Finish: Colour SB18. Produced for: Harvey Jones
Finish: Colour SB18. Produced for: Harvey Jones

How to mix traditional and modern in your kitchen or bathroom

You don’t have to decide between a traditional or contemporary look when designing your home. If you’re a fan of both, it’s possible to mix the two successfully. The key is to keep each element of your design on one side of the fence or the other, eg, keep the cabinets and all the fittings traditional but use modern materials for the hard surfaces such as flooring, worktops and splashbacks. So, if you’re looking for kitchen makeover ideas, here are six more tips for mixing classic and contemporary looks…

Use traditional designs with modern finishes

Developments in technology mean that many kitchen and bathroom materials are far more hardwearing and easy to maintain than in previous generations. That doesn’t mean you’re tied to a futuristic look, however; you can still opt for a traditional design while taking advantage of these innovations. For instance, ceramic flooring tiles can now feature a melted glass glaze that protects them from damage and stains, and can be manufactured to look like other materials such as wood and metal. This makes them more versatile and durable than traditional natural stone although they can look very similar. And glass splashbacks can be digitally printed to give any finish imaginable, from wallpaper to burnished metal to wall tiles, while being far more long lasting and easy to clean than any of those options. The splashback above has been printed with a tile design that looks traditional but is in fact a grout-free, wipe-clean sheet of glass.

Bring a traditional design up-to-date with an ultra-modern focal point

A simple way to give a modern twist to a traditional interior is to add an eye-catching focal point that instantly brings the space into the 21st century. This grey Shaker-style kitchen has a fairly classic feel, but the hi-res printed glass splashback adds some serious visual punch. Super modern light fittings, avant-garde furniture or hi-tech appliances would have the same effect.

Bring in some bright colour

A simple but very effective way to give a traditional kitchen or bathroom an update is to add some bright colour. Glass splashbacks in vivid shades and zesty hues add serious impact and can work as an unexpected complement to classic interior design schemes. The glossy finish of the glass enhances the contemporary feel and strengthens the contrast with matt materials such as wood or natural stone. Neon brights, eg lime green, hot pink or tangerine, would make a major statement. If you’re looking for kitchen makeover ideas that are a little more conventional, turquoise blue, mint green or cherry red would still strike a modern note.

Change traditional materials for their modern alternatives

One smart way to ensure your classic kitchen doesn’t look old-fashioned is to swap traditional materials for their modern alternatives. Quartzite is often used as a cheaper and more durable alternative to marble worktops, and polished nickel is a more budget-friendly and practical option than silver, although it looks very similar. Hand-painted or digitally printed glass splashbacks can give an effect that’s similar to natural stone, including semi-precious varieties such as lapis lazuli, pink agate or marble, enhanced with a modern gloss finish. Not only does this look more up to date, it’s also far more long lasting and requires no on-going maintenance.

Try a a modern kitchen with traditional fittings or vice versa

You could start with the fundamentals of a modern kitchen – sleek cabinets and glass splashbacks, for instance – but add traditional elements such as an AGA or Victorian style Belfast sinks and plate racks. Alternatively you could do it the other way around, with ornate wooden cabinets and butcher block worktops, mixed with sleek chrome hardware and state-of-the-art boiling water taps.

Add traditional accessories to a modern kitchen or vice versa

For a more versatile take on the idea above, use decorative accessories to add some contrast in your kitchen or bathroom. Traditional kitchens could feature ultra-modern vases, bowls or glassware, while a modern space such as this sleek bathroom would look great decorated with old paintings, vintage pots or repurposed posters and signage. There are no hard and fast rules – experiment with different looks and research lots of kitchen makeover ideas until you hit on a combination that feels right for you.


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