SOURCE: Bunny Williams
Even if you’re not a design aficionado you probably understand what it means when you hear about traditional interior design. You may have grown up in a home that was traditional but if not, you’ve certainly been inside a traditional space. Even in our world where Modern Farmhouse seems to be all the rage there’s an abundance of traditional design.
It’s not always easy to describe the essence of an interior design style but for most of us, the words that come to mind when we think of traditional are elegant, classic and timeless.
Those words are fitting since the essence of traditional design is rooted in the 18th and 19th century. Over 200 years there were prominent styles that came and went but when you see traditional designs today, they will usually pull from various eras. It’s all about having fun collecting as opposed to being a puritan devoted to one particular region and style.
So what does it take to create this timeless style? Let’s take a deep dive into the essential ingredients for creating traditional interior design.
Traditional Interior Design – Everything you Need to Know
The Colour Palette for Traditional Interior Design
There are no colours that define traditional style. The palette can range from deeply saturated jewel tones to neutral shades of warm whites and yellows. Something you’ll never see in a traditional colour palette are bright and fresh colours. They tend towards muted, muddy colours with gray undertones. You can find the rainbow including yellow, green, blue and pink but think warmer and more toned down versions of these colours.
Most often, you’ll see a neutral palette on the walls with some of the more saturated colours being used in drapery and furniture fabrics as well as rugs and artwork. Think about dining rooms in traditional homes. They can be forest green, deep burgundy or even navy blue. And with those dark walls you still may find a complementary jewel tone on the curtain fabric and rug. Let your colour preference lead the way but just stay muted and you’ll be headed in the right direction.
Metals are abundant in traditional design but particularly gold, brass and silver. It’s not as common to see black metal or chrome so steer away from them.
The Furniture for Traditonal Interior Design
This is where people feel most comfortable identifying traditional interior design. The furniture is largely oversized and comfortable. You could call it regal and you would be right on. It’s very reflective of what royal families would have owned. You’ll see a lot of rolled arms, deep seats and high backs. The wingback chair, for example, has been popular since the early 18th century and people still recognize it as a crucial part of traditional design.
Sofas and chairs will have rolled or turned legs with tons of ornate and carved details. In terms of finish, don’t expect to see anything lighter than walnut for traditional furniture. The range will vary from mid-toned all the way to ebony although mahogany is easily a favourite.
The furniture will have beautiful, ornate details. Upholstered furniture commonly has piping, nailheads, tassels or tufting. Subtlety is not appreciated here. Wood furniture will be intricately carved with embellishments to make it look more spectacular and there is an emphasis on gorgeous inlay furniture for even more of a statement.
SOURCE: Huff-Dewbery Inc
THE FABRIC FOR TRADITIONAL INTERIOR DESIGN
Almost everything goes with fabric in traditional interior design. It’s easy to find plain fabrics in elegant materials like silk and velvet. If you prefer pattern, you’re in luck. Traditional fabrics range from stripes to florals to plaids with everything in between. The only exception is geometrics. You won’t see many of these patterns in traditional design.
Think about the quality of the fabric as the most important aspect, even more important than the pattern. The fabrics tend to be more weighty and heavy like jacquard so that not just the pattern but the weave makes a statement.
When using fabrics in window treatments you’ll want to add heavy lining (unless it’s a sheer). Again, this is to create that full and heavy richness. Curtains can be layered with sheers, valances or swags. There are quite a lot of options for headers on a traditional curtain but go for dramatic like a box pleat or pinch pleat. And the hardware you use with traditional design can be wood or metal.
SOURCE: Haute Boheme
THE ARCHITECTURE FOR TRADITIONAL INTERIOR DESIGN
Traditional architecture is ornate to say the least. Think of grand rooms with crown molding, wainscotting, alcoves and A LOT of panelling. This is often why a traditional room can feel so historical. These details, either painted or stained, add to that overall sense of another time.
The floors are just as elegant as the walls. Hardwood flooring is the most common for traditional homes but be sure you use a deep, rich stain like mahogany, cherry or walnut. If you have the budget, lay the wood in a herringbone pattern for the biggest impact.
Architectural features like a fireplace or built-in cabinets will often have detailed columns, architraves and cornices. This makes them feel more stately and they’ll have a real presence in the room as opposed to disappearing into the background. There are no shrinking violets in traditional interior design.
SOURCE: Curtis & Wyndham
THE LAYOUT FOR TRADITIONAL INTERIOR DESIGN
There is one word that can most accurately describe traditional layout and that is symmetry. You absolutely have to nail that in order to get a really solid traditional design. It’s very common to see pairs of side tables, pairs of bookcases or pairs of credenzas.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t mix and match furniture. In fact, that’s another keystone of this style. It can take pieces of furniture from various periods and use them together to make a more appealing overall design. Just remember that your goal is always balance and symmetry.
Now you’re fully prepared to get going on your traditional interior design in your own home. Let me know what you think of this style and if it’s your style preference.
If you know your design style but you struggle with which paint to use, take a look at my Made-For-You paint palettes. They take the guesswork out and give you the confidence to get started.