How to “modernize” this beautiful room done in the early 2000’s? Read the recipe below.

by Patricia Cove

Two weeks ago we talked about a project that had been sent to me by a couple who was looking to incorporate changes in their space that would make it more functional while bringing its appearance into the 21st Century. The room had been professionally designed about 20 years ago and although beautiful in its design, it carried all the hallmarks of 2001.

Over the years, a second entrance to an adjoining sun porch was converted to a recessed video and entertainment center, allowing the more formal living room to become more of a relaxation space. Denise and Joe loved the fact that they could curl up to watch TV or listen to their favorite music. But they need to select more inviting and comfortable seating.

Replacing the tufted, curved arm sofa with a sleeker, lined sectional would certainly accommodate that necessity. Adding an overstuffed chair with ottoman would give an extra seat or two and replacing the traditional mahogany cocktail table with a round lacquered piece would complete the updated seating arrangement.

In the past 20 years, the look of formal window treatments has given way to a lighter, brighter feel that beckons the sun and greenery from the outside to play a more prominent role on the interior. The existing black and taupe silk check draperies, which are, by the way, banded in a solid red, are luxurious and costly. My recommendation would be to simply have a good seamstress narrow the panels to simply frame the window. Remount the rod to directly underneath the crown molding, after eliminating the trompe l’oeil scroll filigree currently holding that position. You would be amazed how these few steps will not only allow for the flat Roman shades to become more visible, but will transform the windows to an updated, 2020 look and feel.

Next, replace the black and cream Oriental area rug with a larger, solid-color broadloom. A tone on tone diamond or more neo-classical pattern works terrifically in these new 21st century rooms. I have also seen some gorgeous monochromatic sculptured carpets that may appear ‘traditional” in style, but look smashing when used in conjunction with sleek upholstery lines.

Even though the paint colors of a room function as “background,” they really are the “stage” to the room’s performance. And anyone who knows me well knows that taupe and cream are two of my favorites. Which is why I loved this room so much. So, I would select the more “modern” combination of cream on cream. As important as it is to color highlight historic architectural detail within a space, you still can do that by using the same color as the wall, and simply change the “finish” of the paint. The trim, moldings and doors can still shine, using a semi-gloss or satin, and the room forgoes that slightly dated look of “too much going on.”

As far as fabric choices, stick with interesting fabrics that have texture or smaller geometric patterns. But you can certainly add a dash of whimsy with a modern floral used only on smaller pieces or accent pillows. The most dramatic modern rooms these days, have each piece covered in the same fabric. And if your fabric matches your paint color, the room becomes a total monochromatic statement! Voila! 2020!

It was fun to work with Denise and Joe on this “virtual” room makeover. I am always interested in seeing a room that needs change, so keep on sending!

Patricia is principal of Architectural Interiors and Design in Chestnut Hill, and can be reached through her web site at