Last week, we took a deep dive into the style we’re calling ‘Modern Traditional‘. While there was some discussion amongst you all on the name (new reader suggestions included ‘Millennial Primitive’, ‘Modern Country’, ‘Contemporary Farmhouse’, and ‘Minimal Traditional’, some of which we can definitely get on board with), the look itself is far less cumbersome than pegging a name for it feels. For consistency’s sake, we’re sticking with ‘Modern Traditional’ throughout this series, but by all means, call it what you like (‘Updated Shaker’???).
As we did for our other style roundups – California Casual, Modern Victorian, Parisian Art Deco – we’re touching on furniture first, because a room without furniture is, well, just a box. This look is curated, but it’s not THAT simple.
If you missed the first post (study up on all the details and key components here), the TL;DR – too long, didn’t read for all of you who aren’t hip to social lingo – of it is as follows: think well-worn but simplified, early American settler gone modern, casual meets collected. It’s the type of home a cool grandma with impeccable style would live in (or Diane Keaton, because she’s the coolest). There are no dusty floral prints here or anything overly heavy in style or finish.
And because it’s hard to stop trying to describe ‘Modern Traditional’, here’s another way to look at it: not quite Scandi, not quite Shaker, not quite time-worn English farmhouse. It’s like a happy polyamorous marriage of all three with a peppering of rustic and a dash of cleaned up modern silhouettes and materials…and 100% timeless. It’s as comfortable as walking around your own home barefoot without feeling like a stranger is looking at your chipped toenail polish or bunions in judgment. Settle in because this aesthetic is a judgment-free zone.
Furniture pieces are heirloom-like and handmade in a perfectly imperfect way, but all have a purpose and are functional – there isn’t ornamentation for ornamentation’s sake. Where you can, aim for vintage or antique pieces (though plenty of new pieces – like the ones in this roundup – have an air of age, and that’s okay, too!).
First up on the list is dining tables, because frankly, a shabby-in-the-best-way-possible wood farmhouse table, especially in an eat-in kitchen, is one of the hallmarks of this style (and where ‘Modern Traditional’ borrows from the vibe of the super popular ‘Modern Farmhouse’ aesthetic). The table here should feel like it was put together by the carpenter from your great-great grandfather’s village in a workshop or, better yet, barn. It should conjure up desires to sit around with your mom or sister, sipping on warm honey-infused milk. Look for something with nubby and noticeable woodworking, notches and dings and maybe even turned legs (for that traditional lean).
1. Baxter | 2. Turned-Leg Mercantile Table | 3. Stornas | 4. Parquet | 5. Harvest Oval | 6. Mansfield Extending | 7. Bench Keeping | 8. Toscana | 9. Early American Convertible Pine Table | 10. Ingatorp | 11. Toscana | 12. Expandable Farmhouse Dining Table | 13. Tapered Leg | 14. Lyons Extendable | 15. Mt. Lebanon Shaker | 16. Protected Teak Keyed
Let’s move on to another ‘Modern Traditional’ calling card: the wood chair. So many images of this aesthetic involve a Windsor-esque chair, whether in the dining area, alone in a hallway, near a staircase or next to a bed. Black, stained, white, a combo…any neutral finish will work, and better yet if it looks like it’s been sitting in front of a window for about four decades. A bit of metal is a nice touch and injects a modern energy.
1. Nelly | 2. 19th Century English Elm Child’s Chair | 3. Vermont Wheat | 4. Classroom | 5. Metal Hoop Windsor | 6. Poltimore | 7. Wood Folding Theater | 8. Alberta | 9. Xavier | 10. Cami Windsor | 11. Idolf | 12. NK Spindle | 13. Atlantic | 14. Henry | 15. Contour Milk Crate | 16. Black Hoop | 17. Kaustuby | 18. Natural Wren Spindle | 19. Hiro | 20. Antique Country Solid Wood Windsor | 21. Rosewood | 22. Brown Spindle Back | 23. Pirkka | 24. 18th Century American High Back Windsor | 25. Cline | 26. Vintage Arts and Crafts Style Oak | 27. Black Metal Armless Windsor
Okay, time to talk side tables. Because we all need a place to sit a book/drink/cellphone, your beds and sofas need these little guys. To stay within the ‘Modern Traditional’ realm without going too Mission or American Arts and Crafts, look for pieces with turned legs or a very simple silhouette and avoid too many slats. Oak is a great choice as long as it doesn’t veer too red or yellow (though blonde is okay). You should be able to see or feel the grain. The hardware should be simple, though we won’t turn down something brass as long as it doesn’t steal the show. As for our picks, yes, the $1,500 blue vintage table at #6 is a BIT of an investment, but, if you’ve got it, it’ll definitely be a showpiece wherever you put it! On the flip side of that, just about everyone at EHD who saw #11 said, “That’s from IKEA?!?”…sure, it might not be groundbreaking, but the styling is just right and the leather pull is an unexpected, welcomed detail.
