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Traditional Style Defined

Find out how to add traditional design to your home

By Lisa Frederick

Although many people equate traditional with dowdy, this style has nothing to do with being stuck in the past. Instead, it represents an adherence to time-honored forms and motifs that feel familiar and comfortable. Because it's the look that so many of us grew up with or absorbed in the homes of friends and family, it sparks an instinctive sense of reassurance and order. (See 1000s of traditional-style rooms here.)

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Traditional Style Defined - HomePortfolio

The Basics

Traditional style speaks of elegance tinged with hominess, refinement without being stuffy, and a pitch-perfect balance of formal and casual. Done well, it's proof that you can relax the rules without rewriting the rule book; it keeps one foot planted firmly in the past while paving the way for judicious updates.

Theses designer rooms display elements of traditional style:

Get the Look

Do you consider yourself a traditionalist? Try these tips to get the look at its best.

Sam Moore

Harmony and balance. The linchpin of traditional design is a sense of symmetry and equal weight, both in the bones of a space and the furnishings. Furniture groupings stick closely to convention, such as face-to-face sofas or a sofa opposite a pair of chairs. Although you don't need to buy matching furniture sets, there's only so much leeway when it comes to mixing disparate pieces, as the overall look should remain coordinated.

Classic color palettes. Traditional colors are mellow and mannerly. You can't go wrong with creams, tans, grays and browns, but rich jewel tones, sophisticated pastels, or clear, bright hues can work nicely too. Timeless pairings such as blue and white, red and khaki, or yellow and green are fail-safe, but explore fresher combinations such as pale turquoise and coral, or muted citron and marine blue.

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