See beautiful examples of this refined style and learn how designers achieve the look.
More than any other style, traditional decorating embraces a sense of history, with heirloom-quality antiques, rich woods, plush carpets and pretty patterns. Although traditional style does tend to be formal, with symmetrical arrangements and refined materials, the ultimate goal is comfort, warmth and a welcoming feel. There’s nothing jarring or out of place in a traditional home; each room and nook is designed to flow beautifully.
- Comfortable. Pillows are plump, edges are rounded and textiles are soft and luxurious.
- Formal. While comfort is key, that doesn’t mean traditional spaces are casual. Look for symmetrical arrangements, gleaming surfaces and high-end materials.
- Time-tested. Traditional style is inspired by history. Furnishings have a timeless look and may include antiques.
- Minimalist. Unlike modern style, traditional spaces welcome a bit of ornate millwork, a skirted bed or armchair and well-curated collections.
- Trendy. Traditional spaces aren’t the place to experiment with the latest fad. Stick to the tried-and-true, well-loved and expertly crafted.
- Stuffy. Traditional homes, while formally beautiful, are also gracious and welcoming. It’s about using your best every day and genuinely enjoying the finer things in life.
At first glance it may be hard to spot the difference between a traditional and transitional space (and it doesn’t help that the words are so similar) but it’s easier when you know what to look for. Simply put, traditional style adheres firmly to classic designs rooted in history, while transitional style draws from both traditional and contemporary looks. In a transitional space, you might find a few contemporary accents, sleeker lines on the major pieces of furniture and less embellishment overall.
Traditional furniture tends to be ornate, with rich, carved wood in dark finishes such as cherry, oak, mahogany and walnut. Upholstered pieces have soft edges and formal details like skirts, tufts and nailhead trim. Antique pieces can be mixed with new and custom designs to great effect. In textiles, look for classic patterns like plaids, stripes, damasks, toiles and florals.
Whether it’s an antique hall table, smoked-glass mirror or intricately detailed wallpaper, details that hark back to another time are a must in traditional spaces. Even one or two special pieces are enough to bring richness and depth to a traditional-style room.
Traditional homes lean toward refined, calming color palettes — think of soothing neutrals, rich midtone hues and pale washes of color.
Great shades for traditional-style spaces:
- Refined neutrals. Cream, taupe, beige, putty, dove gray
- Rich midtones: Gold, mustard, sage, Wedgwood blue, barn red
- Watercolor wash. Pale blue, lavender, spring green
Traditional style is all about the classic comforts of home. Imagine all you need to get cozily curled up beside the fire in an armchair with a good book and you’ll be on the right track.
Accessories for traditional spaces:
- Book collections
- Glass, crystal or sculptural objects
- Formal flower arrangements
- Luxurious throws and plump cushions
- Refined window treatments
- Blue-and-white china or ironstone
- Oriental rugs
Rich and luxurious, traditional kitchens include intricate architectural details, appliances a chef would love and high-end materials. Although formal, traditional kitchens are designed for function and comfort, with cushy seating, ample counter space and sparkling lighting.
- Raised-panel cabinets. Look for flush inset or framed cabinets with raised-panel doors.
- Statement hoods. Hoods and hood surrounds become a focal point when made from plaster, ornate metal or carved stone.
- Decorative moldings. Carved corbels, brackets and moldings add decorative detail in a traditional kitchen.
- Luxury countertop materials. Think marble, walnut butcher block, quartzite or light granite for a luxurious look.
- Furniture-style islands and storage. Hutch-style cabinets, glass-front cabinetry and islands that look more like ornate kitchen tables are right at home in a traditional kitchen.