, especially with dining furniture.

  59. Love, love! This style is totally me. Would love to see more inspo for minimilistic decorating.

  60. Well, I’ll put a little spin on this one. Firstly, I do love the aesthetic and actually have for some time. Simple, clean, unpretentious. But we lost our home in the Northern California fires last October, and are living in a furnished rental. The real estate prices here post-fire are breathtaking, and I spend a LOT of time running numbers over and over. The bottom line is that if I want to stay here in Sonoma County, my home for the past 32 years, I will have very little left for furnishings. I had beautiful artwork, textiles, Persian rugs etc. All ashes now. To you and all of your fans, CHECK your insurance policies!! The impossible can and does happen. Anyway, I may wind up with at least some of this look by default. The heirlooms are gone so IKEA may be it. Thanks for a wonderful bunch of images and inspiration.

  61. I would like to live this style, because I like many aspects of it: the utilitarianism, simplicity, bare walls (I love bare walls, but also love art, but have a hard time finding the exact right thing to go on the wall…), BUT I think I need a little more comfort. For example, I grew up with Windsor chairs and am so happy to have upholstered dining chairs now. I do love the shaker style, though.

  62. Hmm. I’m still thinking about the name. I think Modern Shaker, or 21st Century Shaker express it best for me. I really appreciate the stark beauty of it, but in a few of the photos it almost feels a little too austere.

  63. Hello, Emily! I’ve never commented before, but I’ve read your blog for many years now. Who am I? 56, mother of four sons, high school English teacher, interior design fan. I just wanted to say, after the “honest but painful” comments of late, how much I admire you and your generosity despite the potential for pain. You are an example to me of Brene Brown’s ideas about the power of vulnerability.

    Also, I love Modern Traditional! I’m usually more traditional than you and your generation, but this puts my love of traditional in a fresher context. It reminds me of Daryl Carter…I think I spelled that right?

    Anyway, you truly are amazing. Thank you so much for all the design education and FUN. xo

  64. Thank you for giving the style I want to create in my home a legitimate name! I’ve always liked modern farmhouse, but it isn’t quite me. This is spot on. I love this and can’t wait to see more inspiration for the pieces to make it come to life!

  65. Hi Emily! I don’t think Modern Traditional is right. I’ve always thought of traditional furniture as the 1940s, mahogany, Federal style.Whatever it is called it is fabulous. I think a lot of the confusion about naming a style is that there are already learned labels that people have in mind from other decades. And it depends where one lives, too. This look is definitely country, so I like neo-country. If farmhouse wasn’t so worn out, it could be neo-farmhouse. My Midwestern farm friends have been laughing about the white “farmhouse” couches and upholstered chairs for years because we’d never see those in a real farmhouse. I love this look because it is authentic, doesn’t include new furniture trying to look old, and has great appreciation for craftmanship. Plus, the negative space helps one focus on the individual pieces. Very nice. ~Ginene

  66. Well, hello Modern Traditional! I love it! Two other words kept coming into my mind, Euro Farmhouse. Yes? No?

  67. I love this so much and it’s so timely! I have a 12 year old house and am in the process of changing our baseboards to simple 1 x 6 (by myself). This post inspired me so much! Keep the info on it coming please.

  68. Love it! Can’t wait to see all the follow up posts for this style! Yay Emily and EHD team for your amazing content!

  69. I absolutely love this style. It feels warm but simple. Makes me want to pair down for sure. Thanks as always for sharing.

  70. I like all of them, especially Tonal Colors Aad White On White style. I will prepare step by step for my home. Thank you very mych.

  71. I really like these posts. They help me connect the dots, to understand what elements together make a particular style/feeling. I know what I like and don’t like, but I have trouble putting it together cohesively. I find these posts very educational.

  72. I don’t get “traditional” at all with this look but think you’re spot on with “Modern Shaker”. They were the Modernists of their day.

    1. I agree. Traditional uses more pattern and color than this. I would agree that its more modern shaker. When I think modern traditional I think of Amanda Brooks.

  73. I think the style is beautiful, but I know I couldn’t do it. I would like this style with a little more color and pattern.

  74. I love the trend for the most part. I would prefer more color though.

  75. This is my absolute favorite. Before this, I think my two biggest reference points for this style were the service quarters in Downton Abbey (ha!) and Farrow & Ball’s books. This post is wonderful!!!!! I can’t wait to see all of the furniture and fixtures you source and share with us!!!

  76. My vote is for “Modern Shaker” but whatever you decide to call it I am obsessed!! Can’t wait for more of this style. Please do a roundup for every room!

  77. THANK YOU! I’m so excited reading this…This is my style, to a tee, and I’ve never been able to explain it or understand it. I’m a long time reader and this is my favourite post so far. This write up is so helpful as it summarizes what I am aiming for and have nailed in some rooms, and explains why some things I have tried to mix in didn’t work (I have never understood why MCM peices just can’t seem to fit well in my home even though I love them on your blog). I would really love more info on this style, such as how to choose new furniture to compliment the antiques. For example, couches and coffee tables to go in the same room as my beautifully aged chairs and dressers. Art suggestions would also be so appreciated.

