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What is Classic Interior Design?

By Harriette Halepis
Updated May 16, 2024
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Classic interior design is derived from Greek and Roman design. This type of interior design is based upon order, balance, and perfect harmony. Classical design does not include any modern elements or current influences. Instead, it is steeped in tradition. In order to distinguish classical design from other types of design, it is important to understand the idea behind a focal point.

Classically designed rooms often contain large focal points. A large fireplace, grand table, or impressive staircase are good examples of focal points that are often used. Once a designer has chosen the focus of a room, all other items within the room are placed in order to enhance the look of the chosen focal point.

The idea behind a classically designed room is to create a sense of perfect symmetry. If a classic interior design were to be sliced down the middle, one side of a room would perfectly reflect the other side of a room. Everything from the lighting to the way that pictures are placed inside of a classic room should be immaculate.

The colors that are used in classic interior design are often inspired by Mother Nature. Deep blues, browns, yellow, green, and earth tones such as terracotta are frequently found within classical spaces. In addition, black can be used to outline important items within a room. Objects such as Roman columns, busts, and large vases are also quite common within classical themes.

As with most other materials used inside of a classical space, fabrics should be understated. Linen, cotton, and other durable fabrics are often used to create a classic theme. Designers who wish to add a bit of a splash to a classical room may choose to use taffeta and silks along with cotton and linen. Velvet is also used in abundance, though velvet is best used as an upholstery fabric.

When it comes to flooring options, classic interior design does not stray that far from the flooring materials once used by the Ancient Greeks and Romans. Wood, marble, slate, and stone are all ideal choices. Marble and stone can be placed in a geometric pattern in order to create an interesting, and calculated, look.

Patterns can be used in conjunction with classic interior design, though any pattern should be kept conservative. Large striped motifs are the best pattern options for this type of space. While a classically designed space is not for everyone, this type of space is often breathtaking and glamorous if executed properly.

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Discussion Comments

By anon272276 — On May 31, 2012

In Posts 1 through 4, all of you are confusing interior design with decorating. There is a vast difference. What you all are discussing are styles of decorating.

Interior designers are required to have a degree (Associates, Bachelors, Masters). Decorators are not required to have formal training to call themselves decorators.

Designers must have almost as much training and education as architects and engineers, must have specific levels of experience, and in most states, must pass a qualifying examination to be licensed.

By anon125899 — On Nov 10, 2010

It seems that classical interior design is being confused with classic interior design. Classical means related to ancient civilizations (specifically Greek, actually).

Classic is anything that references a prior, familiar design era. For instance, I read recently about a new house styled like a "classic Bungalow", which is a style from the '20's to the '40's.

The Barcelona chair, by Mies van der Rohe, is considered a "modern classic", as are the works by Charles and Ray Eames. You hear of "mid-century modern classics" as well.

A lot of these have little to nothing to do with classical, but are now considered classics in their own right, just by virtue of having been adopted into the interior design lexicon. They are recognizable in their own right (and therefore, classic), due to the ingenuity of their design, and their use of materials.

By TunaLine — On Aug 31, 2010

I have mixed feelings about classic interior design. When it's done well, in appropriate circumstances, it looks good, but I think it's grossly overused to try and lend a little dignity to rooms that are obviously lacking.

People just need to bear in mind that residential interior design has a lot of variables, and slapping a Roman bust on top of your cheapy coffee table does not make the room nice.

By closerfan12 — On Aug 31, 2010

Oh, I love classic interior design! I think that when it comes down to the modern/classic interior design debate, classic totally wins.

I think that modern designs are just too out there, whereas a nice, elegant classic design is suitable for just about anything.

Seriously, just look at some classic interior design photos and tell me that you can't see it -- I think that the pros of the classic style far outweigh any complaints of stodginess.

By rallenwriter — On Aug 31, 2010

I think that one of the most interesting styles you can have for interior design is a mix of classic and modern interior design.

Of course, it can look really just odd and messy, but when done right, I think that modern with a touch of classic -- or the other way round -- can end up working really well.

Besides, that way you can breathe a little life into overly-stiff classical designs, or give some of those outre modern designs a little grounding.

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