Traditional Decorating

Traditional home decor remains a classic for a reason. Symmetrical designs, billowing drapes, pretty patterns, and more have all stood the test of time. We've gathered some of our favorite traditional decorating ideas so you can bring classic home decor into a modern space.

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Everything In This Slideshow

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    Start with Basics

    Use a couple classic furniture pieces and elements to set the traditional mood of a room. In this bedroom, a shapely bed and nightstand set against dressy wall and floor coverings establish a timeless look. Then, personal touches can stray from the style rules to add character, such as the vintage-inspired chandelier and contemporary lamp and stools.

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    The Updated Face of Traditional Style

    Traditional style is a mainstay of home decor. And like every decorating style, it evolves with the trends. Forever classic, today's style keeps a fresh face by injecting modern traditional decor and taking a more pared-down approach. Traditional color schemes can be neutral or saturated as long as hues are sophisticated, not heavy. Traditional furnishings will always be elegant, but there's room in today's interpretation to mix period styles or inject a modern element that complements your personality.

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    Big and Bold

    Traditional furniture and fabrics have come a long way from the days of the fussy parlor. Furniture still leans toward formal, but the lines are sleeker and pieces are definitely more comfortable. Ornate patterns have grown in scale, lending modern simplicity to a dressy statement. As seen in this traditional style living room, don't be afraid to use bold patterns or vibrant colors on a traditional sofa or chair to give this formal style an up-to-date finish.

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    Color Update

    A traditional color scheme can be rich without being heavy. Choose colors that are light in value with warm undertones to give a traditional room space to breathe. A soft blue establishes a classic palette in this polished living room, while pops of deep pink add playful luxury.

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    Rule of Symmetry

    Symmetrical arrangements help to establish the formal appearance of traditional rooms. Whether it's furniture, wall decor, or accessories, placing pairs or evenly arranging odd multiples is generally a good rule of thumb. As always, though, exceptions are welcome and not every item should be perfectly matched or precisely placed. An off-center accent table or an informal gathering of favorite collectibles, for instance, creates visual interest and keeps rooms interesting.

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    Breaking the Symmetry Rule

    You can create symmetry without perfectly matched pairs of furniture and accessories. Twin chairs on one side of the seating arrangement in this pretty living room establish the trademark traditional look. Then, the rest of the seating area comfortably comes together by arranging a sofa opposite. The effect is a more casual, comfortable result that maintains a formal feel.

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    Traditional with a Twist

    To give traditional decorating style a fresh look, bring a contemporary touch to trademark traditional elements. Billowing floor-to-ceiling draperies, for instance, no longer look old-school when fashioned from brightly colored or low-frill fabrics. Substantial trim work and a chandelier give this breakfast nook traditional grace. Turquoise blue fabric on the chair seats brings a boldness to the airy room, while a rustic table relaxes the formal look.

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    Choose Fabric with Care

    Fabric is a key component of traditional decorations. Traditional rooms are known for their beautiful window treatments, elegant upholstered seating, and luxurious bedding ensembles. Give particular attention to fabrics with elegant tactile qualities and patterns that make a statement. Incorporate trims, fringes, and other textile embellishments to pump up the elegance factor.

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    Surprise Impact

    Traditional doesn't have to equal stuffy. There's room for an element of surprise, such as a bold color or pattern. Furniture with classic shapes comes alive when dressed in bold fabric or given a unique painted finish. Or inject personality by setting elegant pieces against a vibrantly colored wall. 

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    Pattern Power

    A timeless, traditional pattern, gingham is applied in an unexpected way to give this formal sitting room a unique spin. This pattern gets its drama thanks to its large-scale repeat. Use these over-the-top yet traditionally rooted patterns to make a statement—on the walls, in window treatments, or on a signature piece of furniture—and balance it with solids or additional patterns of contrasting scale and similar color tones.

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    Mix It Up

    To keep traditional living room decor from becoming too formal, mix things up when it comes to furniture finishes and fabric patterns. Contrast a dark-stained table with crisp white-painted chairs. Mix wood with glass, and add shiny metals for dimension. Minimize overwhelmingly elegant fabric patterns by tossing in a few graphic and modern designs with your traditional home decor.

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    Vintage Traditional

    Give traditional home decor a nod to the past with antique furniture pieces and billowing fabrics. Both are forever elegant and romantic, a favorite approach in traditional-style home decor. To make sure the old-fashioned look enjoys a breath of fresh air, keep colors light and accessories minimal.

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    A Traditional Palette

    Certain color schemes naturally project a specific design style, such as this tailored red-and-khaki palette, which offers a decisively traditional look. Furniture with more modern lines blends effortlessly with pretty, traditional fabrics, thanks to the classic colors that bring them together.

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    Marriage of Styles

    The lines of architecture and furnishings can carry a color palette across multiple styles, too. In this kitchen, a black-and-white color palette bridges both traditional and cottage styles. Architectural details on the cabinets and the turned legs on the island extension solidify the kitchen as traditional, while beaded board and casual barstools add a touch of cottage flair. By not using a color scheme that's decidedly traditional or completely cottage, the two styles are able to blend perfectly.

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    Classic Kitchen Details

    Decorative architecture takes the lead in a traditional kitchen. To create the look, incorporate paneled cabinetry fronts and contoured moldings to dress up the functional room, plus add creative storage components, such as cookbook shelves and plate racks, to combine function and decoration. Look to granite and marble countertops to add another layer of elegance, and complete the space with noteworthy light fixtures.

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    The Beauty of Woodwork

    Decorative molding and woodworking details are hallmarks of traditional style, with the beautiful ability to dress up otherwise ordinary surfaces. To enhance the traditional decorating style of a room, choose cabinetry with molding details and add wainscoting or architectural panels to plain walls.

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    Be Window-Wise

    While decorative fabric window treatments are popular in traditional living room design, sometimes the architecture of the windows and the available natural light are all a room needs to be elegant and traditional. For a compromise between full draperies and bare windows, consider a valance or upholstered cornice that decoratively tops the window, or Roman shades that add a tailored touch of fabric and the option for privacy.

  • Next Slideshow House Tours: Decorating with a Nautical Theme

    House Tours: Decorating with a Nautical Theme

    Brenda Eastman is an interior designer and a partner with Susie Mitchell in Les Interieurs, a design firm and shop in Newport Beach. For this home, they launched a nautical theme that is child- and budget-friendly, smart, stylish, functional, and, most of all, comfortable.
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