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As revealed in its name, traditional interior design references tradition. Though this word means different things to different people, “traditional” in a design context refers to the conventional notions of what a home should look like, attributed to Europe during the 18th and 19th centuries. Particularly in France and England among the upper classes, this period exuded an overarching elegance and dignity. Rather than appearing overly fancy, this style is rooted in familiarity, balancing sophistication with comfort.
If you’ve heard of styles like new traditional or transitional, it’s because traditional design blends seamlessly with many other styles—if understood fully. It serves as an excellent starting off point for spaces but it doesn’t have to be your end goal. Follow along for all the details on incorporating traditional style into your home.
For any traditional design, it’s vital to use furnishings reminiscent of classic European décor. Commonly producing items from woods like mahogany, walnut, and rosewood, this material can be found all throughout traditional interiors from furniture to flooring to decorative accents. Wood adds an inviting, natural warmth to any room, as seen in our Elmdale Vanity in Antique Brown.
To complete a balanced, comfortable space, incorporate other natural materials that were widely used such as cotton, wool, and silk. Use these in your textiles from upholstery to window treatments to rugs. For an authentic look, be sure to avoid any ultra-modern or trendy materials.
For the relaxed, inviting atmosphere necessary in a traditional space, bring in a comforting color palette with your selections. Use complementary neutral colors with plenty of white and earth tones. For your wood finishes, dark, rich browns are quintessentially traditional.
Accent colors are welcome, with muted or pastel hues common in the traditional design style; think deep navy, faded burgundy, soft green, and powder blue. As displayed in our Keller Mahogany Vanity in Vintage Navy blue, these options create a timeless look as opposed to a trendy one.
For an era-appropriate look, complement your color scheme with elegant patterns like floral or damask through your wallpaper or textiles. These classic motifs add dimension to your space while allowing your personal take on the style to shine. Since these should serve as accents rather than bold statements, keep the number of patterns minimal and the types of them cohesive.
Furniture, hardware, and lighting tend to have a decorative flair in a traditionally designed home. Not to be confused with showy, the ornate silhouettes and details of the style should convey an understated sense of grandeur. For the bathroom, it’s not uncommon to see wood vanities with delicate carvings, bathtubs with clawed feet, and faucets in softly curved, exquisite shapes.
Depending on where they're installed, lighting fixtures may mimic the look of a candelabra and have embellishments like crystals, as exemplified in our Candler Elongated 6-Light Chandelier. Hardware choices are plentiful, with cremone bolts, door handles, and knockers being great options to showcase the refinement of the era.
From material to color to silhouette, it’s all about harmony in classic interior design. For a look that’s easy on the eyes, traditional homes often utilized matching. Matching couches and furniture were mainstays, but today can come off as one-dimensional, so to prevent your space from feeling plucked straight from a showroom you’ll want to use this with discretion.
An instant way to achieve a matched-without-matching look is with a hardware collection such as our classically detailed Cooper Collection. These shared metallic finishes and silhouettes instantly create cohesion in a room. If perfectly matching isn’t for you, consider using a unifying theme throughout while switching up another design element such as color.
The idea is to create balance not only with the items themselves, but with how they are arranged. Use symmetry to guide your placements, such as a pair of sconces on either side of a bed or a set of mirrors or chairs flanking a fireplace. Placing your items using symmetry will not only achieve a put-together look, but will help achieve the relaxed, familial atmosphere that defined classic European interiors.
Playing a pivotal role in the comfort factor needed in this design style, you need to integrate functional pieces. While this may seem like common sense, many styles put aesthetics over function, while a large aspect of traditional design is to promote easy living.
Ensure your main fixtures and furnishings serve their purpose for effortless comfort and flow from comfortable seating to hardworking kitchen faucets like our Bellevue Bridge Kitchen Faucet.
A room that revolves around function, the kitchen is a smart place for implementing traditional design. Once you establish a flow for how you’ll use your kitchen, create satisfying symmetry with your lighting choices. This can include a series of matching pendant lights hanging above an island, sconces flanking a classic style vent hood, or a chandelier directing your eye to the center of the room.
For a sink setup equally functional and eye-catching, incorporate a deep farmhouse sink with a delicately detailed bridge faucet with either pull-down or side spray features. To accent the dark browns, navy blues, or emerald greens commonly found in a traditional kitchen design, bring in stunning shine and cohesion with cabinet pulls and knobs from the same collection.
In a traditional living room, establishing comfort includes selecting quality, well-constructed pieces that stand the test of time. To complement all-important comfortable seating, place durable lighting fixtures throughout the room intentionally.
For optimal flow and ease of living throughout the day, you’ll want to pair an elegant chandelier with plenty of accent lighting from sconces to table lamps near sitting areas. Remember to opt for furnishings that complement each other either by matching or sharing a common feature throughout.
Achieve a refined finishing touch by adding a few ornamental details such as cremone bolts for your windows.
Now that you’re acquainted with the understated elegance of traditional design, are you ready to incorporate it into your space? Or perhaps parts of it? Now that you understand the “rules” of the design style, it’s easier to break them a bit to mix with another style that feels more personal to you. Whether you’re drawn to a fully traditional look or just parts of it, be intentional with your fixtures and furnishings for a uniquely curated home that looks like no other.