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Exploring the Nine Styles of Interior Design: Traditional Design

March 5, 2023

“One should never be the oldest thing in one’s house” - Patsy Stone

Do you delight in the classics? Do you reject the jejune pursuits of modernity and yearn for a return to the sophistication of our forebears? Well, if you’re the type who prefers Melville to Patterson and building models to a “personal brand,” we may have just the interior design style for you! 

Our second series of nine posts discussing interior design categories focus on the classic and timeless motifs embodying the traditional design. We also offer guidance for choosing a countertop style to meet the moment.

The goal of Traditional design, in a nutshell, is to recall the classic styles of old-world Europe. The focus is on creating a sense of elegance and sophistication inspired by the grandeur of the past. The Traditional style is characterized by ornate details such as intricately carved wood accents, rich fabrics with flamboyant (but period-specific) patterns, enduring materials like iron, wood, stone, and leather, and, of course, antique decor. 

The Traditional style pays homage to the past, evokes warmth and charm, and speaks to your appreciation of culture and history.


Traditional design tends to favor ornate furniture, but also durable and capable of withstanding the test of time. As such, classic staples like tufted sofas, wingback chairs, grand, elaborate dining tables, and baroque bed frames often use wood such as cherry, oak, mahogany, and textiles of floral or paisley patterns. 

Metals such as brass, iron, and copper are common; their enduring qualities and proclivity to patina with age make excellent period-specific selections. Leather is standard, as are furniture surfaces of marble and butcher block. 

Its orientation and placement within a room are as important as the furniture itself. Traditional interior design must be executed with symmetry and balance in mind. By designing spaces with pairs of matching furniture and decor, you create a sense of harmony and demonstrate intent. By and large, generations of centuries past were not as frivolously dispositioned as we, with our modern comforts, are today. Life was more challenging, and they were nothing if not intentional. 

Mauve and beige palette, grand dining table with marble top, and the pairing of decor


Another key element of traditional design is the use of classicly patterned textiles. These are in intricate wallpapers, detailed fabrics, and decorative accents like rugs and tapestries. Floral patterns featuring interwoven flowers, leaves, and vines are common, as are damask patterns featuring paisley or geometric shapes on raised textures. Toile patterns that feature narrative scenes are also found throughout fabrics and on ceramics and porcelains adorning a Traditional living space. 

Damask style with floral and paisley motifs

Elegant chandeliers, iron furniture, decorative wall molding, and lamp symmetry.

Color Palette

One of the best ways to incorporate traditional design elements into your home is through classic color palettes. Whether on walls or within smaller accents like throw pillows and decorative vases, use rich, warm tones such as burgundy, gold, and navy blue, as well as softer, more muted shades like beige and pale blue. 

One of the critical things to remember when creating a traditional interior design is to pay attention to the details. This can include everything from the finish on the wood furniture to the type of fabric used on the window treatments. Paying attention to these small details can create a cohesive, sophisticated space that feels timeless and elegant.

To describe traditional interior design in practice, here are a few examples of spaces that showcase this classic style:

Tufted claw foot seating, intricate wood wall paneling, gilded frame & sconces

Choosing a countertop

When choosing countertops for a Traditional design, you’ll likely want to focus on materials commonly used in the late 19th and early 20th centuries or at least replicate the look of those materials. While extraordinarily popular over the last 30 years, Granite was not widely available as surfacing material in Europe during this period. Marble, however, was quite popular.

Marble countertops in Traditional design

Authentic to the period and gorgeous in aesthetic, marble should be a consideration. The most common complaint with marble, however, is its durability. A calcitic material, marble stains and etches more quickly than most surfacing options. Over time, it’s a virtual guarantee that your countertop will sustain damage from one of these two common occurrences.

Now, a purist in traditional design might welcome the added “character.” Like an antique wood floor that has developed indentations from a century of traffic, imperfections signal that life has been lived with this surface. But of course, this won’t be a good turn for many.

Consider Marble-look quartz countertops for your Traditional interior

The aesthetic range of quartz has evolved rapidly in the last decade, and any countertop customer needing the “look” of marble without durability concerns can achieve it by selecting from the numerous quartz styles that replicate marble.

When selecting marble-look quartz, we recommend avoiding dynamic Calacatta vein patterns unless the the quartz mirrors actual calacatta marble. Though stunning, many styles today are inspired by marble and not necessarily meant to replicate marble.

It’s safer to go with Carrara or Statuario marble patterns. 

Soapstone as a countertop in Traditional design

Soapstone is found throughout Europe, and its use as countertop material dates back to the 19th century. Research shows it was a pretty popular surface among rural, less affluent households, which is neither here nor there— you may recall that lobster was used as a crop fertilizer in the 17th and 18th centuries. Like lobster, Soapstone is prized by the inhabitants of the 21st century.

Should it be used in a traditional design setting? We certainly think so. Soapstone's deep, rich suede-like finish embodies the characteristics of Traditional design. Its warm appearance pairs well with the rich woods and industrial metals popular in the category.