Classic interior design has a timeless, enduring appeal. What does “Classic” mean in the interior design context? In this post, I will be exploring this.

Classical or classicism means the principles or style embodied in the literature, art, or architecture of ancient Greece and Rome. Classic design is defined as : “Traditional” and “Enduring” by Merriam-Webster. By now we have come to associate Classic design with Traditional European design. There is some foundation for that, as traditional European interior design styles are strongly influenced by Grecian and Roman principles, for example in the use of symmetry or architectural elements such as columns and arches. Europeans drew inspiration from these concepts and embellished buildings and interiors according to their location and culture.  In traditional European styles we see furniture and fixtures with curved lines. Think carved wooden furniture and crystal chandeliers. Curtains are usually full and luxurious, made from exquisite fabrics and may include tassels, tiebacks and valances. Interior Architectural details include columns, arches, coffered ceilings, elaborate cornices and wall mouldings.  Décor may consist of classic works of art, candle holders and ornate gilt-framed mirrors.

There are four specific styles I would like to discuss. This is not an exhaustive list, but these styles are encountered in the South African context.



Baroque style is opulent and dramatic. This sumptuous style uses gilded wood and plaster, marble, light, light contrasts, and mirrors. The baroque style was found throughout Europe in the 17th century but especially in Paris, France. Baroque style has significantly influenced interiors as seen in damask fabrics and wallpapers, gilded furniture and architectural details, chandeliers, and French doors.


French Country

French country style is a less formal style than Baroque. Colour palettes tend to be cooler, lighter, neutral or pastel coloured. Furniture and fittings often have a distressed look. Furniture typically includes Bergère chairs, slipcovered furniture, armoires and farmhouse tables. An important pattern in this style is Toile (also known as Toile du Jouy). Toile depicts rural French scenes or significant historical events printed in a single colour on a white or off-white base. Linen in neutral shades is widely used in upholstery and curtaining. Wall art typically depicts rural scenes and still lives.


English Country

This is a maximalist style that includes lots of layers in a room. Colour palettes consist of rich, deep colours like maroon and hunter green. We see browns in leather upholstery and wooden furniture, as well as wall panelling. Popular furniture pieces are chesterfield sofas and wingback chairs. Patterns typically used are Floral Chintz, Stripes, Plaid and Gingham. These patterns, as well as velvet, are used for curtains, upholstery, cushions and lampshades. Artworks depict animals, i.e. horses, hounds, pastoral landscapes and family portraits. Popular décor items include books, needlepoint pillows, stained glass and tea sets.



The Tuscan style has a rustic, romantic feel. Stone and wrought iron abound. Stone was traditionally used to build Italian farmhouses as it was readily available, inexpensive and kept homes cool. Bulky furniture in dark or light wood, upholstered in heavy fabrics is characteristic of this style. The colour palette is primarily warm colours: terracotta, yellow, gold, red and brown. Patterns typically used include paisley, florals and stripes. Wall art usually depicts still life paintings of wine, grapes, cheese.  Architectural details like arches and columns seen in this style are a neo-classical interpretation of the style’s Roman roots. Metal candlesticks and colourful glazed pottery serve as décor.



Previous styles strongly influence the present. Roman and Grecian principles influenced European styles for hundreds of years. Presently, our interiors are influenced by traditional European styles. We can take inspiration from the opulent, dramatic Baroque style as well as the more relaxed, chic French Country Style. The rich colours and textures of the countrysides of England and Italy continue to inspire us.


How about you? Which of these styles resonate with you? Need help making one of these styles a reality? Contact us here.


In the next post, we will be looking at African Interior Design Styles!


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