  78. I find this style very compelling, particularly in photos. I have long admired the beautiful simplicity of Shaker furniture and I have some workshop chairs in my dining room. However, I don’t think I would ever attempt this style full-out unless I was living in an old farmhouse or an English cottage. A part of this style is some authentic architectural features.
    I agree with previous commenters, it doesn’t seem classically Traditional but rather timeless. I have a fascination with artful naming so here’s my contribution: 1) Timeless Minimalism…or 2) Neo-Primitive Minimalism.

  79. Hi Emily,

    It’s important to note that so many comments of late have not been (so-called) “haters”, but rather, people who are pointing something out; mostly that there is an overt difference between what is said and what is done with regard to wasting things.
    There’s a comedy team in Australia that on-purpose, misuse the terms “affluence” and “effluence”, because so often, affluence can become effluence to the eyes of the beholders. You know the cliché, ‘new money’, etc.
    That’s also what called for those, many, comments from readers about “buying” things purely to use them for shoots and then “returning” them once they were used. It appears that those readers see the same incongruence in taking freebies and then not liking them anymore. People comment, because they essentially like y-o-u, but don’t like what they see you d-o-i-n-g. Your readers are invested in you and care about what you choose. They feel they have a right to comment, because you ask for comments and because you are “an influencer” and they don’t agree with the direction that influence is going. Simples.

    Perhaps with the kitchen story, it’s also about, “Hey, aren’t you a designer and you sound like you got your kitchen all wrong if you’re going to re-do it only one year later?!” It’s not haters, it people wondering “Wot the?!?” Personally, I deeply hoped that you hadn’t got it so wrong like that on clients’ homes and they didn’t like it one year later and that resulted in you not taking on clients. Yikes!

    This style, this post, “Modern Traditional Style” is lovely and speaks so, so much of your French Eclectic style home.
    All of the pieces from the various photos would go so well in your house (as does your ‘shaker-style’ piece in your living room). THIS is the style that fits all of the home you now have. The bits ‘n’ bobs of Mid-century style furniture in your living room are the pieces that fit your last home, not the current one, and these are the pieces people keep commenting on, saying they ‘just don’t work’. There’s no point on clinging to MCM stuff when it just… Does. Not. Go. In your current house.
    Modern Traditional Style does!
    I’ll bet if you were brave and moved all the MCM clangers into the ‘playroom’, the living room would be finally pulled together and not a mish-mash of styles. It would immediately be a lot more cohesive, as long as the clunky, out-of-place MCM lamps go with them and just the classic lamps remain. Of course this would include shifting the MCM piano (and it’s odd “boob” lamp) into the playroom, but that’s probably where the piano should actually be for lessons anyway, as opposed to the living room. Clear out those bookshelves from over-clutter and style them beautifully (like in your last house), put the kids’ books in the kid’s playroom and have one room that’s intended for adult space and style!

    Jump on the style of this particular post. Stick to it and clear the MCM outs its way, to make room for your home finally working as a style that befits the French Eclectic style of the architecture. Go Modern Traditional!!!

    Go easy on yourself and just forget the kitchen! Honestly, you’re hardly home and seriously, you’ve said over and over that you guys don’t cook anyway, so just let it be.
    Get the dodgy roof plumbing above the playroom fixed before it turns into a bigger problem and your curtain rods fall on someone’s head and sort out the other issues that are dragging on and on and not getting resolved, before you pick another one.

    Guaranteed, you’ll feel better about taking tangible steps to actually, finally completing some things and won’t end up with “Monkey Mind” from scattering thoughts in every direction.

  80. Sorry,these spaces are far too distinctly dissimilar,to group under one umbrella term and even if I were forced to do so, “modern trad” would never be it. That said,some of these pics are very much my style,some I can’t scroll past fast enough. But,as ever,thanks for the content.

  81. Having grown up in Pennsylvania & South Carolina, I LOVE these photos and interiors! Just as we retaliated against the fast-food generation by encouraging slower-food made by real farmers/people, this style reflects a trend toward “slow decorating”. In an era when many feel they can log onto Houzz & purchase an entire room with a couple of clicks, this style celebrates the artifacts from our grandparents, our parents & our kids that make a house a home. Our homes should reflect our individual experiences (both past & present) and this style celebrates that journey…happy travels!

    1. Sooo ironic!!!
      SLOW DECORATING as opposed to fast re-do!
      I totally “get” this comment and this is where it’s at! 🙂

  82. Love love love. Thanks! If you do a follow up post, would love some warm ivory pant suggestions. Don’t want to go too pink or yellow in undertones, but just the right amount of warm:).

  83. I love this. I’ve been trying to articulate what I want to my architect and this will help so much. Thank you thank you. Any more info you can give on this would be appreciated.

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