26 traditional living room ideas to inspire an elegant look
Looking for inspiring traditional living room ideas? Of course, you are, you’ve just watched your fave period drama for the umpteenth time and decided to introduce some queen-worthy vibes into your home and turn your parlor into a palace. And we are here to help one’s Regency dreams come true.
Actually, the term ‘traditional’ can mean a plethora of different things to different people, and there is no established design formula. So while it does cover all the classic flamboyance of the Regency era, it can also include trends like cottagecore and Mid-century styles – really the living room ideas described as ‘traditional’ are almost endless.
We take you through some of the most beautiful (but easy to achieve) traditional living room decor ideas, paying attention to furniture, color schemes, and paint ideas. But all is not lost if you prefer a more contemporary scheme, we’ve got a handful of modern traditional living room ideas for you to feast your eyes on.
1. Let your traditional living room evolve with layers
Your living room is often named the family room for a reason. It’s a communal space where you can all come together to share time and experiences. Whether you’re huddled around the biggest and best TV in the house, or playing a board game – make it feel super cozy with lots of layers.
Add multiple rugs over hardwood flooring, scatter several cushions on the best sofa, and fill the room with loads of houseplants to oxygenate the air. Setting Plaster, by Farrow & Ball, is the perfect neutral background to let your most characterful accessories shine.
‘It is definitely a pink in historic terms, but has a certain softness to it due to the inclusion of yellow pigment,’ says Joa Studholme, color consultant, Farrow & Ball.
‘Our timeless Setting Plaster creates a wonderful backdrop to antique furniture, and also works incredibly well when paired with Mahogany in a more contemporary home.’
2. Add a brass mirror to reflect classic style
‘Statement mirrors are in vogue, but in recent years minimalist designs have been more popular with thin, simplistic frames. However, expect to see a resurgence of ornamental gold and brass mirrors with intricate detailing,’ says Anne Haimes, interior designer, design director and founder of Anne Haimes Interiors.
‘You can play with the shape and size of your chosen mirror to best fit your space. Go oversized with a free-standing full-length mirror to lean against a bare wall if want to make a statement. Or look for an overmantle mirror for placing above fireplaces or shelves to add a sense of grandeur and sophistication.’
3. Draw attention to high ceilings with lighting
Play to a period home’s strengths and create the illusion of sky-high ceilings with a statement chandelier living room lighting idea. Earlier-built houses typically have corbels and other exquisite detailing so highlight your rooms fifth wall by drawing the eye upwards. We also love the light lavender curtains which also draw your sight to the window to draw all of that natural light in, to give the space a light and airy feel.
‘Chandelier styles are perfect to make a room look more luxurious yet tasteful. From candle to antlers to crystal, there’s a chandelier to suit everyone’s taste,’ says Yasmin Atkinson, resident services manager, Grainger plc.
‘For those looking for a more subtle way to use lighting, chandelier lamps are the way to go and can instantly provide a five-star feel to any room.
‘When it comes to lighting, the color of the lights is just as important as the light shade. Opting for yellow lighting tones instead of white will give your apartment an elegant and warm ambiance.’
4. Create intimate atmosphere with wall sconces
OK, so this is bordering modern traditional with the tropically-patterned sofa, but if you can’t afford the space or budget for the aforementioned chandelier – wall sconces are where it’s at when you’re looking for small living room lighting ideas.
In fact, placing lots of little light sources dotted around a tiny but traditional lounge is the solution if you’re wondering how to make a small living room look bigger.
5. Choose artisan accessories
Unlike contemporary sitting rooms which tend to be softer and free-form in their aesthetic appeal, traditional lounges love to be adorned with pieces that show off classic craft and workmanship.
Though many fixtures tend to be made by machines now, you can still pick up pieces that have been made by someone’s humble hands (check out Etsy, eBay, or your local thrift store). You’ll want to look out for candlestick holders to display only the best candles you have on hand, ceramic vases, and bookends to show you’re a cultured babe.
The pale blue living room wall paint and marble living room fireplace idea provide the perfect backdrop to let your choice pieces stand out.
