Reinventing a Traditional Home

By Leah Li | Interior Designer

The process of reinventing a traditional home always excites me. Compared to new homes that are built to look like a Colonial or a Victorian, true Traditional homes with history, character, and a story to tell are always the projects that hold a special place in my heart.

Nowadays, a true traditional home built in the last century can be regarded as a “tear-down,” especially in Silicon Valley where the land is prized much more highly than the home itself. As original owners pass away or start to downsize, their homes are purchased by a younger generation of buyers who preserve these distinguished spaces, either due to a lack of immediate funds to rebuild, or an acquired appreciation for the vintage features provided by older homes.

My job as an interior designer is to honor the style of a home’s architecture while accommodating the tastes and needs of a modern family. This article will provide tips on tastefully updating a traditional home.

The Kitchen

We all know the value of a remodeled kitchen in just about any home. A traditional home is no exception. But what is the right design language for a kitchen in this style of home? Rather than matching the original home and installing a millwork kitchen with intricate molding and glazing paint, you can almost always count on traditional homes to be renovated with a “white Shaker-style kitchen.” This look is transitional, neutralizes the space, and instantly makes the home feel more modern. However, attention should be paid to the details, such as the appropriate shade of white, the correct form of Shaker, and the right amount of glass and metal accents. Since a kitchen is the focal point of a house, it may be prudent to seek an interior or kitchen designer to assist with the update.

Existing Details

A traditional home almost always comes with ornate built-in elements, such as wainscoting and decorative molding with intricate designs, often painted different colors in order to emphasize the designs. Removing the moldings and redoing the drywall can be costly, but there are ways to convert these features to fit a more modern space.

Today’s modern family likes to keep things simple. One well-selected white or grey shade can mask and neutralize the overly decorative and dated look of moldings. This technique gives off a retro look while still paying homage to the original feel of the home. This method is often seen in Parisian homes that were converted from older buildings.

Interior Furnishing

Because of the vast market for home renovations in the Modern style, traditional homes often do not get the appreciation they deserve. When people think of traditional homes, they immediately think of spaces lined with floral wallpaper, accessorized with items like an upholstered chair with a paisley pattern or a chunky leather couch.

The right furnishing and art, however, can modernize while complementing the traditional features of a home. The goal is to turn the house into a more updated version of itself without losing character. Incorporating both old and modern furnishing, when done right, results in classic elegance and warmth.

As an interior designer whose goal is to bring out the most selling potential of a home, I work closely with my stager to select the right look and pieces to best complement the charm of each traditional home, thus maximizing the buyer pool by using a fitting aesthetic. For example, in the recent transformation of 1 Barry Lane, Atherton, traditionally rich materials such as bronze, dark oak, and textiles of velvet and silk were used in more contemporary media (check out Whether it be a vintage armchair coupled with a contemporary tufted couch, that contrast of new versus old can blend masculinity with elegance, breathing new life into your beloved traditional home, and creating a believable living space for even younger generations to call home.