Ask a Decorator: How to Meld the Existing and the New?

“How can I meld the existing and the new? Since not everyone can do a full gut and start over reno – how can I piece everything together?”  – S.E., Thunder Bay

Make a Plan

via Von Haus Design

Before you begin, spend some time considering the end result you’d like to achieve. Filling a room with a random mishmash of styles won’t work (and might just be the reason most people struggle). Generally I suggest a 60/20/20 formula: 60% should be your base style, followed by equal parts of your two other styles.

Choose a Colour Palette

A cohesive palette will go a long way in unifying your space. Remember the Rule of Three, and consider the above mentioned formula of 60/20/20. Pick one main colour and combine with equal amounts of two others. Edit out any pieces that don’t fit with your palette, or consider editing them with new paint or fabric. If you’re incorporating multiple individual elements, it’s often best to go with a soft neutral on the walls, as it allows your pieces, rather than the background, to shine.

Download your copy of Decorator Secrets for Picking Paint Colours
Decorator Secrets for

Picking Paint Colours

I know how overwhelming it can be to choose paint colours. It's the single most common design dilemma I hear from people - in fact, it's the very reason I put this guide together!

Be Mindful of your Combinations


Choose pieces that allow the individual charm of each to be appreciated – items that are deliberately different (for example: an ornately carved armoire juxtaposed with the clean lines of an Eames chair)

Make sure to be aware of the scale of each piece. You’ll need a variety of larger items to anchor the space – otherwise the room will be a chaotic mess and your eye will have no place to rest.

Create Balance

via Style at Home

Mixing old and new only works if there’s a balance between the number of pieces used. Avoid using a single piece from a particular time period. If you’ve inherited a vintage piece of furniture, find a few accessories from the same era to tie things together.

Create vignettes within your room rather than treating the entire space as a whole. Pretend you’re photographing the room for a magazine – it’ll help you narrow your focus onto specific areas.

Reflect your Taste

While it’s important to follow the rules (ugh, I hate that word) of scale, balance, and proportion, please don’t sacrifice items you adore in an attempt to “do things right”. A big part of my job is ensuring pieces “fit” – but I’m forever telling clients that if they see something they simply cannot live without, buy it. We’ll find a way to make it work.

Don’t be in a rush to finish a space (sidebar: rooms should never be finished – they should evolve as we do 😉). Particularly when combining old and new, you want your rooms to appear collected and thoughtful – not rushed and generic.

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