Traditional style embodies timeless furnishings, classic symmetry, elegant patterns and rich colors. Some might feel it is too formal, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Traditional homes have a warm, welcoming style that showcases the best of the past.
Traditional design elements originate from a wide variety of places and periods. Popular influences are historic styles of the 18th and 19th centuries including neoclassical, French provincial, British colonial, Georgian, regency, federal, baroque and rococo.
A traditional room can be best described as formal yet comfortable. Beautiful millwork and molding featuring egg-and-dart or dentil detail, handcrafted furniture and classic lines characterize this conventional decorating style. Gracious furnishings, elegant fabrics and timeless accessories make traditional style so easy—to create and experience.
Traditional style is logical and symmetrical. Everything from structural design and room arrangement to placement of accessories and art is all about balance and order. While symmetry is a hallmark of traditional style, it is more than acceptable to occasionally stray from this exacting design standard to create a more relaxed and livable space.
One of the most common types of traditional furniture placement consists of seating pieces positioned across from one another. For example, two sofas or a sofa and pair of armchairs can be placed face-to-face to encourage conversation. The room’s focal point would be situated on either end of the grouping. This arrangement is great for entertaining, reading, watching television or enjoying a roaring fire. Enhance the room’s symmetry by using identical decorative pillows, one on either side of the sofa and in each armchair.
When shopping for lamps and side tables, always buy in pairs. On its own, a single lamp can look forlorn and lost. Identical lamps perched on matching side tables flanking a sofa provides even illumination. A pair of matching accent chairs on either side of a library table creates a sensible seating area.
Symmetry even extends to the placement of artwork. Centering artwork horizontally and vertically around or on either side of a center point will maintain equilibrium. Use identical frames and consistent spacing to reinforce repetition—another important characteristic of symmetry. You can add visual interest while maintaining symmetry by mixing artwork styles, sizes and mediums.
Color and Pattern
Go with subtle and serene colors in traditional rooms. The best way to achieve this is to choose colors from the middle range of a paint chip. Stay true to the style by staying away from extremes—colors should be easy on the eyes with nothing too weak or too saturated.
Avoid using different wall colors from room to room. Make each room a shade darker or lighter along the same paint chip. This method keeps colors consistent without jarring contrasts. Pleasing color palettes for traditional rooms range from jewel-tone primary colors that look stunning with rich wood tones to nature-inspired color schemes that are elegant, warm and appealing.
Stripes, plaids, damasks, florals and toiles all work in traditional spaces. Believe it or not, a combination of prints can even coexist in the same room. You can use several patterns but they should all be compatible with regard to color, style and scale. If your first choice is a large floral, you can easily add progressively smaller patterns such as checks and paisleys to the mix.
Wood Furniture and Accents
Whether it’s a matched set of cherry dining chairs or rich walnut wainscoting, dark wood tones are fundamental to this enduring style. Chippendale, Sheraton, Louis XV and Queen Anne are among the furniture styles at the forefront of traditional design.
Traditional wood furniture features turned legs, curved backs, bun feet, bobbin frames and ornamental carving creating shadow and movement that straight lines just can’t equal. Wood furniture pieces can be painted or stained, but purists always opt for authentic wood tones over modern affectations. Natural wood offers just the right touch of visual warmth and sophistication that is so central to the style.
Traditional style is all about understated window treatments. Floor-to-ceiling curtain creations frame windows in luxurious fabrics like elegant Dupioni silk, warm velvet or crisp linen. Curtain panels are fairly tailored with pinch pleats and unadorned save for the occasional tassel tieback. For added interest, curtain panels can be layered over privacy sheers, natural woven shades or even shutters.
Traditional rugs never look dated. They are the timeless classics of the design world. Although you are probably familiar with traditional rug styles such as Persian and Oriental, you should also consider European designs like Aubusson, Savonnerie and Anatolian. These centuries-old motifs work with almost anything to create a beautiful backdrop and anchor for traditional furnishings.
Accessories and Artwork
Accessorize traditional rooms with a few carefully chosen items consisting of refined and graceful lines and scant ornamentation. Concentrate on symmetrical and simple arrangements to keep things free of clutter. If you have collections, edit and rotate items on a seasonal basis. Keep your collectibles such as figurines, books and decorative boxes in a group or evenly dispersed throughout the space.
Hang large pieces of art or mirrors over the mantel or the sofa. For smaller artwork, follow the rule of eye level and hang art in pairs or create a grid layout with similar pieces in matching frames. Add candlesticks, a chandelier and fresh flowers to complete a traditional vignette.
Not all traditional dining rooms are overly fussy and formal, but most do feature customary tableware and accessories like crystal glasses, candles, silver, fine china and stunning centerpieces. Keep your tablescapes relaxed and down-to-earth by mixing neutral ironstone or creamware pieces with elaborately patterned china.