Traditional Style: Why We Love It and How You Can Use It in Your Home

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You can get easily lost on Instagram looking through all the different ways to adopt a new design style. But what if your new favorite look is actually one that takes inspiration from design that dates back a few centuries?

We're talking traditional style, a look that stands out in contrast to our more contemporary spaces. Whether you use it in your kitchen or bedroom, traditional style is all about pulling together the right components to create a timeless look.

Join us as we dive into the fancy world of traditional decor.

A Brief History of Traditional Style

An example of a chair with cabriole legs, dating to around 1730–90.

What we largely know as traditional style today goes back to 18th and 19th century furniture and decor from Europe and the American colonies (which also incorporated Asian decor motifs and styles). The evolution of styles like Rococo, Queen Anne, and American Neoclassicism all came together to create what we see as traditional and elegant pieces today.

Queen Anne style, for example, reigned supreme in American furniture from approximately the 1730s to the 1760s. This included new furniture features like the cabriole leg, which adds a curved shape to furniture pieces.

The Federal Period, from around the 1780s to early 1820s, showed a move towards American Neoclassicism. It used elements like clean lines and decorative inlays. Parlor rooms, from the time, show the use of elegant yet pared-down woodwork, Parisian-inspired wallpaper, elegant statement chandeliers, and dark wood furniture.

We see many of these characteristics showing up in traditional decor today. For starters, traditional motifs like floral patterns, chinoiserie, and toile are making a comeback as of late. You can, of course, mix traditional with other styles. We've seen spaces that combine traditional style mantels with more contemporary living room furniture or metallic accents. Because of its timeless nature, the style can complement a range of modern-day aesthetics.

How to Decorate with Traditional Style

Let's start with the basics: many traditional spaces as we know them today incorporate a few overlapping design choices. Most traditional style rooms stick to symmetry and incorporate vintage or antique pieces. They make use of sumptuous details like velvet decor and furniture and large patterned rugs, but don't necessarily go overboard with decor details. The bones of a traditional room might include things like a classic fireplace or wainscoting. Other classic touches include glamorous chandeliers, beadboard wall paneling, and oversize mirrors.

When it comes to your living room, the couch can be a great way to anchor your whole concept. The right traditional sofa makes use of curving forms and luxe textures — and it makes a statement. Think about neutral hues that might work in the space or seek out wallpaper that brings that antique feel to the room (again, toile or floral patterns are a good place to start). For a fresh look, try jewel tones both in your paint choices and decor accents. We also find a lot of swoon-worthy traditional style living rooms use furniture in dark wood tones and draw your gaze up with statement lighting. Don't be afraid to mix in some modern pieces, too. Shea McGee recommends introducing modern side tables and lamps to your overall design. And don't forget about other important parts of your home, like your entryway and staircase.

In the kitchen, opt for wood or marble countertops and simple yet functional kitchen islands. We're also big fans of kitchen cabinet doors with beadboard, mesh, and glass details. Materials like reclaimed wood and shiplap also create a classic feel. Consider all-white or play with jewel tones to give your cook space a luxe touch.

We can't help but swoon over a sophisticated traditional style bedroom. To create your own, stay with the theme of symmetry, from your side table to your lamps to your pillows. You can, of course, play with color. We've seen powder blue rooms, jewel tone rooms, and everything in between that fit into this aesthetic perfectly. And again, you can easily add up-to-date touches here and there — like with a statement mirror or modern lamp.

For a sophisticated and traditional style bathroom, consider neutral hues, vintage textiles, curved vanities, and symmetrical antique lighting fixtures. Your bathroom can easily take on a timeless look with just a few of these design tweaks. Keep your hardware simple and look for mirrors in classy shapes for maximum impact.

For design lovers with houses, think about your exterior, too. Little additions like a stone pathway and plants at your front door can make a big impact. There are also plenty of traditional front door color options, from subtle to glam.

Where to Shop Traditional Style

If you're ready to make the leap into a traditional style space, here are a few places you can start your shopping adventures:

Hayneedle

Anthropologie

Birch Lane

Wayfair

One Kings Lane

Pottery Barn


Eva Recinos is an associate editor at Hunker. You can reach her at eva@hunker.com

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