By: Natalie Elmhurst
While design trends ebb and flow, one has proven itself reliable and timeless again and again. And after years of modern, pared-down spaces, traditional design styles are still holding strong — and in some ways, gaining even more traction.
But what is traditional interior design, exactly?
Traditional interior designs can be extravagant or simple, but plain? Not so much. Its European roots keep the design historically tied, but its enduring characteristics remain adaptable to newer styles. Traditional design also offers a unique opportunity to incorporate inspiration from other styles (hello modern traditional interiors, nice to see you there) but always maintains its classic appeal.
“Traditional design” can cover a lot of styles, but there are specific traditional interior design characteristics. Most notably, traditional interiors are often recognizable for the flow and comfort they exude, rather than the sleek functionality that contemporary or minimalist styles embody.
Some characteristics that help to identify and define traditional interior design include:
Sound familiar? You’ve probably seen a traditional interior, even if you weren’t aware of it at the time.
Traditional interiors have evolved to include modern elements that keep the style relevant, including palette, simplified elegance, and updated details. You may have seen examples of traditional interiors in magazines, movies, and even your favorite tv shows.
Traditional interior decor is definitely NOT out of style, and it remains a go-to popular style among designers and homeowners alike. Like we’ve said, its enduring popularity is one of the most attractive qualities it has — no one wants to be completely overhauling their interior every few years.
Despite its name, traditional interior design is still a modern homeowner favorite. These days, many big name interior designers have been inspired to put their own spin on traditional interiors.
Traditional interior decor loves to include lots of different textures: from silky smooth throw pillows to velvety sofas, traditional interiors love having a mix of textures to keep things unique and interesting.
Mix it up with Detailed Decor Remember — traditional interiors often include lots of detail. Add in decor to keep things interesting and create more opportunities for balancing the look. A large ornate mirror, intricately painted vases, or a chandelier are great examples of this.
Add Texture to Your Furniture Furniture doesn’t have to have one type of fabric or material. While traditional textiles should be balanced, there’s no need to keep things too simple. Traditional styles let you mix and match your furniture texture, color, and patterns. (Think wooden armrests with a softly textured fabric on your two armchairs, or a coarsely patterned roman shade.)
Patterns Yes, please! Patterns can be used in so many different places when it comes to traditional interior decor. With traditional interior design, the entire room is your oyster — you can put patterns pretty much anywhere. Imagine an ornately patterned area rug, subtly patterned window treatments, or patterned vases on display in your matching bookshelves.
But that’s not all. Try adding subtly patterned throw pillows, wallpaper, or furniture pieces. (Just make sure you balance it with other textiles and vary the scale of your patterns.)
Neutral tones Traditional design prefers to be subtle when it comes to color, and not too bold. Yes, bold can be subjective, but subtle tones are the way to go, rather than loud or obtrusive colors that would dominate the ambiance.
Remember to repeat your chosen colors, rather than overwhelming with unbalanced color choices. When you add too much color in traditional interior decor, you may find the space feeling a bit cluttered — there is such a thing as TOO much detail, so choose the main color and a few supporting colors to repeat in your palette.
Traditional decor goes best with the warm and jewel tones that are classic of traditional styles.
Opt for Crown molding Use crown molding to draw the eye away from the center of the room all the way to the edges — see what we mean? Talk about drool-worthy details!
Crown molding is very popular and instantly adds elegance to a space. This detail makes spaces look naturally filled without feeling cluttered, and adds the ornateness synonymous with traditional interiors.
Let Wallpaper Have the Spotlight Remember how we just mentioned drawing the eye throughout the room, instead of focusing on the center? Traditional interiors showcase details on the wall, either from decor pieces, furnishings, vintage art… or by using wallpaper.
Wallpaper can be balanced with other elements to keep the look classic yet updated. Don’t worry — just because there’s a bit of wallpaper doesn’t mean the whole room needs to have it. If you’re into wallpaper throughout your space, remember to keep it balanced with an equally eye-catching simple piece (a large soft cream sofa, or long luxurious drapes, for example).
Add Curated Art Pieces Vintage art pieces are a must — they often have more intricate detail, and their age is an homage to the historical foundations of traditional interior design.
