For some of a certain generation, the idea of “traditional design” can elicit thoughts of grandma’s living room, including the squeaky sofas (was that plastic wrap?), overstuffed footrests, tea cozies, and baroque art. Sure, those design elements still exist and there might even be a time and place for them, but traditional design doesn’t have to be the formal sitting rooms of our childhoods.
Today, more and more people are turning to the timeless taste and lasting style that comes with a traditional design philosophy. Rather than creating a veritable dumping ground for unwanted family antiques and uncomfortable furniture, think of it as timeless touches that are always in style. It’s not maximalism in the eclectic sense, but rather more of a freedom to lean into rich color palettes, time-honored patterns, and luxurious textures.
From historic blues and deep greens to your burgundies and charming blushes, the color schemes are layered and multi-dimensional, but always balanced with plenty of warm neutrals or timeless black and whites. Old-world botanicals, enduring plaids, and classic stripes will always have a place in traditional design. There’s freedom to go bold in certain areas, while simultaneously exercising restraint in others. Here’s 20 traditional living room ideas that feel refreshing and unexpected.
1. Layer luxe materials
Historically, traditional design utilizes a lot of contrasting elements and layered patterns. But if you want to stay on the more modern side of tradition, try mixing luxe materials and textures instead, like marble, velvet, linen, and iron. This keeps the color palette minimal while still adding a touch of drama and contrast.
2. Channel British chic
To mix up traditional design, utilize design elements from a different country. Across the pond, traditional design, aka British chic, utilizes dark upholstery in funky pairings (like this green, blue, and camel-ish leather), rich wood tones, and pops of pattern.
3. Let it roll
Consider bringing a rolled-arm sofa into your living room, a tried-and-true traditional design furniture piece. There’s a plethora of shapes and upholsteries that can give the design stalwart a more modern focus, like the pencil-thin legs of the one pictured.
4. Embrace Chinoiserie decor
Chinoiserie is loved for its traditional, historic aesthetic while also adding a sense of whimsy to a space. You can start small with a side table or vase, or go bold with wallpaper or drapes. If you’re going for a more maximalist approach, pair it with a contrasting print, like a bold stripe.
6. Add a hint of plaid
Plaid is perhaps the most recognizable pattern utilized in classic American design — peppering it into a traditional living room just makes sense. Use it sparingly in a muted palette, like this seat pairing, to let the pattern make a statement on its own.
7. Embrace dramatic drapes
When we think of grandma’s house, we often think of curtains. Specifically luxe, dramatic drapes in rooms we never sit in. But there’s a way to channel that traditional look in your living room with a modern twist. Consider thick curtains that complement the wall color(s), or go bold with pattern on pattern. Grandma would be proud!
8. Mix & match patterns
From floral upholstery to classic prints like plaid and stripes, traditional design is all about pattern play. If you want to test the waters, we recommend starting with your throw pillows. Layer in florals, stripes, plaids, and maybe some animal print —the funkier the better!
9. Add a hint of crystal
Nothing will lend a traditional touch to your home like a statement crystal chandelier hanging in the center of your living room. From a modern piece (like the one pictured above), to a vintage or vintage-inspired beauty, this classic detail will never go out of style. Complete the look with a little pleated upholstery.
10. Bring in Bridgerton florals
Sure, Bridgerton-inspired interior design may be a bit too stuffy for some, but taking bits and pieces from this over-the-top era is a great way to introduce traditional opulence into your living room. These floral chairs offer just the right amount of flair without taking a trend overboard.
11. Add spindle details
Spindle furniture has been around as early as the 17th century, and its fluted and curved design is iconic in traditional rooms. In this room, the spindle accent chairs elevate the more beachy aesthetic, taking it from Nantucket to New York.
12. Let your walls do the talking
Wallpaper is officially back, and it’s the perfect way to give your living room a little traditional flair. We suggest going for a more classic motif or a timeless blue and white color palette to channel the classic look. Keeping the rest of the room minimal is a way to ease into bold walls, layering in patterns and textures over time.
13. Consider a diptych
A diptych is a piece of art consisting of two separate panels that combine to make one. It creates a more visual statement than a single hanging piece, and offers a more unique, classic display. Two oversized panels have the ability to hold an entire wall.
14. Lean into symmetry
A big part of traditional design hinges on functionality. Symmetry is often quite functional — if one side of the sofa has a lamp, the other side has one, too. This layout is classic at its core, and therefore the perfect way to introduce traditional design elements into your living room.
15. Show off your library
Is there anything better than a home that feels cultured and well-traveled? A good library or a bookshelf lined with colorful books speaks volumes–pun intended–of the people who reside within it. If you have a collection of books, display them in your living room for a traditional look.
16. Add coastal touches
The “Coastal Grandmother” trend is traditional at its core — it isn’t overly preppy or Key West kitsch, but rather elevated, sophisticated, and fresh. In other words, coastal details are the perfect complement to traditional design — layer in natural materials like jute, wicker, and driftwood for a little coastal contrast.
17. Go high-contrast
High-contrast color schemes bring the perfect touch of modern drama to traditional design. Black and white is a classic choice that allows for multiple iterations as your lifestyle and design sensibility changes. Just as traditional design dictates, it should grow as you do.
18. Hang shaded sconces
Traditional living rooms almost always feature some sort of shaded light fixture, from floor and table lamps to pendants and wall sconces (bonus points for pleats). Install duo shaded sconces flanking wall art, a fireplace, or even a TV for a subtle traditional flair.
19. Add ornate details
Spindle legs. Fringed velvet. Piped upholstery. Gilded brass picture frames. Wainscoting. Ornate details like these add a rich, classic touch to any living room. We especially love pairing these thoughtful design details with modern, sculptural furniture for a Parisian-modern look.
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