Traditional interior design: How to adopt this classic style

June 6, 2024

Traditional interior design: How to adopt this classic style

We’ll help you master this interior design style so you can create a timeless look in your home — and forge your own traditions.

We’ll help you master this interior design style so you can create a timeless look in your home — and forge your own traditions.

No interior design style has been renamed as many times as traditional interior design. It might be because it’s been around longer than any other design style. Or it may simply be that, when you’re loved by so many, you get a lot of nicknames.

Neoclassical style, French Country style, and American Colonial style are all versions of traditional design. Social media has given us even more names for it: Cottagecore, Grandmillenial Style, and Dark Academia are simply different spins on traditional decor. And yes, you can put your own spin on a tradition.

Much like how different families have different holiday traditions, you can have your own version of traditional interior design. This style starts with a few classic elements, but it leaves room for you to personalize it with your favorite color scheme and a curated collection of furniture and home decor that are meaningful to you.

We’ll help you master this interior design style so you can create a timeless look in your home — and forge your own traditions.

What is traditional interior design?

Traditional interior design: traditional interior design of a living room

Traditional interior design includes all of the styles of furniture and home decor that were popular in Europe in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Two hundred years is a long time in terms of interior design styles. Dozens of styles came and went in the 20th century alone, including Craftsman style, Art Nouveau, Art Deco, Bauhaus, Surrealism, Mid-Century Modern, and Scandinavian Modern design — and that’s just the first half of the 20th century (but we’re sure you get the idea).

While we now consider traditional style to be one cohesive aesthetic, it actually incorporates multiple classic European styles, including Baroque, Rococo, and Neoclassical interior design. Traditionally, families would’ve passed down their most expensive furniture pieces from one generation to the next. So in older European homes, pieces from different periods would’ve organically come together.

The traditional design style emulates the homes of well-to-do French and English families in particular. So if you want a bedroom that looks like Marie Antoinette’s private chambers, a living room that could be the drawing room in a Jane Austen novel, or a study that could belong to Sherlock Holmes, you want traditional interior design.

Incorporating a few classic design elements will help you add traditional style to your home.

Elements of traditional interior design

Because traditional home design encompasses a range of styles from antiquity, you have plenty of opportunity to make this decorating style your own. But to create a cohesive space, look for these traditional elements that will tie your design together. Then curate a collection of pieces that speak to you.

Dark wood

Traditional interior design: Emberlyn Queen Poster Bed Brown

In the 1700s and 1800s, there was no acrylic, plastic, or MDF. Traditional furniture was made from natural materials like wood and stone. Wood furniture typically featured darker tones, like walnut. The dark wood provided stunning contrast against lighter walls and added depth and warmth to traditional spaces.

You can see that dark wood tone on the Emberlyn Queen Poster Bed, which brings neoclassical style to the bedroom with its stately rectangular headboard. This style would be perfect for an American Colonial home.

The Parkins Double Pedestal Dining Table is another example of dark wood in traditional design. The dark espresso finish contrasts with the white upholstery on the chairs to add dimension to the dining room.


Traditional interior design: Brockway Rectangular Trestle Dining Set

Compared to the extreme minimalism of modern design, traditional furniture included significantly more ornamentation. You would see curves, arcs, carved elements, turned legs, tufting, and nailhead trim. But again, the amount of ornamentation varied, depending on the era of traditional design.

The Rococo furniture of King Louis XVI’s France was significantly more ornate than the neoclassical style of Victorian England. To get an idea of the different levels of ornamentation in traditional furniture, take a look at these examples of more and less ornate pieces for each room.

The Celina Queen Bed features intricate woodwork with a double-arched headboard and footboard, button-tufted upholstery, fluted columns, and turned bed post finials. In contrast, the Louis Phillipe Panel Bedroom Set simply features a slight arc on the headboard and footboard to create a sleigh bed silhouette.

In the dining room, the Brockway Trestle Dining Set (in the photo above) features more elaborate ornamentation with its damask-inspired curved trestle base and Queen Anne-style chairs with cabriole legs and wingback armchairs. The Willowbrook Rectangular Wood Dining Table, on the other hand, has a simple rectangular silhouette with turned table legs.

And in a traditional living room, these two leather sofas offer opposite approaches to ornamentation: The Victoria Rolled Arm Sofa has a carved and curved wood frame, cabriole legs, rolled arms, and button tufted upholstery, while the Leaton Sofa simply features recessed arms and nailhead trim.

All of these pieces are traditional style pieces. You can choose a more ornate or more pared-down approach for your traditional space, or you can mix and match — allowing the more ornate pieces to serve as focal points for the room.

Natural textiles

Traditional interior design: Corliss Upholstered Arched Arms Sofa Beige

Traditionally, upholstery would have been made from natural textiles like linen, leather, silk, cotton, and wool. These fabrics were woven together in different ways to create velvet and chenille, which were also popular at the time. They were especially popular among the aristocracy because these fabrics were made — at least in part — from silk, which was too expensive for the average person.

Fortunately, modern technology has made these fabrics more affordable to produce, which means we can all live like aristocracy. You can indulge in the luxury of chenille with the Corliss Upholstered Arched Arms Sofa or the Aria L-Shaped Sectional with Nailhead Trim. Because modern versions of chenille and velvet are made with polyester blends, they’re also sturdier and more family-friendly than the historic versions.

