Dining Room Dilemma: Mixing Antiques and Modern Style


Posted by Alicia Sell

Wow – can you believe it is already November?!  In only a few short weeks we will be gathering around the table to chow down on yummy turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and pie.  This is the one major holiday when the dining room becomes such an important gathering space, so today I thought I would share with you a question from one of our readers about her dining room. Today’s question comes from a high school friend and fellow field hockey player, Jen Okupniarek Barker. She asked if we could suggest some ideas for her dining room walls and figure out a way to modernize the hutch that her grandmother gave her:



First, thanks for your question, Jen.  We love questions from our readers, so keep them coming!

Now to the question.  Dining rooms can be tricky.  How do you make antiques and modern style work together so it looks planned and cohesive?  Well, we did a little research and we put together some suggestions.  We hope you like some of these ideas!

Mixing Styles and Modernizing the Hutch

Jen’s space is beautiful.  She recently painted and did some molding around the room and it looks really great.


You can see from the curtains, furniture and beautiful light that her style is what I would classify as fairly modern with a hint of traditional.  The lines are simple and clean with bold shapes. I really love the light fixture she picked out.



The hutch from her Grandma is very rich and bold looking.  It is beautiful, but it does feel a bit like an odd man out in the room at first glance.


However, it actually has some beautiful lines and detailing in the glass that work well with modern furniture.  The problem is that you don’t really notice the designs because they are hidden by the dark interior of the cabinet.  An easy way to lighten it up and add some interest is to paint the inside of the cabinet white.  This will allow you to really see the beautiful geometric shapes in the glass.


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You can also paint the outside of the cabinet black to enhance the contrast, but you can just leave the outside as-is since the wood is so beautiful.  You can do it either way.

One thing we noticed too was that the mirror on the wall opposite the cabinet is really pretty, but very small in scale compared to the cabinet and the amount of wall space.  To really play off the geometry of the cabinet glass, we recommend adding a very bold and geometric wall layout where the mirror currently sits.  You can even have it cover the entire wall above the chair rail for a very dramatic effect like the image below.


We were thinking antique looking black and white images would be nice, or even black and white family photos.  This scale and geometric layout would complement the cabinet nicely. This idea may look expensive, but can be done really inexpensively with frames from Ikea.  The key here is large scale frames with simple thin frames – nothing fancy.

Alternatively, you can do geometric color images if you wanted some color in the space.


We also thought that if you did the black and white images and cabinet paint, then you could add color in a bright rug.  Kilim rugs seem to be really popular right now and come in lots of great color combinations.


Alternatively, a nice natural sisal rug with texture that is easy to clean up with little kids would be a great option.


Finally, we wanted to present one more idea that is a little out there.  If you really wanted to punch up the drama in the room, you could paint the walls above the wainscoting black.  I know – that sounds dramatic but it can really create an elegant and inviting space.  Jen’s space has nice big windows and the white wainscoting, so the the black would be a nice contrast.  Black & white wall art could still be used to break up some of the black walls.  Here are a couple of examples we found that were lovely.




Well those are our ideas!  We hope you liked them. You can make sure you get all of Button Jar’s posts by subscribing to our email list by clicking here, or by following us on Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram. Also, sharing is caring! If you like this post, please share it on your social media networks. Thanks!

3 thoughts on “Dining Room Dilemma: Mixing Antiques and Modern Style

  1. Sarah Gallup says:

    Great ideas! I love Drama so I’m thinking the black wall … not everyone’s taste, I know. One question: Is the wall that the hutch is on smaller (shorter) than the wall the mirror is on? If so (and I can’t tell from the pictures), why not switch the mirror and the hutch? And continue the other wall with a family wall?

  2. Emma Lang says:

    I realize I’m showing my age here, but I think the room is attractive as is. It is freshly painted to her liking with new molding The china cabinet is inherited and a lovely piece and might lose value if the inside were painted. Switching sides may be desirable, as Sarah suggests. Experimenting with family pictures is a favorable option, but she may prefer the mirror. See what appeals with a bit of less expensive experimentation.

    • arsell58 says:

      Hi, Emma! Thanks for your input. It is a really nice and attractive space as-is and switching around furniture is always a good (and free) idea for upgrading a room. The suggestions we listed are ideas listed from simple (painting the cabinet) to more elaborate if you wanted to add to the theme. You are right, too – there is a risk of reducing the value to the cabinet if you paint the inside, but if it is something you are just going to keep for yourself and not worry about resale, doing some customization to make it feel uniquely yours is a nice option to have. We appreciate your feedback!

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