Linda is a seasoned writer and bedroom authority. She loves sharing design trends, decor ideas, and useful tips with her readers.
What Is Traditional Design?
Traditional style highlights the finest in historical detail spanning centuries and countries the world over. Some of the more familiar traditional influences of the 18th and 19th centuries include neoclassical, Greek revival, French provincial, Georgian, and regency.
A traditionally furnished room is best described as elegant yet comfortable. It is one of the most desired decorating styles because it has the ability to be stately formal or elegantly casual. Elements such as handcrafted millwork, luxurious textiles, rich colors, and beautifully turned furniture pieces with elegant lines define this enduring design style. All this and more contribute to a traditional room’s trademark look and feel.
Symmetry and Balance
Symmetry is a subtle but effective principle in traditional design. Everything from architecture and furniture arrangement to the painstaking placement of accessories is based on the logical model of balance and order. While important to traditional style, designers sometimes stray from the strict definition of symmetry to create a space that caters to today’s more relaxed lifestyle.
To master the art of symmetry in a living room, position seating pieces across from each other to create balance. A fireplace, artwork, television, or picture window can serve as the room’s focal point and is best situated at either end of the conversation group. Use lamps, plants, and side tables in pairs to flank a sofa, bed, fireplace, or a built-in bookcase. Maintain symmetry when hanging artwork by centering the pieces horizontally and vertically on either side of a center point.
Color and Patterns
Choose pleasing colors for a traditional space. Avoid extremes and stay with similar wall colors when moving from room to room. As far as fabrics go, many familiar patterns work well in traditional rooms. Almost any color can work in a traditional space because of its unruffled and relaxed nature. Still, several color palettes make a traditional room look and feel perfect.
A primary color scheme of red, blue, and yellow can work wonderfully in a traditional room if you tone it down slightly. Consider using jewel hues--garnet, lapis lazuli, and topaz for a classical trio. Neutral colors are also common in traditional decor to highlight antiques and artwork. Choose colors like tan, soft gray, ivory, and taupe to bring accessories to the foreground. Another palette involves colors found in nature. Aristocratic homes often took color hints from their formal gardens, such as fern green, tulip yellow, azalea pink, and dahlia peach.
Today’s fabric patterns are much larger than historical fabric designs. These large-scale prints add drama to a room. Don’t be afraid to use a bold pattern on a traditional chair or sofa to give it an updated appeal. Oversize folksy gingham is a timeless pattern used in a formal living room to create an unconventional look on the walls or upholstered seating.
Toile de Jouy originated in France centuries ago. It typically featured a pastoral scene in red or blue on a white or off-white background. However, now there are many other themes and colors available. There are dozens of ways to bring toile into a room. Try incorporating traditional toile with a mix of patterns to create a whimsical feel. Also, consider damasks, paisleys, stripes, and plaids as suitable choices. You can save the abstracts and polka dots for another time and place.
Rich Wood Tones
From a Queen Anne dining set in mahogany to dark walnut columns, beautiful wood grain and elaborate turnings are an essential element of traditional style. Classic wood furniture features details like barley twists, curves, bun feet, and ornamental carving, which give these time-honored pieces graceful movement that modern lines can’t match.
Wood furniture is often painted to create an antique or weathered finish. In a traditional setting, it’s best to leave the wood in its natural state. Rich wood tones provide just the right amount of warmth and elegance, keeping it true to the style.
Wood moldings impart character and timeless elegance that easily coordinates with a variety of traditional ornamentation. Install delicate picture frame molding on the walls of your living space or study to give it a formal look. Intricate crown molding and ceiling medallions create a dignified style from the past.
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Windows and Floors
Elegant window treatments are well-suited for traditional spaces. Anything too frilly will take away the beauty of its architecture and furnishings. Full-length curtains are done in lovely chinoiserie, solid or floral, add a splash of texture, color, and dimension to any room. Hang them as close to the ceiling as possible to draw the eye up. Layering natural woven shades or gossamer sheers under simple panels of linen, silk, or velvet create classic perfection. Shutters are also a traditional option for a library, dining, or sitting room.
Traditional rugs are always in style and are the design standard in the world of interiors. While you’re probably familiar with rug styles such as Persian and Oriental, you should also consider European designs like Aubusson, Savonnerie, and Anatolian. These centuries-old motifs work with almost anything to create a beautiful backdrop and anchor for traditional furnishings.
Mix refined pieces and modern accessories to avoid over ornamentation. Keep accessories to a few carefully curated items. When arranging accessories, focus on simplicity and place items in small groups to create vignettes on bookcases and side tables. If you are a collector, pick a few favorites and rotate them every few months to maintain a clean and uncluttered appearance. Decorative accents, artwork, pillows, and throws are the icing on the cake to complete your traditional space.
Hang a mirror over the mantel or sofa to add light and give a compact room a larger appearance. Keep art pieces at eye level and hang them in pairs or create a grid layout in matching frames. Add a decorative box, books, and fresh flowers to complete a traditional vignette.
Not all dining rooms are overly fussy and formal, but many feature traditional tableware and accessories, such as crystal goblets, candles, silver, fine china, and stunning centerpieces. If you prefer, keep the tablescape relaxed and down-to-earth by mixing white ironstone or creamware pieces with vintage patterned china.
Have Fun with Mixing Traditional and Modern Decor
© 2019 Linda Chechar
Start a Conversation!
Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on September 30, 2019:
Cairo Ghani, I'm so glad you've enjoyed this fun decor article. Thanks for your comment!
Cairo Ghani from Dubai on September 30, 2019:
Hi... Linda! Absolutely right that neutral colors are common in traditional decor to highlight antiques and artwork. I appreciate your work experience which glimpses show in this Article.
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Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on January 29, 2019:
Farha Shekh, traditional design is one of my favorites. It just has that special sppeal. Thanks for commenting on this article.
Farha Shekh from Abudhabi on January 28, 2019:
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Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on January 20, 2019:
Hayley, so happy these ideas will be of help when you move into your new house.
Hayley Dodwell on January 20, 2019:
This article is absolutely brilliant! I am moving house soon, and it has filled me with inspiration and many ideas! ... Thank you!
Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on January 17, 2019:
Thank you, Emmy. Traditional design and furnishings create an warm and elegant home.
Eman Abdallah Kamel from Egypt on January 17, 2019:
I always like your articles to renew home decorations. This article contains very beautiful ideas.
Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on January 16, 2019:
Thanks for the read, Liz. Traditional interior design is one of my favorites. Although I like to mix classic and modern to give it an eclectic vibe.
Liz Westwood from UK on January 16, 2019:
You have showcased some lovely settings in this hub. I was reminded of some of the styles I see when visiting stately homes in the UK, which are still lived in.