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How to Combine Traditional and Contemporary Interior Design: An Interview with Janette Mallory of Janette Mallory Interior Design Inc.

By Janette Mallory

Please tell us a little bit about your company and the services you offer.

My company is a full-service interior design firm that includes exteriors as well. While my main passion and focus is residential interiors, I have remodeled and decorated two major Los Angeles restaurants and really love environments which involved entertaining and food! I have worked for many clients that want a kitchen or bath remodel, as well as new interior home furnishings and interior design. Usually after we finish the interiors, they hire me to work on the exteriors including hardscape (i.e., update a 70s pool with new tile, stucco, hardscape, outdoor kitchens, outdoor exterior lighting and landscape). Since my father was a general contractor and I was married to a developer, I have a lot of exposure and experience in construction and my clients find this of particular value when dealing with new construction and remodeling. We cover design, construction administration and decor from beginning to end.

Can you briefly explain what traditional interior design is? Contemporary design?

Traditional interior design is typically reminiscent of classic European decor. Hallmarks of this style generally include deep wood tones, architectural details and elegant furnishings This style is quite versatile and can be combined with other interior elements and antiques to create a unique look in a room. Contemporary design is everchanging and is usually of the moment. It can encompass many different styles that are current or en vogue. Contemporary seems to reflect a catch-all term for any design that is current and not directly referencing historical design style, such as select antiques to create a unique look in a room.

What are some of the first things you ask your clients who want to fuse traditional and contemporary styles in their home?

The first thing I ask my clients is what their needs are for each room/space. For example do they have small children, like to entertain, anticipate their parents living with them, etc. Most of my clients want to use some of their existing furniture, which makes a difference as to what direction to go in. It all depends where the starting point is. It also depends on the architecture of the house which is important to respect. Mixing traditional and contemporary is a transitional style and makes each project different, a unique palate that I have to work with.

How can people add a contemporary look and feel to a home that is traditionally decorated?

The easiest and least expensive would be new pillows, lamps and accessories such as colorful vases, bowls, an abstract painting, area rug, a funky chair could do the trick. While there are many ways to add contemporary to a traditional look, you have to be careful not to over-accessorize (creating clutter), but strive to keep the balance of a traditional look but while feeling more updated.

What are some of the most popular design features that will help give a room/house a fused traditional/modern style?

The most effective way to fuse a traditional style into a modern environment would be to add color. Anchor a room with a traditional rug and accessories and then juxtapose them with modern art for a fresh feel. For instance the hues of an heirloom rug might play off of the colors of the painting or a work of art.

What tips do you have to help people successfully achieve this look in their home?

Go for the safer "fresh" approach and focus on traditional elements dominating the decor, but give the overall look of the room some subtle adjustments that rescue the space from sameness. Use a lively and unexpected wall color or choose artwork that is as contemporary as it gets (for example: modern photography goes beautifully with both traditional and contemporary furniture).

What's the best way for people to contact you and your company?

Please call my Malibu office at 310 457.5777 or email me at

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