Design Experts : Traditional With A Twist

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Design Experts : Traditional With A Twist

 Photography By Larry Arnal

Contrary to popular belief, a traditional-style home can work well with a bright summer palette. Often we think of traditional spaces as being heavy with dark woods, deep colour, custom millwork and historical patterns on finishes like wallpaper and upholstery. Naturally this kind of design direction works very well in a traditional home but the usual dark or subdued colour palette was not something our client wanted in her traditional-style home. As a little girl, she used to cycle by the house and fantasized that some day this would be her home. As fate would have it, it finally was! The only downside was that she wanted her version of this home to be bright and fresh while still honouring the architecture of her childhood dream home.

A bright colour palette refreshes and modernizes a traditional-style home


It is important to honour all of the architectural details of the house that give it that historical quality but we lightened up those features by painting them in a warm-white colour. Those heavy wood frames in windows and door trim were once very popular. With the window trim and mullions painted out, your eye doesn’t stop at those details, instead the gaze moves past them to the outdoors. We maintained all of the fireplace mantle details and painted them out to reveal shadow and light versus colour.

Walls painted in Gray Mist CC80 by Benjamin Moore instantly lighten the look of the space.

In the dining room we added the hard valences above each window and mimicked those windows with a full-length mirror in a traditional gold-carved frame, which reflects the antiquity of the home but also serves to reflect the light, bright colour of the adjacent rooms.

“It is important to HONOUR ALL OF THE ARCHITECTURAL DETAILS of the house that give it that historical quality . . . “


Next we selected furniture with traditional lines but again in a monochromatic off-white colour. What became prominent were the lines of the furniture versus the fabric. There was no mistaking the hump back of the sofa, the details of the corner chairs and the graceful lines of the armchairs that face the fireplace. The light colour also enhanced all of the accessories in contrast. Fabrics were selected based on texture not pattern, and range from silks, wools, velvet and cotton. The ottomans and wooden table are the two furniture elements that have colour. The coffee table’s leg detail and claw feet beautifully tie together the details on the legs and arms of the other furniture pieces in the room. Ultimately, the room still feels light and airy.


Nothing brings a smile to a person’s face the way florals do. Perhaps that is why they have been popular in home decor for so long as they are a perfect way to bring subtle elements of colour to a space. The throw cushions tie together the floral stripes on the window coverings using a much larger scaled pattern. The floral details on these fabrics are very much in keeping with the fabrics that were popular in the 19th and early 20th century, and could have been used as upholstery in a perfectly traditional version of this room. The topiaries on the mantle help to bring “the outdoors, in.” The shape works both in a more contemporary room and in a traditional one. Even the vase and flowers were carefully selected to play with the fabric colour, and while container options were vast, the cut crystal was a perfect choice.


It is important to find ways of incorporating antiques into a space like this to maintain its authentic look. The secret is not to make those antique elements easy to identify. Some of the accessories were sourced at antique dealers as was the chandelier in the centre of the room, and the art was already in our client’s collection. Weaving together the elements of “new” and “old” means we can guarantee comfort and maximum functionality from the most-used pieces in the space. If you’re doing this in your own home be sure that you understand what would be appropriate to the architecture of the house. This requires a bit of research and a more difficult hunt for the appropriate piece. Finding the right piece can require visiting hundreds of antique vendors versus one furniture store. Using Rococo furniture, for example, would not be appropriate for this style home but it could be a style loved by the homeowner.

The final result was a great success and perfectly satisfied our client’s desire for a light summerfresh palette in her dream home. We only hope that there is another little girl riding by now, dreaming of owning the same home one day in its new version.

SOURCES LIVING ROOM Bernhardt side chairs EXISTING SIDE CHAIRS: reupholstered in a Robert Allen cream fabric SOFA: reupholstered in Joanne Fabrics BOTANICAL TOSS CUSHIONS: Silva cubes SIDE PANELS: Robert Allen Fabric ROMAN FABRIC: Unique RUG: Kashanian DINING ROOM DRAPES: Unique TRIM: Robert Allen WALLPAPER: JF Fabrics

Glen Peloso and Jamie Alexander are co-founders and principals of Peloso Alexander Interiors. They bring 35 years of combined experience to creating environments that merge the client’s lifestyle, personality, and architecture. pelosoalexander.com, twitter @glenpeloso & @glenandjamie, Facebook.com/glenpeloso


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