Timeless Interior Design: How to Decorate A Home With Enduring Style

To me, timeless interior design is the ultimate interior design goal. It’s the creation of a home that’s classic and beautiful, and based on tried-and-true design principles. It’s a house that you can refresh and switch up as your style evolves, without having to completely start from scratch because all of your furniture adhered to one specific trend.

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Creating a space that feels relevant and stylish without relying on the of-the-moment silhouettes or colors certainly takes more effort than simply shopping based on trends, but personally, I think it’s an effort that’s well worth it.

I’ve spent the last five years since we moved into our current home working to achieve timeless interior design, and while I still have a ways to go, I feel like I’m largely achieving what I set out to do.

My living room, with a mix of new and antique/vintage pieces.

If you’re setting out to create a classic, timeless interior in your own home, this post will break down what I’ve leaned about classic design from decorating my own home, and from my time as an interior design editor.

I’ll cover:

  • How to define timeless interior design
  • Tips for achieving a timeless look based on the architecture of your home
  • The importance of layering
  • Examples of timeless interiors

What is timeless interior design?

Design by Erin Gates

Timeless interior design is design that adheres to classic principles of quality, balance, and beauty, and is less dependent on trends or contemporary ideas. It’s based around pieces, colors, and silhouettes that will look as good in 10 or 20 years as they do today.

You know when you go into someone’s home and you can tell the year they decorated just by looking around? That’s what you want to avoid.

At the same time, decorating in a timeless way doesn’t mean decorating your home once and living with it the same way for the rest of your life.

To me, the real, more achievable goal with timeless house design is to create a solid, classic base for your home, so that you can layer in new trends or change things up without having to start from scratch.

Timeless interior design also doesn’t mean you have to decorate your home only in a traditional way., or in a style that’s so simple it’s boring. Timeless design can have modern and unexpected elements, too.

So how do you do all that? Next, let’s talk about the keys to creating a timeless house design.

timelessly decorated bookshelves

How to Achieve Timeless Interior Design at Home

Following a few general rules of thumb will help you start to build a classic foundation for your home.

Follow the architecture of your home.

My dining room, which feels at home in a 1930s colonial

Perhaps the best way to decorate in a way that feels timeless is to follow the architecture of your home. A home in which the architecture and interior design speak to each other and relate to one another will always be much more enduring that homes in which these two elements clash.

If you live in a midcentury ranch in California, your timeless design choices will be items that follow a desert modern vibe, i.e. a sofa with tapered legs or Sputnik-style chandelier. These things will always work in your home and feel timeless because they are authentic to the home’s architecture.

On the other hand, in my home, which is a 1930s colonial in Connecticut, those same tapered legs and Sputnik chandeliers feel out of place, or even trendy, since they don’t relate to the architecture of the home. Instead, I choose items that I’d imagine the original homeowners might have used – like the Regency-style table in our dining room.

Again, that’s not to say, if you have an older house, that your entire house should look a historical museum, or if you have a midcentury house, the whole vibe needs to be retro. Instead, choose a handful of period pieces to set the tone for the house, and decorate around them. The goal is to tie the bones of the house into the decor.

Decorate in layers

Designer Urban Grace interiors mixed and antique camelback sofa and Ming coffee table with more rustic pieces to create a homey feel.

Decorating in layers is a hallmark of timeless house design. Layering means that you combine different interior design styles instead of sticking to just one. Layered design is timeless because:

  • Your home won’t be obviously tied to one specific trend or style
  • The look is more interesting and personal, so you’re less likely to get sick of it
  • If you get sick of something you can change it out without redecorating your entire home.

Layered decor in a living room might look like have a pair of traditional English roll-arm sofas, alongside a midcentury wingback chair and a contemporary light fixture.

A cohesive color scheme is the best way to make sure that the various layers still feel like a unified room.

Lay a classic foundation with timeless furniture

This room mixes an antique table and chest with contemporary chairs and lighting. Design by Josh Young

When it comes to timeless design, everything you own doesn’t have to be classic. Instead, choose bigger pieces, like a dining table, sofas, bed, dressers, etc with classic lines. Then, you can incorporate trends with smaller elements, like table lamps, rugs, and accessories, to achieve a space that’s enduing but fresh.

Josh Young, whose home is above, is one of my favorite examples of timeless decor with contemporary details mixed in.

Choose Simple, Classic Hard Surfaces

White kitchen cabinets, like the ones in my kitchen, are a timeless hard surface. The red floor was not, so we had it refinished to a deeper brown tone.

Timeless design isn’t all about how your decorate your space, it’s also about the shell you’re working with. If you are in the middle of a renovation, choosing paint colors, or are planning a new construction home, it’s imperative to create a classic shell to work with.

This all starts with choosing timeless hard surfaces. Hard surfaces are basically all the elements of your home design that aren’t furniture, decor or lighting. Things like flooring, tile, paint, cabinets, windows, etc.

These things are generally expensive and annoying to replace, so it pays to choose tings that will stand the test of time, style-wise.

Timeless choices for your hard surfaces include: white cabinetry; marble countertops and tile; mosaic tile in patterns like basketweave, octagon-dot, or hexagon; and medium brown or pale oak hardwood flooring.

Examples Of Timeless Interiors Around the House

Timeless Bedroom Decor

Design by Anna Page

I love this space by Anna Page! She’s combined classic furniture pieces like a campaign dresser and an antique pedestal table in a way that feels tailored and elegant.

Design by Anna Page

Here’s a look at the rest of the space. Tailored elegance always works.

Timeless Living Room Decor

Design by Josh Young

Here’s another space from Josh Young, in which rich antiques pop against a light, bright backdrop of neutrals.

Design by Reserve_Home

This space is a good example of layered decor. There are trendy pieces mixed in with antiques and classic elements, which help ensure the whole room won’t feel totally outdated in a few years.

Design by Hattie Kolp

Once again, a living room with more tailored, contemporary pieces mixed against antique ones. This is also a nice example of decorating based on the architecture of your home, while also keeping the look feeling “today.”

Design by Josh Young

Another shot from Josh Young.

Timeless Bathrooms & Kitchens

This Nancy Meyers kitchen from the 2003 film Something’s Gotta Give is 20+ years old, but still feels charming and warm. This space proves the power of neutral walls, good millwork and a mix of new and old design styles.

Design by A Glass of Bovino

I think bathrooms and kitchens are one of the best places to try out timeless design at home, since they’re expensive to update. Choosing traditional elements like Alyssa Bovino did, above, will always serve you well.

Design by Studio Dearborn

Another example of a timeless kitchen design from Studio Dearborn (side note: can you believe this kitchen was designed with AI?)

Overall, when it comes to decorating a home with lasting style, the best idea is to turn to your homes architecture, and tried-and-true interior design elements to direct the foundation of your design. Once that’s set, you can layer in trendy, modern, or seasonal elements to create rooms that feel relevant, but enduring.

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