How to Modernize Traditional Decorating with Geometric Rugs: 6 Tips

Do you love the reassuring comfort of traditional furniture, but dislike stuffy, old fashioned interiors? Do you love a clean modern look but feel contemporary furniture is cold and unromantic? You will be happy to learn that two AD100 interior design greats Bunny Williams and Thad Hayes have figured out how to design clean, airy, modern interiors by using geometric rugs and editing the color palette down to two or three colors. I have reduced their decorating approach to 6 key ideas which you can use to design modern interiors which have the charm, warmth and romance of traditional forms. I will illustrate the 6 ideas with a romantic dining room by Bunny Williams and a blue and white living room by Thad Hayes. As you study these 6 ideas keep in mind that you can also apply them to bedrooms, libraries, family rooms, sun rooms and entry ways.  

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Bunny Williams designed this romantic dining room by creating a clean and airy feeling with a large scale geometric rug pattern in pale grey and white and using this limited color palette for the dining chairs, walls fireplace, door and windows and then adding dark wood tones and beige for warmth. The room looks modern even though the geometric rug pattern and furniture and accessories are all traditional. Image courtesy Pinterest Geometric Rugs.  

1. Choose a geometric rug with a traditional pattern in a very large scale.


The reason for choosing traditional patterns is that because they go back hundreds and even thousands of years to ancient civilizations such as classical Greece, Rome and ancient Egypt they feel reassuring and comfortable to us because of their familiarity. It is as if we are already know them from somewhere deep in our unconscious memory.

The reason for enlarging the scale of the geometric rug is to create a feeling of airy openness which makes them look modern.


2. Use a large size geometric rug
A large size geometric rug gives the room a cleaner, uncluttered look. Both Bunny Williams and Thad Hayes chose very large size geometric rugs to make the room feel modern and edited.

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Thad Hayes gave this living room in Wainscott, New York a clean uncluttered look with a very large size, over-scale geometric rug that covers the entire floor. He edited the color palette to just blue and white and added dark wood tones and brass for warmth. “The rooms and spaces I design are well edited; therefore, they take on a more minimal, modern look, even when nothing is modern in them. I am aware of the deception and play it up,” Thad Hayes told Architectural Digest, acknowledging that his decorating is influenced by Carl Jung’s Man and His Symbols. Image courtesy Thad Hayes. 

3.  Edit the color palette for the geometric rug and for the rest of the room to just a few colors.
An edited color palette makes the room feel modern and cleaner. Bunny William used white and pale grey and Thad Hayes limited his color palette to white and blue. You can also use white and pale yellow or white and beige to create interiors that feel modern even though they have traditional elements.

4. Balance cool colors with warm colors
In Bunny Williams dining room the cool greys and whites in the geometric rug, chairs, walls, fireplace and door are balanced by a gold chandelier, beige drapes and dark wood tones. Thad Hayes has followed the same approach. If they had not balanced the cool colors with warm colors, the rooms would have felt cold and uninviting A room with only cool colors may feel inviting in summer, but will be avoided in fall and winter. A room with only warm colors may feel inviting in fall and winter, but will feel too hot in summer.  

5. Use white in the geometric rug as well in the rest of the room
White makes a room feel more airy and light filled which is associated with modern looks. White also allows you to create tonal colorations which feel modern. Think of such tonal colorations as white and pale yellow, white and pale grey, white and pale blue, white and pale green and even white and pale red or pink.


6.    Create contrast with dark objects
Both Bunny Williams dining room and Thad Hayes living room have furniture in dark wood tones that contrast with the large expanses of white in the room to give the room a youthful energy.

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Another view of Thad Hayes living room with the blue and white geometric rug, white upholstery and walls and blue drapes and pillows. Image courtesy Thad Hayes. 

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Thad Hayes applied the 6 key ideas to design this clean and modern looking bedroom in the house in Wainscott, New York. Hayes took editing one step further by using the same geometric rug throughout the house! Image courtesy Thad Hayes.

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