Traditional Color Schemes

Traditional style is classic and appealing in its historical references and elegance. It is also one of the most popular decorating styles because it can be formal or casual. Truth be told, nearly any color can work in a traditional setting thanks to its easy-going nature, but here are several color schemes that can be particularly effective.

Classic Color Pairings

Because traditional style is influenced by centuries-old European and American decor, there are several classic color combos that date back to the earliest periods of the decorative arts. The most common duos are blue and green, yellow and blue, and red and green. The exact shades of the colors may differ slightly with the period (burgundy and hunter green was a popular 1990s version of the pairing, for example) but the basic elements stay the same. This dining room shows a very current take on the blue-and-yellow scheme. True to traditional style, the colors are easy to live with shades, nothing too bold, pale, or jarring. In this dining room, the blue is cerulean, but navy or cobalt would be appropriate choices as well.

Primary Colors

A prescribed color palette that works in traditional decor is the primary one. It is limited to red, blue, and yellow, and it works best when you choose jewel-tone hues, such as ruby, sapphire, and citrine. These rich colors relate particularly well to the glossy dark wood furniture common in a traditional space. In the case of this living room, the wood tones are a medium-shade pecan, so the primary hues come down a notch to berry red and pale powder blue. Yellow appears as gold in the picture frames.


Neutrals are prevalent in traditional decorating to showcase artwork and antiques. By choosing such recessive colors as cream, tan, taupe, or dove gray, you allow the art and signature collections to come to the foreground. This living room demonstrates how a calm, quiet palette of soft neutrals -- ivory and café au lait -- applied over the walls and upholstered pieces, allows your eye to drift naturally to the framed painting over the sofa. These hues also allow the dark wood of the antique chair frames to pop like punctuation marks in the space.

Organic Colors

A final color scheme that works well in a traditional setting includes colors derived from nature. The stately and aristocratic homes that are the forefathers of today's classic style often took their interior palettes from nearby gardens -- verdant green, tulip pink, sunny yellow, sky blue, and any shade of a rose from peach to crimson. These colors are friendly, appealing, and easy to live with, yet they can also be sophisticated and elegant -- all qualities shared with traditional decorating.

Traditional Style Decorating Tips

Traditional decorating is both stylish and classic. Learn how to bring traditional decor into your home with these tips.

More for You

Browse traditional-style rooms in the Decorating Gallery, and find plenty of inspiration for your spaces.

Color Finder

Try out colors before you paint with My Color Finder.



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