Art is a must for all traditional interiors, as it keeps rooms balanced and adds a touch of elegance. If you’re attempting a traditional interior, add large eye-catching art to balance out heavier furniture pieces, and smaller artwork to add just a smidge more detail.
Embrace The Feeling of Warmth Traditional interiors are all about being comfortable. That’s why there are usually quite a few pieces of furniture versus sparse pieces to address a functional need. Why not have a sofa or two, plenty of seating, and matching side tables? Go ahead — get cozy with an extra soft sofa, a few textured throws, and sumptuous drapes on all the windows.
Traditional interior decorating styles are often thought of in conjunction with drapery.
Drapes are a very common element of interior decorating styles because of their dramatic presence and elegant feel. Elegance and ornate details are both elements of traditional design, so it’s no wonder that drapes fit so well within the style.
Even though drapes are commonly associated with traditional interior decorating, layering is also a favorite. Layering is done by combining heavy drapery with a lighter option — often sheer drapery, roman shades, or roller shades for a touch of modern style.
Stylistically, drapes are perfect for traditional interiors — they add luxurious detail, complete with texture and color. They’re also perfect for creating balance found in traditional styles, as they attract the eye upward and draw attention to space that might not otherwise not be highlighted.
Drapes don’t only provide the perfect look for traditional interiors, they also offer a key feeling: comfort. High-quality drapery provides excellent climate control and visual appeal, so while you get to revel in your traditional inspired space, you’ll also get to enjoy a temperature that doesn’t fluctuate dramatically. If you choose to layer your drapes, you’ll also get the bonus of light filtration; let’s stay comfortable without losing all that gorgeous natural light.
Absolutely! Roller shades are one of our favorites for being a style chameleon. Plus, with roller shades you can choose the level of light filtering you most desire — keep that masterfully created traditional interior highlighted (without the intensity of afternoon sun).
Window treatments we would recommend that can go well in traditional style interiors:
The last three are also lovely when paired with drapery, layering the look for more detail and more function.
Valances are that cherry on the top of your window treatments. Not only do they wrap everything up in a nice little bow, but they are an opportunity to add detail that is so common with traditional styles. Go for a patterned fabric for a bit more spice, or an effortless scalloped edge for simple elegance.
When it comes to traditional interior design, there’s a grace with which all these details are brought together. You want to create a space that has added detail in the textiles, decor, and furniture. Remember to keep things less modern and edgy, and more detailed and ornate. Art should be intricate or simple versus bold and intense.
Make sure furniture is placed in the room in a balanced fashion. Double up on single pieces (like armchairs or side tables) to embrace symmetry. If you have multiple windows, consider using the same type of window treatments to keep things harmonious.
Have fun with color, but don’t forget to use less harsh or powerful colors to keep your space flowing naturally.
Traditional interior decorating is all about blending all these elements together to create a comfortable, naturally filled space that balances and exudes contentment and luxury.
Maintain symmetry and harmony. Try to remember that traditional styles are just like any other — you’ll want to repeat colors to maintain harmony throughout your home. You can use textiles, art, and decor to add different textures and color, just be sure to keep the idea of balance a priority.
Avoid too much clutter. Traditional styles are all about balancing detail, but that doesn’t mean adding so much that it starts to feel too chaotic or jumbled. Subtle colors help keep it feel more simple, and making sure things are balanced around the room will also help things feel clean.
Don’t forget about backdrops. Traditional interiors maximize the opportunities the room provides, including the walls and overlooked empty space.
With traditional interiors, you don’t want to put all your attention on the middle of the room. Remember your backdrops are an opportunity to balance the heavy furniture pieces with elements that keep the room elegant and harmonious. (This is where things like crown molding, tastefully dramatic vintage art pieces, and window treatments can come in handy!)
It may feel a bit overwhelming to try and remember all the details of creating a traditional interior. Our best advice: start with one piece to set the tone.
Why not make it those traditional drapes you’ve been dreaming of?
Our design consultants are here to make sure you get the best window treatment for your home. Consultations are truly the best way to find out if we can help you achieve the style and feel you’re looking for.