Style 101: Our Guide to Traditional Interior Design

By: Sarah Beaumont

March 21, 2017

Image via Architectural Digest

Traditional style (or “trad” for short) sometimes gets a bad rap. Some people think of it as fussy, stuffy and grandma. Others think, why live in the past when there’s so much great design happening in the present?

But the truth is, trad style allows for a lot more experimentation than you might imagine. And in the right hands, it can feel seriously fresh and new. So how much traditional is too much and how do you make it work for you? Well, we’ll break it all down for you. From the textures and colors to the furniture and decor, this is traditional design in a nutshell.


via Domino

Old world traditional spaces typically used neutral colors like beige or tan as a base, adding peach tones and warm woods to create a sense of comfort. We saw this style a lot in the 90’s, but in recent years, traditional spaces have taken on a brighter, more modern color palette.

Blue and white are big today. Off-white walls infused with light blue decor and subtle pops of green or yellow make a traditional room feel less stuffy. The key: don’t go too crazy with color. Mix and match complementary shades to make this timeless style look put together.


Traditional furniture is anything but bland. Typically adorned in decorative details like tufting, piping or intricate wood carvings, look for pieces with shapely curves and classic forms. You can easily accessorize any traditional furnishing with modern decor to create a more contemporary look. Also, be sure to pay attention to symmetry. Perfect pairings are what traditional design is all about.


Traditional design does not shy away from pattern. Florals and damask, paisley and chinoiserie prints are all classic staples of the style. But there’s no need to go overboard with pattern. Mix it up with neutral solids or a metallic here and there to modernize the look. Linens, cottons, velvet and silk are all common textures, but a nubby throw or rug can help add an extra layer of comfort to a traditional space.

Patterned upholstery is a big win for traditional interiors. And if you’re really feeling the old school vibe, add a matching floral wallpaper.


Even the most traditional spaces need a little bling. Use bronze and silver accents for pieces like frames, mirrors, or even side tables. Crystal chandeliers are always appreciated, but it’s ok to go for a simple pendant, too. Any surface in polished natural wood or painted white works for traditional.


Portraiture and landscapes are big in traditional homes. Large lamps with ornate details and boxy or tapered shades add an instant element of timelessness to a room. Opt for porcelain accessories like chinoiserie vases or antique store finds.

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