6. Embrace nature with a farmhouse-style front room
If you want a traditional living room with days of yore appeal, without looking aged, curate a farmhouse living room idea that’s full of familiar materials.
Get your sitting room looking barn chic with stone details, an animal hide rug, seagrass baskets, and perhaps a barn door. Shiplap and beams are beautiful but not essential. And if you haven’t got real wood underfoot, fake the look with the best laminate flooring you can afford for an almost-authentic look.
7. Go for classic striped decor
Although stripes are typically just long, bands or lines of color they do so much to your traditional living room to give it a classic and homely feel. This pink room idea shows off so many ways to include them in your scheme.
Chunkier examples decorate the upholstered sofa and cushion to the left, while on the opposite side, an assortment of thinner strips are displayed on the soft furnishings.
8. Go grey in a traditional living room
Grey is one of the most popular colors for any living room, but it does lend itself so well to traditional living rooms – the understated and airy quality that is timeless. Grey living room ideas can be executed in so many different ways. Why not pick a soft cool tone grey for the walls and ground that lighter hue with some dark greys and charcoals in your cushions and rugs? Or better still, invest in one of the best grey sofas instead.
In this room, the grey tone pairs well with the natural hardwood living room flooring idea, which, while cool-toned feels familial.
9. Choose the best paint for a traditional living room
For an elegant, traditional look, opt for darker but muted paint colors for the living room, or, if you aren’t ready to commit to the dark paint trend, try painting one wall to just add a touch of drama.
A warm color scheme would be more fitting with the traditional design so if you are sticking religiously to the style, opt for warm neutrals, purples, reds and forest greens. Alternatively, bright whites and cool grey tones can create a simple clean backdrop for your more traditional furniture.
10. Embrace clashing patterns and textures
The joy of traditional rooms is that they can be totally individual, with furniture and decor that’s totally unique to you. If nothing in your living room matches then so what. The more color, pattern, and texture the better we say for a full-on maximalist scheme.
There’s one golden design rule, however: if your walls and floors are covered in pattern, keep the furniture plain. And vice versa: if you love a chintzy sofa, resist the temptation to buy the best living room rugs that are heavily patterned. Roughly, 50 percent of the room should be a pattern and 50 percent plain color. This gorgeous living room demonstrates that rule perfectly.
Still confused? We have a whole guide on how to choose living room furniture, as well as ways you can arrange living room furniture. No excuses now.
11. Choose a pastel color scheme
Pastel decorating ideas work wonders on traditional living room schemes; they’re a perfect match to the gentle curves of traditional furniture and make a wonderful contrast with wood flooring. You can keep to just one color for an instantly memorable look, or mix and match pastels for a mellow effect.
‘Think soft pastel shades of blue, pink and lilac for a whimsical aesthetic,’ says Anne Haimes, interior designer and founder of Anne Haimes Interiors
‘Incorporating these colors through pattern, such as illustrated wallpapers or furniture, will help avoid this color scheme seeming too child-like and more Regencycore.’
12. Reclaim vintage furniture as living room storage
Ensure that your living room storage ideas fit perfectly in a traditional space by salvaging vintage pieces. Maybe you fell hard for an ornate chest of drawers that don’t quite fit in your bedroom or inherited an old china cabinet – think of ways they can be incorporated into your living room as extra storage.
A china cabinet could easily be repurposed as a display unit for books or DVDs and a chest of drawers would make a fabulous sideboard. If your vintage finds don’t quite fit with the vibe you are going for, try painting your furniture. We’ve got a guide on how to paint furniture which includes sourcing the best paint for furniture so you can upcycle your fittings fast.
13. Contrast traditional wallpaper with Scandi shapes
Know how to hang wallpaper? Even if you’ve only done it a couple of times (or not at all), the good news is that it’s easy to apply and works well with most traditional decorating schemes. And you can really go to town with pattern and color, provided the rest of the room is kept relatively neutral.
We love the way the emerald green of the Atacama print wallpaper by Farrow & Ball contrasts with the natural tones of the more contemporary furniture is this living room. Case in point that living room wallpaper ideas can still have a chic, modern edge.
