Friday, March 13, 2009

Decorating a Smaller Home: The Traditional Look Done Right!

This is the look of traditional styling done right!

One of the most well known decorating styles is the traditional look. On its own or combined with complimentary elements from other styles, this classic decorating scheme is known for the use of dark, rich woods, Persian and Oriental carpets, along with antiques and reproductions. Decorative tassels and fringe are often found on window treatments and furniture. Because it can feel heavy or crowded, a traditional style does not always work well in a smaller home. But as shown above, it can be lovely if a light touch is used and you don't go overboard on heavy accents.

Traditional Gone Wrong

So how can you create a beautiful traditional style for your home? First, let's look at what to avoid.
The patterns in this room clash and the furniture pieces don't compliment each other. The overall look is too fussy. Haphazardly putting antiques together in a room is not the same thing as good decorating.
Whatever is wrong with this room is no small thing. The spindly antique side tables have no business being in the same space as the dark heavy carved arm chairs and the blue cushioned 'coffee table' creates a strange focus.

Tassels and fringe should always be used sparingly, yet here we see window dressings with fringe made out of tassels! Next we have curlicues and stenciling on the sideboard. This look went out of style in the late 1600's or early 1700's. If this is a valuable antique, my advice is to auction it off and get the cash. And why is that antique arm chair - that looks too fragile to sit in - placed under the window by itself? Furniture needs to be functional and have a reason for being in the room. Enough said.

Traditional Done Right

What does traditional styling done right look like? Use the stunning rooms below, courtesy of Better Homes and Gardens as your guide. Each has traditional elements, but their use is never overdone. Also, you will notice that the color palettes are neutral. Why? This creates the best balance visually and brings harmony to the space. By the way, only the last three photos are from smaller homes. Someday I'll be able to run around and take all the photos I need - or pay someone else to do it - but for now my day job keeps me busy. Enjoy!




  1. This is a tricky balance to find. Thanks for the great examples!

  2. Hi Genevieve, well done on your blog, I really enjoyed looking through it. I am about to update my blog list so will add you to my sidebar. You have some inspirational ideas.

  3. I love the shades in the first picture. Do you know the source for those?


  4. Hi Matushka,

    The first photo was originally shown in 'Better Homes and Gardens' magazine, but unfortunately I was unable to locate the buying information for you. This looks to be a flat panel shade with gathered at the corners to the desired height. It should be fairly simple to recreate. I suggest going to any Calico Corners store with the photo. Calico Corners is a nationwide chain that specializes in fabrics for upholstery and window treatments. Anyone working there should be able to help you locate a comparable fabric - if not the exact match - and create the window treatments in a few weeks.

    Thanks for your note!


  5. Bo-ring. Correct, perhaps, but dull, dull, dull.

    And, 1500 sq. ft. is hardly "smallhouse living".

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