Classic Style, New Look

Enliven a traditional room with eye-catching hues, glossy fabrics, and abstract paintings.

Payton Haney
Classic Style, New Look
The use of red helps lower the high ceiling and creates a cozy feeling in this open room.

Josephine Aiken wanted a fresh, not-so-traditional look for the living room of her 1800s Victorian-style home. "Because I entertain a lot, I wanted a room that was inviting and cozy," she says of the jazzed-up space.

To get this look, Josephine let her natural color preferences take control. "I chose purple and red because they are my favorites. I also worked the colors around two paintings that I've had for a while," she says. By mixing these offbeat hues with glossy finishes on traditional furnishings, she created a fun environment.

As co-owners of a decorative painting-and-faux finish firm in New Bern, North Carolina, Josephine and partner Sissy Ballenger enjoy mixing colors. They tried some new ideas in Josephine's living room, including a red ceiling, which makes the tall space feel cozy. "I like painted ceilings, but it was Sissy's idea to make mine red," said Josephine. "I also painted the reupholstered furniture black."

While Josephine isn't afraid to try something unique, she only paints furniture pieces that are reproductions. It is not advisable to take such a daring approach with antiques.


Complementary hues in the artwork, new upholstery, throw pillows, a rug, and curtains unite this room. The richness of the velvet and silk in purple and red creates warmth, and accessories are kept to a minimum. The result is dynamic and glamorous.

Make an Impact

  • Use bright colors to energize a traditional room.
  • Leave the walls white to create a contrast, emphasize colorful accents, and provide balance.
  • Pair a bold color with strong accents such as purple and black.
  • Keep accessories simple for a clean, uncluttered look.