If you’ve been following our Modern Traditional series this month, by this point, you’re likely itching for some accessories to round out the look. So far, we’ve taken a deep dive with our intro article to discuss the style hallmarks of the look (you’ll definitely want to read through that post if this is your first ride aboard the Modern Traditional train) as well as furniture and lighting. And today, we’re wrapping up the aesthetic with accessories. While the look is pretty simple (i.e. very little styling), there are a few pieces that seem to come up again and again in our research for rooms in this style. (Side note: The more we dig in and look for examples of spaces that fall under our Modern Traditional umbrella, the more and more we’re SO feeling this. Honestly, it probably has something to do with constantly leaning into color, textiles, patterns, and while that’s still kind of our bread and butter here at EHD, the restful pictures we’re collecting COULD TURN US…just maybe.)
The key to nailing the styling of Modern Traditional without it going hoarder grandma is to be SUPER subtle. This is not a style where more is merrier. Less actually is more…but don’t worry, that doesn’t translate to sparse or cold. ModTrad (by now, we’re familiar enough to shorthand the name, don’t you think?) is understated and subdued but inviting and comfortable. So what does that look like exactly, when we’re talking decor? A few examples: A vintage wood foyer table with a white bowl atop…a couple antiqued candlesticks on a shelf or dining table…one or two distressed ladders leaning just so in a hallway/bathroom/basically anywhere. Oh, and peg rails…ALL THE PEG RAILS. Taking a look at the photos we’ve presented thus far, you may have noticed that no Modern Traditional home is complete without a peg rail and a handful of utilitarian wooden brooms hanging from it (honestly, what’s with all the brooms? Peg rails are traditionally married to Shaker design principles, which leads us to question…why exactly did Shakers need so many brooms?).
Below, we break down five ModTrad essential trimmings, including art, vessels, ladders/peg rails, rustic storage and candlesticks.
Art: Oil Portraits & Still Life
Hold up…this deVOL kitchen is SO GOOD, right? While it has a tiny bit too much going on in it to be classified as truly Modern Traditional, there’s a lesson to be learned here in terms of art. You’ll want to look out for old-school oil portraits, still life of fruit or landscapes. These should look like you scored them at an estate sale or you raided your great aunt’s garage last Christmas (with her permission, of course).
Pieces can go unframed (if they are a canvas), though a simple wood frame, or even a brass frame if it’s not too ornate (like #8 and #13), is really lovely as well.
The colors of Modern Traditional-appropriate art are typically dark and moody. This lends a time-worn quality to your walls. You really only need one or two pieces max – too many more, and you veer eclectic and collected. That is not the look you’re going for here. We even really like this super casual oil-painting-on-the-ground thing happening in this room. When in doubt styling a vignette or room in the Modern Traditional look – use a single vintage/antique wood chair and an oil portrait. Boom, you’re done.
Take a look at some of our favorite art picks for this style below:
It’s totally acceptable – and encouraged – to stay traditional here. Antiqued brass or silver candlesticks, glass hurricane lamps…if it could have been used by fancy early settlers, or like…Samuel Adams (the Founding Father, not the beer, obviously), that’s just the ticket. There is, however, another option, which is the wood turned candlestick like #1, #9 or #17. Paired with blue tapers, it’s a really cool, fresh look. To make these stand out on your wood farmhouse table, add a table runner to visually separate the two.
Antiqued brass is a great finish for Modern Traditional candlesticks, as we previously mentioned. Pair them with neutral-colored taper candles (we have a few picks in our roundup below…we’re particularly feeling those gray ones at #13).
A few style steps above the candlestick is the candelabra. These can go ornate real fast, so be sure if you pick up a candelabra or two for your Modern Traditional that they aren’t too flashy. No dangling crystals or too much scrollwork, please. You can even go quite modern with something streamlined and matte black and brass, as long as your furnishings and lighting speak to that humble, handmade vibe that’s crucial to this look.
WE SEE YOU, BROOMS. You have to admit, though, strung from a peg rail like in these images above, we get the fixation. While it’s definitely more of a “hip” aesthetic that just looks really nice in pristine styled photographs, traditionally, Shaker peg rails were placed at about shoulder level on a room’s wall, providing a landing place to hang chairs, baskets, aprons, cleaning tools…anything to keep floors tidy. Quick history lesson: Shakers were a religious sect founded in the 18th century known for their penchant for simplicity, cleanliness and function over form. They were all about efficiency and perfection (in fact, they strove for it because they believed creating a perfect world would usher in God’s return).
Today – and particularly in the last few years – Shaker staples like the peg rail are super trendy, and it’s pretty clear why…they are both simply beautiful and really utilitarian, especially in small homes where floor space is at a premium. Hoist your furniture, house tools and storage items up on the wall, and all of a sudden, you feel like you have more room.
Below are some options; some have a little more visual wear (#11) while others are clean and crisp (#4, #14):
When it comes to styling surfaces, it’s all about vessels: a combination of bowls, vases, jugs and pitchers made of wood, terracotta, porcelain, ceramic, earthenware, recycled or vintage glass…anything warm and textural and not too perfect. Avoid anything with too much color – a dark blue rim, for instance, is totally okay, but, like everything else in the Modern Traditional sphere, the key is subtly.
A crackled white ceramic or glass pitcher (something with imperfections like #5 is ideal) used as a vase is such a lovely, casual touch to a room. As one of the guiding principles of the Modern Traditional style is function and purpose, this double-duty move is an ideal addition to your home.
We particularly love wood or terracotta bowls in the kitchen (or on bookshelves and side tables). You can lean into either the modern OR the traditional side here. For instance, #6 is rather modern looking but mixed into a kitchen with some character, it still totally works. You could, of course, go the route of something more distressed like #16 or #24…because vintage is NEVER the wrong answer.
We can’t say enough how the accessories and decor of the Modern Traditional look are usually multi-purpose. Not just good-looking, but also functional, so baskets and crates are a key element to the aesthetic. Something tall works great for storage in a bathroom (bonus points if you pair it with a peg rail) or next to a sofa or bed.
Shorter, squat market baskets (like #7) with handles lend a sweet, homey vibe to a space. Stash them in your kitchen to store produce or even random odds and ends you don’t necessarily want on display, or around your house on stools, under tables…you really can’t go wrong.
SO, now that we’ve wrapped another style, we’ll be sure to keep our eyes peeled for new looks worth talking about, but we welcome any suggestions. What’s got you excited right now in the design world? Chime in below and dish on anything that makes your heart pitter-patter.