It is fairly easy to identify the elements of a design style such as modern or contemporary–add some glass, sleek metal and vibrant colors and voila! Same holds true with a cottage or shabby chic interior–combine distressed woods, soft colors and homespun fabric and you have achieved the look. Rustic, industrial, mountain cabin and beachy also have elements that make these styles easily identifiable. However, traditional design is not quite that simple as it can borrow from colonial, early American, Shaker or even English country. To begin with, traditional style incorporates classic furniture designs along with familiar colors and fabric patterns that have withstood the test of time. Here is a list of design elements that will help you introduce this ever-popular decorating style to your home.
Color– Shades of deep red, blue and green are colors often used in traditional design; think burgundy, federal blue and forest green. But the traditional design of the new millennium uses plenty of neutrals to warm up the space along with a modern shade or two like chartreuse, cobalt blue, berry and orange as seen in this living room designed by Andrea Schumacher Interiors. I love the addition of antiques paired with a modern sofa and chair and the introduction of bright colors in what is a staple of traditional design, floral draperies.
Wood tones– Rich woods like walnut, mahogany and cherry are typical choices for case goods along with the occasional maple and pine piece. Accent tables, side chairs, chests, hutches and dining room tables constructed of these woods will add a beautiful glow to your traditional interior. Wood furniture can also be painted to add personality and a more casual look to traditional style.
Furniture styles–Traditional design borrows from the pages of Shaker style with its functional designs and simple lines like the classic Windsor chair or a versatile drop leaf table. On the other hand, more formal furniture styles that feature turned and carved legs, spindle backs and arms, raised paneled doors and plenty of decorative molding are also staples in traditional decor.
Fabrics–pattern choices for upholstery and window covering fabrics often include floral patterns in both large and small scale, paired with a classic stripe, check or plaid.
Metal–metal of choice would be brass, pewter, oil rubbed bronze or nickel. You want to avoid anything that is too shiny (with the exception of brass). Introduce metal through the use of lighting fixtures, candlesticks, fireplace screens and fenders, picture frames and other accessories or even in an unexpected spot like the doors of this pie safe that feature distressed tin panels.
Symmetry–When it comes time to decorate your home in a traditional style, think in pairs as symmetry is a very important aspect of traditional design. Chairs that flank a fireplace, topiaries on either side of the door, a pair of ginger jars on either side of a mantel mirror, matching pillows on the sofa, a pair of lamps on a buffet or wall sconces in the hallway, etc. This room features an eclectic collection of furniture styles but maintains its traditional roots through the use of symmetry beginning with the layout of the room and moving onto the placement of furniture, wall sconces and accessories.
Rarely do we decorate using one style exclusively. The most inviting homes offer a mix of styles and/or an updated version of a specific style. For example, today’s traditional design might place an antique hutch in a dining room with brightly colored upholstered chairs and glass topped table or an heirloom desk on a geometric patterned rug. How do you incorporate elements of traditional style into your home’s decor?