If you don’t want to work with paste, the best peel-and-stick wallpapers can be applied sans sludge and are a renter-friendly choice.
14. Create cottage charm with a botanical theme
If you are the lucky owner of a period cottage, then it’s likely you are also the proud owner of a lovely garden. And even if not, but you want to create cottage-style charm in your living room, a botanical theme is always a winner. The space has white wooden beams, a rustic living room coffee table and an assortment of the best indoor plants.
‘Plants compliment natural woods, so for those invested in bringing the outside in, it’s a pairing not to be missed.’ says Marc Epstein, interiors expert and managing director at CARME Home.
‘Plants not only look idyllic but also purify the air, which is ideal for the spring as we begin opening up our windows and doors to allow natural light and air to flow through our homes.’
15. Add a French twist with opulent decor
Want a traditional living room with a bit of a French twist? Sumptuous seating is key. Louis IV chairs may be a design cliché, but they will come into their own in the right setting. Mind, opulent traditional seating is the furniture equivalent of lipstick: if you use them, the rest of the room will need to be quite ‘made up’ too. Think gilded mirrors and oil paintings, and thick carpets.
And, for that little bit of pizazz, invest in one of the best drinks trolleys and pop it in the corner of the room for 1920s-style glamour.
16. Add warmth with wooden pieces
Well-crafted wooden furniture instantly elevates the look of any room, traditional or modern. Less is more, when it comes to furniture made from hardwood, especially if you are going with dark woods – a statement dresser or set of shelves may well be all that your room needs.
Contrast the wood with lighter walls and paneling. We love how in this room the monochrome and neutral tones really make the wooden furniture pop. If your small living room can’t stretch to squeeze in big furniture, consider one of the best coffee tables made from wood instead.
Pouffes, like the one shown, make a great coffee table alternative and are a traditional staple in a living room for extra seating or storage – choose a seagrass or brown leather pick to emulate the look and feel of wood.
17. Compensate for low ceilings with a light scheme
Cottage living has one drawback – low ceilings. If you live in this type of property (or any other low-ceilinged home you are redecorating), avoid dark colors, opting for a light-reflecting off-white instead.
Paint your beams too! It may seem like a sin to cover up that lovely natural wood but if it’s bringing down the rest of your space and they are taking up all the focus paint them to match the living room ceiling color.
18. Enhance a smaller living room with yellow paint
If you have a small living room, our top tips are always, avoid cramming the space with too much furniture and don’t shy away from color on the walls.
Resist the temptation to just paint the small room white, as that can accentuate the small size. A vibrant color, on the other hand, will add dimension and distract from the room’s size. Zesty muted yellow room ideas make excellent (and underrated) choices, that we are seeing growing in popularity on Pinterest and Instagram.
19. Let period features take center stage
If your home comes with an original period feature, such as a fireplace idea or original stove – make the most of it. Let it take center stage in the design scheme by keeping the decorating scheme neutral. The rust-colored brickwork adds a sense of warmth and can be easily incorporated if you know how to expose brick wall.
20. Go all-cream for a really luxurious look
A traditional living room so sumptuous that it feels more like a bedroom… this is probably not the best option for homes with small children or pets, but if you want a living room that screams luxury, then pile on the cream.
You really can’t go wrong with the warmth it brings to a room (unlike white), and a completely cream living room idea with cream curtains (the perfect luxury window treatment idea) will really bring out all the different textures of your soft furnishings.
21. Liven up the room with playful mid-century accents
Want a traditional living room with a twist? An easy way to give your room an update is by introducing some Mid-century decor ideas into your scheme. They will not jar like contemporary furniture would, but will give the room a more up-to-date look.
Want to know how to create a Mid-century style living room without the splashing out? Try accenting the room with an orange piece or two. The color of the 1960s, orange will add a vintage playfulness to the room.
On the contrary, if you’ve got a few dollars to spend, a mid-century modern coffee table would be the first thing we’d buy. But the coffee table ottoman pictured works well too.
22. Bring the outdoors in with rattan furniture
Whether your living room faces a lovely garden or not, why not create a link between the outdoors and indoors with some lovely rattan furniture? You can take it outside on warmer days but keep it out of the cold and wet in the winter by covering with chunky throws and cushions.
