How to Make a Room With Wood Furniture Look Modern

Regardless of your design efforts, sometimes a room with wood furniture, especially dated, antique or vintage-looking pieces, whispers -- or shouts -- "country" or "traditional" when you want it to sing "modern.

Switch Around Furniture

Balance chunky wood furniture with sleek, streamlined pieces and a minimalist look.Balance chunky wood furniture with sleek, streamlined pieces and a minimalist look.
" The right wall application, window treatments and accessories are almost all you need to make a room with wood elements project a contemporary voice. Let your design sensibilities guide your assorted color and decor choices.

If you have a rustic wood dining-room set -- one that you might expect to see on "Little House on the Prairie" reruns, for example -- wipe the charming farmhouse vision from mind by envisioning it with different chairs. If you're going for a bold, modern look, pair the table with bright-red, aqua or clear-acrylic chairs, or paint the existing ones, if you like. If you're all about sleek and simple, go with molded white stacking chairs with chrome legs. The idea is to create a less-expected look, which helps turn a melodramatic space into a play on modern.

Jazz Up the Walls

Something as simple as an updated feature wall can rock your space into current times or even beyond. If you're working with pale wood, such as pastoral pine, paint the wall that faces you as you enter in contrasting, won't-be-ignored, contemporary black, wild-grape purple or cool, electric blue. For more oomph, paint wide dual-colored, eyebrow-raising, horizontal stripes or a standout abstract mural from floor to ceiling. An unexpected high-contrast backdrop elevates wood furniture, giving it stylish zing -- like putting your own freestyle moves on the foxtrot. If you're working with dark wood, such as walnut pieces, use lemon- or lime-colored paint, or wallpaper with a large, bright-on-white geometric pattern for kicked-up contrast. For a visually subdued, yet modern take, Trendir suggests a monochromatic palette, blending wood, walls and metal elements of like tones or shades.

Soften With Window Dressings

When you're going for an updated vibe in a room with a lot of wood furniture, the last thing you should dress your windows with is more wood or wood-like materials, such as wood-slat, bamboo or hemp blinds or shutters. Instead, soften the room with linen drapes, or use white, light-filtering, accordion-slat honeycomb blinds. You could even leave the windows bare if they have thermal, low-emissivity glass and good-looking moldings, to present a daring, clean-lined, open take on modern design. Make your windows stand out with pure-white trim that reflects more light, and contrasts with wood and modern wall colors.

Accessorize With Sparkle

Wood furniture provides some of the room's texture, but not the type you need for a modern vibe. So think "shine." Fill the space with glass tables, crystal ornaments and metal. Then soften the look with fabrics in the room's accent colors, from the chenille throw pillows to the retro-mod shag area rugs or luxurious, high-thread-count bedding. As for fabric patterns, skip Old World floral or paisley prints in favor of more modern abstract designs -- ikat, polka-dots, herringbone or stripes, for starters.

Update the Lighting

Lighting may be more important to updated style than you realize. Use up-to-date, unanticipated lighting bling -- such as a row of colorful pendants or a chrome chandelier if the space allows -- over a coffee table at eye level, or above each bedside table. Sufficient lighting from daylight or full-spectrum bulbs brightens your home, and a bright home seems less dreary and dated -- uplifting wood effects into current times.

About the Author

Lorna Hordos has owned a home-flipping business for more than two decades. She uses her construction and interior design experience to write friendly, conversational home and lifestyle articles for Daltile, Marazzi, Lowes and numerous other publications. She also enjoys writing for children, and has been featured on the cover of Humpty Dumpty magazine.