When remodeling an existing house or building a new custom home, owners hope to create an inviting space that evolves with them over time. They want a home that will meet their needs and capture their aesthetic without falling out of fashion in the next few years. Whether your interior design style is free and Bohemian or sharp and modern, there are ways to achieve that timeless look in any space. Trends come and go, but timeless interior design and timeless architecture wow no matter what, where or when. From selecting quality materials to taking advantage of natural light, here’s how to create timeless interiors in seventeen simple steps.
17 Timeless Interior Design Tips
#1 Mix Modern, Antique and Vintage
One of the easiest ways to create a timeless home is to mix modern, antique and vintage elements. Even in a brand-new home, filling the entire space with contemporary artwork, furniture and decor can make a house feel cold and uninspired.
Adding a piece of antique furniture, a vintage rug or another special find from years gone by immediately warms up the space. It also adds visual interest and provides a conversation starter.
Choosing pieces from different eras helps your home age gracefully too. A home that only contains furniture and decorative items contemporary to its time feels dated as soon as those elements fall out of style.
Not sure how to integrate antique and vintage items into your home’s contemporary design style? Try adding a few accent pieces like an art plate by Anna-Lisa Thomson or a miniature painting from the 19th century. Picking accent pieces instead of purchasing a large piece of furniture or an expensive area rug allows you to elevate your home without over-spending.
#2 Opt for a Layout That Actually Meets Your Family’s Needs
Over the last couple of decades, open concept living spaces have become more and more popular. Open concept floor plans improve the flow of traffic from one space to the next — making entertaining guests easier and more enjoyable. While the open concept layout is perfect for many homeowners, it might not meet your family’s needs.
Opting for a layout that looks beautiful but does not serve your lifestyle will not help you create a timeless home. A timeless design is one specific enough to meet your current needs but flexible enough to respond to future needs.
Entertaining might not be a passion of yours. You might prioritize having a private space to work or an intimate dining area for date nights. If that’s the case, go against the grain and opt for a hybrid or closed layout instead.
#3 Make Sure Your Home Responds to its Surroundings
Next on our list of ways to achieve a timeless style is to make sure your home’s architecture responds to its surroundings. Timeless architecture is that which is rooted in the landscape rather than a certain time period or style. A home with timeless architecture is exactly right for its environment. By observing and responding to your home’s surroundings, you ensure both its architecture and interior are classic and enduring.
What is Timeless Architecture?
The team at Columbus-based residential architecture studio YR Architecture + Design makes this point in a post on their blog. According to the architects at YR, the work of iconic designers has “a sense of something eternal” because it belongs to the land. They write that a home with timeless architecture “has a strong sense of place.” This sense of place “is reflected in its geometry, material usage, historical context, and connection to its surrounding landscape.”
As the years pass and materials age, a home rooted in its landscape becomes ever more enmeshed with its environment. This “blurs the boundary with the exterior” and compounds that sense of timelessness. Working with an architect who understands the unique qualities of your build site and the value of local materials is invaluable. An experienced architect will ensure your home relates to its surroundings and evokes that timeless feel.
#4 Honor Your Home’s Architectural Details
If you plan to remodel an existing home rather than building a new custom home, be sure to honor your home’s architectural details. This was a primary focus of our recent Hedwig Village project. We hoped to modernize the home for our clients while honoring the history of their 1920s property. Though we updated the home’s millwork and improved the overall flow of the home, we retained many original features.
Virginia Brown underscores the importance of “preserving architectural integrity” in a recent article for The Washington Post. When trying to create a timeless interior, Brown recommends shying away from any “trend that doesn’t serve your home’s architecture.” For example, homeowners should avoid using “industrial elements in a homey Cape Cod.” This is because “any style that clashes with a space’s authenticity can be problematic.”
Following trends instead of honoring your home’s timeless architecture can come off tacky and insincere. Alternatively, respecting your home’s history provides continuity — even as you add modern elements. This helps you achieve a classic style with staying power and a strong presence.
#5 Choose Natural Materials
Many natural materials used in architecture and interior design are both durable and sustainable. Emitting fewer VOCs and other toxic chemicals, they are often healthier than man-made alternatives. Natural materials like clay, stone and wood also have a timeless quality. This is because they relate to the environment and have been used in residential architecture for centuries — if not millennia.
When designing your home, consider leaving natural stone, unvarnished wood and other organic materials untouched. To create a timeless room — whether the kitchen or primary bedroom — opt for window treatments or furniture upholstered in natural fibers. If possible, source these materials locally to further enhance your home’s relationship with its environment.
#6 Incorporate Trendy Elements on a Small Scale or in Reversible Ways
Next on our list of timeless design tips is to incorporate current trends in small ways that are easily removed and replaced. Observing and implementing interior design trends is fun and exciting. When applied with intention and restraint, trendy elements can work well in a timeless interior.
If there is an interior design trend you absolutely love, we suggest consulting with a designer. They will find a way to incorporate that trend in a subtle and sophisticated way. To do this, a designer will help uncover what exactly about that trend resonates with you.
For example, you might love the look of barn doors but live in a pre-war apartment where they would not make the most sense. Barn doors slide seamlessly across the wall instead of opening outwards like a hinged door. Given this, a designer might suggest installing pocket doors instead. They achieve a similar function and aesthetic without disturbing the timeless appeal of your pre-war apartment.
If you love a trendy color or material, you might try wallpapering a small space — like a powder room or alcove. This is often less expensive, less risky, and less time-consuming than repainting your entire home. Soft finishings like curtains, throw pillows and slip covers can also help you capture recent trends without overhauling your home’s interior.
#7 Avoid Matchy-Matchy Furniture and Decor
Seventh in our guide for how to create timeless interiors is to avoid matchy-matchy furniture and decor. A furniture layout with identical pieces can feel manufactured and impersonal. It lacks creativity and intention.