You can also find modern synthetics that mirror the look of linen, like you’ll see on the upholstered headboard of the Emmett Queen Bedroom Set. These upholstery options give you the look of traditional interior design but with a durability to match your modern lifestyle.

Pops of color

Traditional interior design: Glenn Recessed Arms Sofa Light Grey

Unlike the neutral-on-neutral color palette of many modern interior design styles, traditional interior design embraces color. Traditional homes often feature a backdrop of neutral colors accented with bold jewel tones.

You might pair a neutral sofa, like the Glenn Recessed Arm Sofa, with dark blue accent pillows, for example. Or you could add color with dark window treatments and draperies, or a classic Turkish-style area rug.

If you have light-colored walls, you can add warmth to the room by pairing dark wood furniture, like the Avenue Queen Bedroom Set, with burgundy, emerald, or sapphire-toned bed linens. This approach allows you to choose versatile neutral colors for your more expensive pieces and add color with less expensive accents — like blankets, pillows, and rugs — that can be easily changed whenever you want to redecorate.

Different versions of traditional decor often embrace slightly different color schemes. For example, a French Country color palette uses lighter tones often with a lot of white and pastels. American Colonial style favors primary and secondary colors, like blue, red, and green.

Classic prints

Christine Cushion Back Living Room Set Beige

In addition to color, traditional interior design isn’t afraid of prints. And because traditional prints are timeless, you don’t need to be afraid of embracing them either. Damask, stripes, plaid, toile, houndstooth, and floral prints all reign supreme.

The damask print accent pillows that come with the Christine Cushion Back Living Room Set are a great example of a traditional print. Like with color, prints are typically added through accents like upholstery, area rugs, window treatments, and sometimes wall treatments.

Accent chairs, like the Blanchett Upholstered Accent Chair, are also a great opportunity to play with prints. The striped print is a good complement for traditional spaces and the white and blue color palette works especially well with French Country decor.


Florence Double Pedestal Dining Table Rustic Smoke

Modern spaces often embrace asymmetry. For example, at a modern dining room table, you might have chairs on one side and a bench on the other. In a traditional dining room, you would choose symmetry over asymmetry.

So if you placed a bench on one side of the table, you would also place a bench on the opposite side. More often in a traditional dining room, you’ll have matching chairs on both sides of the table. You might create a layout like you see at the Florence Double Pedestal Dining Table with a set of matching chairs. While these chairs are available in three colors, you would choose a single-color set for the most traditional look.

Bedroom and living room layouts also opt for symmetry. So if you put a nightstand on one side of the bed, you would also put a nightstand on the other. While a modern living room might feature a large asymmetrical sectional, a traditional living room idea would be to have two matching sofas arranged across from each other or a single sofa with matching accent chairs on each side.

Naturalistic art

Living room with potted plants

The wall art in traditional homes is typically naturalistic and realistic. Think paintings of scenery, people, or animals. You won’t see the abstract and geometric prints of modern design in a traditional home.

This design style also favors a single larger piece of artwork instead of the multiple small pieces that you see in modern gallery walls.

Classic light fixtures

Luxurious dining room

Chandeliers and candelabras make sparkling focal points in traditional homes. These light fixtures look great in entryways and over dining room tables. But there are also opportunities to incorporate traditional lighting throughout the home.

Carriage-style lights are a good alternative to modern pendant lights in a traditional kitchen. Wall sconces make a good addition to traditional-style bathrooms, and classic table lamps, like the Brie Drum Shade Table Lamp, grace traditional side tables.

Architectural details

Interior of a bedroom

Traditional interior design is a great choice for traditional-style homes, creating harmony between your home’s architecture and decor. Traditional homes typically feature architectural details like wainscoting or decorative wall paneling, crown molding, coffered ceilings, and chair rails.

If you love traditional design but your home doesn’t have traditional architectural features, you can add many of them yourself. Wainscotting is an easy weekend DIY project. You can even add this molding to your kitchen cabinetry to create a more traditional feel and upgrade plain cabinets.

Create your tradition

Now that you understand the essential elements of traditional interior design, you can take these design ideas and make them your own. Mix and match more elaborate Rococo-style pieces with simpler neoclassical ones. Incorporate pops of your favorite colors, play with patterns, and add rich textiles to your space.

You can even mix and match traditional elements with modern elements to create a transitional space that transcends time. Traditional homes featured furniture and decor that was curated across generations, so mixing and matching your favorite pieces is true to tradition.

Go on a treasure hunt at your local Coaster Furniture store and start a collection of pieces you love. Traditional pieces never go out of style so once they capture your heart, it will be the start of an everlasting love.

coaster-living-room-Victoria-Full-Leather-Upholstered-Rolled-Arm-Sofa-Brown coaster-living-room-Victoria-Full-Leather-Upholstered-Rolled-Arm-Sofa-Brown-hover

Victoria Full Leather Upholstered Rolled Arm Sofa Brown

Victoria Collection

coaster-bedroom-Emberlyn-Queen-Poster-Bed-Brown coaster-bedroom-Emberlyn-Queen-Poster-Bed-Brown-hover

Emberlyn Queen Poster Bed Brown

coaster-dining-tables-kitchen-dining-Florence-126-inch-Extension-Dining-Table-Rustic-Honey coaster-dining-tables-kitchen-dining-Florence-126-inch-Extension-Dining-Table-Rustic-Honey-hover

Florence 126-inch Extension Dining Table Rustic Honey

Florence Collection

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