Interiors: Make Mine Modern

Decorating used to be about following strict rules that promised to give your home a certain look or at least resemble that gorgeous spread in your favorite magazine. Country was all about baskets and faded florals, while traditional called for heavy drapery, fringed pillows and leather club chairs.

Not so with modern design, says Estela Lugo, founder and owner of, a popular website (based in Queens) that sells affordable, modern home furnishings.

“Modern design really has no limitations, no rules to follow,” she explains. “I think that’s why I was so drawn to it. I like that there are no limitations. Today, modern can be almost anything.”

And why shouldn’t it be? Thanks to the digital age we’re all living in, design enthusiasts are surrounded by tons of blogs, tweets and websites that are all devoted to decorating and design. With access to so many ideas, opinions and products, it seems consumers can now decorate their home in a way that suits their personality best, instead of choosing from a limited scope that has been decided for them.

Add to that the growing popularity of handmade, recycled and eco-friendly items and you’ve got yourself a modern design revolution.

“The landscape has changed,” says Lugo. “Between the accessibility of the Internet, the awareness of the environment and the downturn of the economy, our shopping habits have changed. We’re now craving design that’s truly appealing, made responsibly and it has to be affordable. To me, that is today’s definition of modern.”

Of course, there are a few design principles that Lugo, a former interior designer and graduate of New York’s Institute of Technology, follows when shopping for her site and her home. “For me, a great modern piece needs to be simple yet very functional,” she says.

A great example is the set of clear, acrylic nesting tables on her site that she currently loves. “Since they’re clear, I can use them in any room and since they stack, they’re easy to store so I only have to take them out when I need them.”
So how can today’s homeowner embrace this new modern outlook? Do some research and tap into what makes you happy.

“I always recommend starting with something that you love, whether it’s a piece of artwork, a favorite color or something from your travels,” says Lugo. “You have to first find your own inspiration and take it from there. Don’t be afraid to make choices based on what appeals to you. It’s your space so you have to love it!”

If you’re looking to start small, lighting is always a good choice. “Lighting is one of the easiest ways to make a change,” Lugo says. “It sets the mood and can easily become the main focal point in any room.”

For example, say you’re trying to modernize a classic country kitchen. Lugo suggests first adding a great industrial steel light fixture. “You’ll instantly give the space a cleaner, more modern feel,” she says.

Then later, think about cabinet hardware in a reclaimed metal. To warm things up, replace kitchen chairs with those made from sustainable wood or simply add a stool in an interesting shape in a punchy color.

“The room’s entire décor doesn’t have to be completely modern,” says Lugo. “Just a few key changes can make all the difference.”

lauren debellis

A former magazine editor, Lauren DeBellis has been writing and producing stories about home decorating and design for nearly ten years. She resides in East Northport with her husband.