Architect Stacy Millman, owner of SKM Design LLC, based in West Hartford, CT, often finds that clients want to blend the traditional architecture found in older homes with a more open, modern design and aesthetic. By handling both the architectural scope of a project as well as the interior details and finishes, she seamlessly marries the two styles so that they beautifully co-exist. Photo Above by Chrissy Racho

Where do you start in the overall design process?

Many of my clients love traditional details, but they want to achieve a modern flow through the house with more connections between rooms, both visually and physically. We live more informally today compared to when these homes were built.  Blending formal details with a more casual vibe is what many homeowners are looking for these days.  


Do you keep the home’s traditional details?

While breaking down walls and bringing in more natural light, I’m careful not to forget about the proportion of the overall house and its rooms. In my heart, I am a lover of modern design. However, if I am working on a beautiful old home with traditional details, I like to keep the integrity of the original architecture. 

Photo Above and Right by Jane Beiles Photography 

Are there ways to modernize the details?

One idea is to paint the moldings the same color as the walls and not highlight them too much. You can also infuse modern elements into the traditional backdrop.  For example, changing only the fireplace surround can update a room.  Even just adding modern art into a traditional home can keep a very traditional space from feeling too dowdy.  Small elements like updating door and cabinet hardware, installing more modern light fixtures and plumbing fixtures, or installing a more modern stair railing, can change the look and feel of your home. Photo Above by Chrissy Racho

What pieces and materials might you add?

There is a lightness to modern design.  This can be achieved by bringing in actual natural light with more windows, but also with chosen materials. Light, neutral palettes with some warm natural textures can feel more modern.  Clean lines, and a lack of fussiness are key elements. In addition, exposed structural elements like wooden beams juxtaposed with traditional moldings and cabinetry bridges the gap between old and new.

Photo Above & Below by Chrissy Racho

What about all the other pieces of this traditional/modern puzzle?

Once the architectural shell is in place, I’m involved with everything from light fixtures to doorknobs, cabinets, flooring, etc.  I love when clients allow me to help select all these elements in their homes. This love of designing both the architecture and interior came from my background working in NYC.  Here, often the architect selects every finish and detail that is attached to the home interior. To truly blend the traditional architecture and modern interior, it’s important to work with someone that understands the whole picture – the history, proportion, color, furniture, lighting, and small details like hardware.

Photo Right by Jane Beiles Photography and Below by Chrissy Racho

A few of Stacy’s Picks “For Your Cottage” highlighted below and seen in the photos above: