Knowing how to combine various elements creates timeless and affordable interiors.

Whether you are investing in a property to rehab and flip or want to attract quality tenants to a rental, the design you choose matters. You’ll likely want something that isn’t dated, but following every new design trend can get expensive fast. Blending modern and classic design elements provides a solution.

Here are 15 tips for finding a happy medium using both modern and classic design elements to create a timeless interior.

1. Choose Classic, Durable Materials

In the 1970s, durable materials meant Formica counters and rolls of linoleum, but not all durable materials are so dated. Materials that never go out of style include marble, hardwood, and brass. When used in a contemporary way, these classic materials are fresh, modern, and built to last.

2. Choose Low-Maintenance Materials

Low-maintenance finishes and fabrics that are easy to clean and maintain are also considered durable. Materials resistant to stains, scratches, and other damage reduce the need for frequent repairs and replacements. Your tenants will appreciate the easy maintenance, and prospective buyers will be impressed.

3. Keep Your Colors Neutral

You don’t need to look back far to realize how quickly color can date an interior space. In the 1970s, kitchens were outfitted with harvest gold and avocado-colored ranges and refrigerators. But in 2024, you’ll want to stick to neutral colors for floors, walls, and appliances to achieve a timeless palette. Neutrality allows buyers to see themselves in the home and allows renters to customize the rooms while living there.

4. Focus on Lighting

Lighting provides an excellent opportunity to blend classic and modern sensibilities. An antique chandelier plays well with recessed lighting, as does a single modern pendant in an otherwise classically styled room.

5. Keep Design Functional

Don’t swing too far in either direction aesthetically. Make sure your design is functional with a sensible layout and furniture that makes the most of the space. This is important for tenants renting furnished homes, but potential buyers also need to feel a good flow in each room.

6. Tailor Your Design

Similar to designing a highly functional interior space, select practical accessories such as rugs, window treatments, and fixtures that make it easier to use the space. Families with small children aren’t interested in shag rugs and glass coffee tables. Tailor your design to the people looking to live in the home you are renting or selling.

7. Stay Safe

Another critical point is to prioritize safety over visual appeal when necessary. If you have tall bookshelves, ensure they are securely fastened to the wall. Although it is not the landlord’s responsibility to fully childproof a home, you can take simple precautions to keep potential tenants and their families safe.

8. Mix and Match

The goal isn’t to become a historical replica or a museum for modern art. Blend modern and classic design elements such as furniture and accent pieces to balance your interiors. Doing so will appeal to a broader pool of renters and buyers, increasing the likelihood that your vacancy will be filled or your property will sell.

9. Layer Rugs

Many people think of rugs as an afterthought, but they are a great way to change the look of a room affordably. They also develop depth and interest in a design. Choose a color palette and then look for a traditional rug to layer over a modern, geometric one, for example.

10. Embrace Minimalism

Minimalism is a deeply streamlined approach to interior design that does a great job of keeping the space visually calm while focusing attention on one piece that stands out. This might be a statement armchair, a beautiful antique mirror, or an architectural detail, such as a gorgeous original Beaux Arts fireplace.

11. Keep It Simple

A simple decor is more versatile. Classic pieces with clean lines are still a good foil for the sometimes harsh look of modern design. If you don’t want to worry about blending Rococo detail with Pop Art posters, look for classic pieces that share a similar design philosophy.

12. Spend Your Money

Financial advisors, investment blogs, and real estate apps will tell you to spend as little as possible on your investment, but the fact remains that quality costs money. Investing in high-quality fixtures and furnishings may hurt initially, but the long-term payoff is better. These pieces are more likely to hold their value, too, which can be helpful if you sell a home with the interior intact.

13. Ask for Feedback

You won’t be able to redesign the interior of your investment property to suit every tenant, but it’s good to consider input to make the home more appealing to future tenants and potential buyers. If you’re blending modern and classic design elements for the first time and have not yet put the home up for sale or rent, solicit opinions from family and friends, and make changes that make sense.

14. Update What You Can

It’s possible to stay on top of modern sensibilities without going overboard. Make small changes, such as replacing the house numbers, swapping interior fixtures as they wear out, adding an updated pop of color, or replacing old towel racks or light switches in the bathroom. These trendy touches are appealing to buyers and tenants, and they will ensure the design stays fresh without busting your budget or wasting your money on a hot trend that won’t last.

15. Less Is Always More

Cramming your interiors with vintage and modern pieces results in a haphazard design that won’t come together. Remember the advice Coco Chanel gave modern women: When leaving the house, look in the mirror and remove one piece of jewelry. When you exercise the same restraint and become more deliberate in your choices, your interiors will become the perfect combination of classic and modern design.

  • Luke Babich

    Luke Babich is the Co-Founder of Clever Real Estate, a real estate education platform committed to helping home buyers, sellers and investors make smarter financial decisions. Luke is a licensed real estate agent in the State of Missouri and his research and insights have been featured on BiggerPockets, Inman, the LA Times, and more. Education: B.A. with Honors, Political Science — Stanford University

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