Give the space some height (and seventies style) with an outdoor egg chair made from rattan, or an outdoor rocking chair for a relaxed aesthetic. If you aren’t ordering in rattan furniture from a retailer, then make sure you know how to clean outdoor furniture thoroughly to get rid of bugs, cobwebs and whatever debris you might accidentally bring in. We’re all into biophilic and entomologic decor… Just not like this!
If you’ve got an open-plan living that seeps into the kitchen or dining room area, create continuity by placing a bouquet of flowers on a formal table, kitchen island or peninsula.
We’re also particularly fond of the relaxed nautical theme running through this room, with ship decor and blue and white stripes (featured from the cushions all the way up to the choice of dish cloth) for that quintessential charming seaside scheme.
23. Add relaxed formality with symmetry
Symmetry is often synonymous with more traditional living rooms because of the shape of period properties tends to lend itself to symmetrical layouts. A central fireplace with two alcoves either side is a living room design you see a lot in traditional homes but you can embrace that symmetry while also creating more relaxed space.
Check out how in this living room layout idea, the alcoves mirror each other as bookshelves, but the mantelpiece decor is lest formal. Plus the corner sofa create a more laid-back feel than say two sofas facing each other would.
Think about how you style your traditional fireplace too, as Kane Hughes, interior design consultant, MyJobQuote explains.
He says: ‘A symmetrical layout on a mantelpiece can make a striking statement and works especially well when reflecting a room that has an entirely symmetrical layout or the aim is to achieve a more formal feel to a room,’
‘Adding a focal piece in the middle of a mantelpiece, whether a mirror, wall sculpture, or work of art, and flanking this piece with identical accessories on either side gives any room a classic, timeless elegance without the added effort of trying to find separate pieces that complement one other.’
24. Bring an eclectic boho vibe to your lounge
Love that more relaxed boho style in your living room? Well, that vibe actually works really well with vintage pieces and traditional style. This look is all about the layering – layering up different patterns, different colors and different textures to create a lovely rustic and relaxed feel to your room. Pick out pieces that have a ‘worn’ look too, to give the space that very lived-in feel.
25. Embrace the Cottagecore trend with quirky displays
We are sure you have heard of cottagecore, but quick recap, when it comes to interiors, the cottagecore aesthetic is all about bucolic, cozy, whimsical… cottagey styles.
And clutter is no bad thing when it comes to cottagecore interiors – in fact the more stuff on show the better. No of course we aren’t talking just any old stuff, clutter still has to be curated and each piece has to fit with the vibe. Have a rummage through charity shops and junk shops to find quirky, one off-pieces that could sit on open shelves – anything chintzy is good, vintage glass and patterned china will work too.
Knowing how to create a DIY shiplap wall (whether the pieces are laid horizontally or vertically like so), will add even more character.
26. Panel your living room
Nothing gives a room a more traditional feel than wall paneling. There are loads of different ways to do it, from more contemporary shiplap to more Period-style square panels. Plus you can panel a whole wall, half, a quarter, three quarters, whatever you think will suit your space best.
You can even DIY board and batten walls using beading and wood glue if you are after an easy weekend project. We have a step-by-step tutorial for you to follow if you wanted to give it a go. Don’t forget those plates at the top too!
27. Add contemporary items for a modern traditional feel
Is that zebra print we spy? In a traditional living room?! Yes, you can totally mix more modern pieces and patterns into a more traditional space – and this rooms proves it. Why not have your antique seating reupholstered with a fun print or introduce a piece of furniture (like the round coffee table seen here) that really sleek and modern to contrast the rest of the room?
Can’t find the furniture you’re looking for? These DIY coffee table ideas might inspire you to create your own from scratch or upcycle an existing piece.
How do you make a living room look traditional?
‘A regency style sofa will be a showstopper in your living room.’ says Laura Rich, product developer at Furniturebox.
‘There are a few different styles you can adopt, the most popular being a heavy velvet, plush pillow sofa. Or for those who prefer a more traditional look, wooden framed sofas are also increasingly popular for royalcore fans.’