If you already own a matching set, consider refinishing a few pieces. You can also split up the set, placing one piece in the living room and another in the study or guest bedroom.
Another option is to add a few complimentary pieces. For example, we often combine a set of four matching chairs with a pair of complimentary chairs at opposite ends of the dining table. This maintains the symmetry of a matching set while adding a bit of texture and weight to the space.
#8 Buy Quality Pieces
Our next timeless design tip is to buy quality pieces made by craftsmen, artists or artisans instead of mass-manufactured furniture and decor. Not only are handmade pieces of higher quality, but they are also unique and meaningful.
Oftentimes, handmade pieces preserve an age-old technique that celebrates the artist’s heritage and honors the natural materials they use. Hand-painted ceramic tiles, block-printed wallpaper and carefully-crafted custom furniture all help create a timeless interior.
#9 Add Enough Storage
We love the open shelving trend as much as the next interior design aficionado, but it is not always the most practical storage solution. A timeless interior is one that feels clean and intentional — not one cluttered with pots, pans and small appliances.
We recommend adding a few open shelves to display ceramics and special glassware, but augmenting with extra storage. Keep your food storage and less aesthetic items out of view with a butler’s pantry, cabinets and more.
#10 Start an Art Collection
Because art provides color, texture and historical context, starting an art collection is an easy first step towards timeless design. In a post revealing our Circle Drive project back in 2020, we underscored the importance of using art in interior design. We noted that art can reinforce positive emotions and complement an existing design aesthetic. It can provide a focal point, balance the space and convey the homeowner’s personality and priorities.
A cohesive art collection also creates a through line from one room to the next while connecting the home to its owners. For an instant refresh that still makes sense for your space, you can cycle pieces from your collection throughout the home.
#11 Consider Built-Ins and Custom Millwork
Nothing is more timeless and classic than custom millwork and built-ins. Custom millwork can help frame a space while referencing the history of your home. Built-ins provide dimension and visual interest while adding much-needed storage. Unlike many furniture pieces, built-ins are easy to style and are endlessly customizable. With help from a designer or other industry professional, they can be wallpapered and re-painted at the homeowner’s whim.
#12 Always Keep Function Top of Mind
When in doubt, focus on function. If pieces have a purpose, they are more likely to remain in your home for decades. Choose furniture that actually works for your family. Pick a layout that makes sense for your lifestyle. Avoid pieces that look stunning but make everyday life more complicated.
#13 Rely on Lighting for Timeless Design
Lighting can be used to make a room seem larger than it is, to accentuate special architectural features, to create atmosphere and more. A sculptural chandelier can provide a focal point in your dining room, while wall sconces set the mood in your study. The impact of natural light, however, cannot be understated. When designing a home’s architecture and interior, residential design firms carefully consider the sun.
Harness the Power of the Sun to Enhance Your Home’s Architecture and Reflect its Environment
How spaces are exposed to natural light throughout the day and how your home’s architectural features reflect that light is key to timeless design. Not only does sun exposure passively heat a home. It also highlights certain elements while casting shadows on others. This can create dimension and drama, but also delicately communicate the passage of time.
Brittany Chevalier McIntyre explains in her article “9 Leading Architects Weigh in on Timeless Design” for Luxe. Quoting Seattle-based architect Jill Rerucha, McIntyre underscores the timelessness of natural light. Rerucha notes that design trends are often one-size-fits-all. They do not consider your home’s unique history and miss “the bigger picture of permanence and place.”
Natural light — on the other hand — is timeless and universal. It can optimize any interior. Filtering through trees and peaking over mountains, natural light connects a home to its environment. When architects harness our “innate attachment to the sun,” they create a space that “feels eternal.”
#14 Warm-Up Kitchens and Bathrooms
Next on our list of timeless design tips is to warm-up kitchens and bathrooms. In recent years, all-white kitchens and bathrooms have become incredibly popular. While fresh and bright, these spaces can feel clinical and incomplete; they can also seem one-dimensional. Timeless interiors should feel “lived-in” rather than staged.
To warm up these spaces, we recommend adding touches of wood or natural stone. Many timeless interiors feature a neutral palette, but try not to shy away from a few pops of color in bathrooms and kitchens. Adding a textural runner with accents of blues, reds and dark greens can make an enormous difference. Including ceramics with gorgeous glazes can add personality and visual interest in an otherwise neutral space. Though ill-suited to full baths, organic materials like grasscloth can work well in a powder room.
#15 Make Sure Furniture Is Proportional to the Space
When choosing furniture for your home, be sure to consider the scale. Furniture that is either too large or too small for a space can throw off the balance of your design scheme. Working with an interior designer ensures each piece in your home relates appropriately to the next.
#16 Select a Classic Color Palette and Timeless Silhouettes
Next, we recommend selecting neutral colors for the base of your home’s palette. Working with a designer, you can enhance a neutral palette with accents of more dramatic tones like yellow, pink and green. For your home’s interior and exterior architecture, we suggest clean lines and classic shapes. Neutral colors, clean lines and classic shapes provide the perfect foundation for a timeless design that can evolve with you over time.
#17 Find Fresh Ways to Style Seasonally
Finally, homeowners should find fresh ways to style seasonally if they want to create a timeless interior that remains relevant and engaging. One way to do this is by altering your home’s secondary color palette. You can use warm tones in the summer and fall but cool tones in the spring and winter.
As mentioned above, you can also make a timeless interior feel fresh by rearranging pieces from your art collection. Swapping out books, collectibles and other decorative objects on shelves and coffee tables is an easy way to update. For more tips and tricks, head over to this recent post about styling shelves like a designer.