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What is the New Modern?

Another design issue that deserves a push of the RESET button is the state of modern design. For the last few years modern has been the popular style of choice. We have lived with design ideas like Minimalism, Zen and Mid-Century for so long that they are starting to feel like parodies of themselves. The true originals of these looks are design classics. I am talking about the work of the minimalist master John Pawson and the true greats of Mid Century design like Eames, Nelson and Knoll but lately all the copies and derivatives are starting to feel anything but modern. I mean when you see a Buddha head go from a spiritual statue to a bookend, to a side table to a doorstop it’s time to rethink what we are doing to the beauty of Zen principles.

So the question is “what IS the new modern?” I see it as more classic modern designs with an emphasis on individual personal style- a kind of New Modern Traditionalism. Sounds like an oxymoron but by this I mean design that takes a truly classic American approach– a melting pot of the best of international influences rooted in crisp tailored modernism. These days it seem like we need something softer, brighter and more optimistic to go home to. A Yes We Can Attitude to meet us at the front door.

Here are a few spaces by the legendary designer Albert Hadley that I think are a great illustration of what I would like to see more of in today’s design seen. These spaces are timeless; they could have been created today or 30 years ago.


And here are some contemporary designs that I think have the same spirit as Mr. Hadley’s:


2. 3.

All of these spaces have an air of modernism but none would be considered modern in a pure sense. There is a youthful take on traditionalism practiced in all of the spaces.

This is the style I am most attracted to so it is no wonder I would push to see more of it. I try to achieve the idea of classic modern design – “New Modern Traditionalism”-. I plan to expound on the principle I use to build a room in a post later this week so make sure to check back. These are photos from some of my design projects:


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I adore this post. You have hit the nail on the head about “new modern” decor + I really love the photos you chose to reflect that. Really worht saving. I’m going to put up on my wall for inspiration. Thanks.


Whether or not this is the New Modern, this is certainly the way I’m headed, as are the designers I follow, like Miles Redd and Celerie Kemble. In some ways, it’s modern without minimalism. By the way, the chair in that last photo is gorgeous. It looks like silk. Is it?


Jason, preaching to the choir in my house! btw… love love love the Highland guest room!


I like the recognition of “individual personal style”. These rooms integrate gorgeous design aesthetic, thanks to natural wood elements among other things, but you can picture a person living there, even a -gasp- kid’s sweatshirt left on the rug or a trinket out of order.


**Is there any way to enlarge top images? Want to see the magnificent detail!!!


i love the mixture of traditional and modern – and it does look more modern than traditional modern, if you know what I mean.

Everything new is old again.


I really adore your work. And totally agree with everything you’re saying. I’m a graphic designer but all the rules apply. Timeless, effective branding = value for money for clients. Environmental choices with paper stock and printing processes help our earth and bring goodwill to a company for being responsible. Don’t matt-celloglaze another business card, let the beholder feel the texture of the paper, save money and the environment.

Where can I get one of those button back chairs. Like the one (champagne colour) in the last photo or like the red ones that were re-uphostered for the sunset project. I’m looking hard for something just like that.

Diane Faye Zerr

New Modern Traditionalism is exactly what I’m trying to achieve in my home, slowly and surely.

I love your dining room design photo that you posted with full, long curtains and a simple wooden table that looks like it could be in a farm-style home or the minimalist’s home. Just gorgeous!

Merri Cvetan, The Design Coach

I like your interpretation of modern design, but I would classify it as American Contemporary Design. Interior Design in the US been going in so many directions for decades and is now finally coming into its own. We’ve become more sophisticated and savvy.


Love your ideas in this post. And I think those pink silk curtains are the same color and fabric as the sash of my wedding dress. In other words, definitely reflective of my personal style. Feminine without being cutesy, and natural with a hint of luxury. I can’t take my eyes off them.

sarah Maddox

I love love the curtains, where are they from?


The mentioned designs have some modern pieces, but aren’t we really talking about a more contemporary element here? This term, “modernism”, isn’t this a design genre that really just encapsulates some of the 20th century? Or is it just a generic term that represents an evolutionary line of art and design? This is a debate that was pretty famous when I was in art school, but is an issue that deserves more conversation! Anyway- how the hell did you get that rainbow carpet to work? Brilliant!!

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