1. Mateo | 2. Mahogany Side Table | 3. Amos | 4. Taper Turned Bench | 5. Marble & Teak | 6. Incredible Oak Machinist’s Turtle Table | 7. Lucretia | 8. Hardy | 9. Rustic Wood | 10. Two Drawer Spindle Legs | 11. Bjorksnas | 12. Spindle Tame | 13. Strut | 14. Toffee Brown Wood Cory | 15. Wade Nesting Table
We’re not gonna lie – finding ‘Modern Traditional’ living room photos was not easy. So much of this look revolves around dining, the kitchen, even bedrooms and baths, but living rooms…slim pickings. Not sure why, BUT, it’s pretty easy to deduce what this space should look like based on the plethora of images of farmhouse tables and spindle beds out there. Minimal art, a slipcovered sofa, and a raw or rustic (yet streamlined!) coffee table. The image above, a space designed in the Wabi Sabi style by Axel Vervoordt, isn’t quiet the ‘Modern Traditional’ vibe we were going for, but it’s still worth taking some style notes from. A clean, slipcovered sofa in a fresh cream awakens the heavy rustic architecture – this is exactly what you want to happen. You may not live in a cabin, but the point here is to mix simple shapes with heavier wood pieces (like that coffee table and long storage piece off to the right).
We sourced a handful of really cozy, welcoming slipcovered sofas in a light neutral linen or durable cotton. To shake things up a little, a wood frame like #5 below would be great with a plush cushion, and of course something leather like #12 could also work well as long as the hide looks and feels lived in. It’s about COMFORT and functionality, not just looks.
1. Wyatt | 2. Solano | 3. Delphine | 4. Maxwell Slipcovered | 5. Indra Wooden Platform | 6. Belgian Track Arm Slipcovered | 7. Tomlin | 8. Maxwell | 9. Stocksund | 10. Devyn | 11. Elias | 12. Leon Wood Frame Leather
As for a coffee table to pair with your sofa, look for something sturdy and wood with some age. You’ll want the table to be a little imperfect but with clean lines. Visible joints are always a plus – any wood piece where you can see the hand of the craftsman who made it is welcomed in the ‘Modern Traditional’ style.
Like a wood chair, stools and footstools are fair game in just about any and all rooms of a ‘Modern Traditional’ abode. They pretty much round out the look of larger pieces. Use one next to your tub, on one side of a larger case piece, in the kitchen…anywhere you might need a little leg up or to rest everyday sundries to keep them in easy reach. Try a vintage, almost primitive looking stool (like #2 or #4), though a more streamlined Japanese/Scandinavian modern pick (#5, #7, #9) is also welcomed.
Where a pair of armchairs could feel a little formal in a room depending on their material and setup, benches are casual and basically beg you to take a load off. They aren’t SO comfortable that you can lounge on one all afternoon, but when you just need a little reprieve or a perch to help you get your (or your kids’) shoes on or off, a bench is oh so handy. Plus, they’re SUCH an easy piece to decorate with. The bench is the dress of the home…you don’t need much else. It’s one piece that pulls its style weight. For this look, again, spindle-back and Windsor in style is a go-to, for sure, but also consider backless options (especially in a smaller space).
1. Henry | 2. Wheat Cobblers | 3. Pench | 4. Bandon Walnut Storage | 5. Gilford | 6. Windsor Style Tete-A-Tete | 7. Walnut Spindle Back | 8. Bralton | 9. Taper Turned | 10. High Back | 11. Dexter | 12. Williamsburg | 13. Long Rustic Pine | 14. Rabbit | 15. Eastward | 16. Pirkka | 17. Auburn | 18. De Jong Co Merton
Next up: beds and headboards. Spindle frames – wood or metal – are the name of the game here, as are more delicate four posters. If you fall more in the ‘modern’ spectrum of ‘Modern Traditional’ you’ll want a spindle bed with a more contemporary lean. Something that feels a little more Japanese modern in a blonde wood (like #4). Or you can go totally classic…or even upholstered (something with a slipcover look). The key is to keep things simple and beautiful but a little special.
And if you’re curious about bedding, again, straightforward and effortless is where your head should be when shopping. Washed linen or cotton sheets and duvet, a neutral blanket, and just a small stack of sleeping pillows.
1. Perkins Spindle | 2. Pencil Post | 3. Godfjord | 4. Ash Spindle Back | 5. Spindle Spool Heirloom | 6. Piping Metal | 7. Astoria Turned Leg | 8. Jessika | 9. Kopardal | 10. Foreside | 11. Gjora | 12. Gwendoline Spindle | 13. French Seam | 14. Antique Heirloom Spindle | 15. Robin | 16. Bohemian Platform
And finally, casegoods. These are heavier wood storage pieces, sometimes with glass fronts or even something fun like card catalog drawers (such as #13 below). The dusty blue piece above, that’s one of my favorite things in my home. I’ve paired it with a modern side chair and also this antique version…it works with both perfectly. That’s the beauty of a weathered and well-loved cabinet like this. It fits just about any home or vignette like a glove.
Whether you’re into the ‘Modern Traditional’ look or not (though we hope you LOVE IT, because we do), this type of furnishing is SO useful in a bathroom, a kitchen, any living space like a living room or even a bedroom. Go totally antiqued like the vintage stunner at #7, or keep things tidy with something like #14 or #1 (which Arlyn, our new Editorial Director, owns and LOVES for added bathroom storage).
1. Windham Library | 2. Puckhaber | 3. White Mahogany Single | 4. Steel and Glass | 5. Hemnes | 6. Stretto Grey | 7. Industrial Printers Flat File | 8. Hadley 2-Door | 9. Arkelstorp | 10. Farmhouse Hutch | 11. Antique French Cabinet | 12. Basque Grey Wash | 13. Card Catalog 30 Drawer | 14. Malsjo | 15. Antique American School Oak Locker | 16. Hemnes Sideboard | 17. Oak Glass Double Door | 18. Aubrey Long Low