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Decorating in the Traditional Style

Traditional Style is Classic, Comfortable, and Calm

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Decorating in the Traditional Style

Dishes and tableware are beautifully displayed in pairs.

Photo courtesy of Lexington Furniture
Traditional style interiors are comforting and classic. You may have grown up in a home that was decorated with traditional style furnishings.

What is traditional style decorating and what is it not?

  • Traditional decorating is calm, orderly, and predictable. There is nothing wild or chaotic in a traditional room.

  • Furnishings are classic and might feel outdated. Nothing is a surprise. Pieces match and are consistent.

  • Furniture and accessories are place in pairs and centered in the room. There is nothing out of place or of a different style. Everything has the look that it goes together.

  • Traditional rooms are not ostentations but rather somewhat casual. Furniture pieces are often reproductions. Modern, eclectic pieces have no room in a traditional space.

  • Traditional style homes feel comfortable for any age group. It's a familiar look that you'd see in magazines or furniture show rooms. A traditional room is not a place to showcase a piece of modern art or stainless steel furniture.

Here are some of the elements of a traditional room.

  • Upholstered furniture in a traditional room exhibits classic lines and understated details. It is functional, unfussy, and restful looking. Edges are soft, smooth, and blend into the whole.

  • In general, a traditional room will use a mix of vertical lines with more restful horizontal lines. Gentle curves are seen in furniture, pillows, and accessories.

  • Fabrics in a traditional room are generally neither too shiny nor too textured. Florals, plain colors, muted plaids, understated stripes, geometrics, tone-on-tone and small all-over patterns are common.

  • Color in a traditional room is often in a mid-range of tones, though very dark and very light colors can also be used. Pretty multi-color florals are often the basis of a traditional color scheme that uses the lightest color on the walls and deeper hues for upholstery and flooring. Avoid neon brights and jarring combinations.

  • The overall ambiance of traditional decor is homey, understated, and non-jarring.

  • As in formal settings, furniture in a traditional room is often arranged on straight axis within the room. The sofa will directly face or sit perpendicular to the fireplace and a bed will back up to the center of the longest bedroom wall.

  • Wood furniture will usually have a mix of straight and curved lines. There may be light carving details as well. While wood pieces will often be finished with darker stains, a traditional room might also use lighter woods as long as the lines of each piece are classic.

  • Interiors in a traditional home will often feature trim and molding that is painted glossy white. Crown molding is common and adds to the formal look. Walls might have a chair rail and simple molding details, with wall surfaces done in a flat painted finish or wallpaper. Ceilings are often white and may have simple beams.

  • The dining room in a traditional home is generally a separate room, often with some built-in corner cabinets for china storage. A large area rug sits on top of a hardwood floor. The table is rectangular with a set of matched chairs placed evenly around the perimeter. A matching sideboard, buffet, or china cabinet is centered on one wall.

  • Dressmaker details are not particularly important in a traditional room. Trims, tassels, and fringes are used sparingly if at all, in favor of a simpler, calmer look.

  • Window coverings in traditional rooms show classic style. Look for narrow shutters, traverse draperies, and under treatments of pinch pleated sheers. Cornices and valances may also be featured.

  • Accessories include pairs of lamps, urns, plants, mirrors, framed prints, china, vases, and collections of books. Pairs of objects are usually arranged in balanced symmetry.

  • Light fixtures exhibit classic styling. Lamps with silk shades, wall sconces, and floor lamps might all be used. Shades should be fairly plain and in ivory or white.

  • Traditional dining rooms can show off a variety of china, glassware, and silver. Plates might be a classic gold-rimmed style or a simple floral design. Use either beautiful tablecloths or pretty fabric placemats and napkins.

Learn about Contemporary and Casual Style decorating.

See our Guide to Decorating Styles.

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Learn About Traditional Interior Style

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