20 traditional living room ideas to inspire an elegant makeover

Let our traditional living room ideas talk you through how to bring some period style into your space – from cottagecore Regency style...

traditional living room ideas

Looking for inspiring traditional living room ideas? Of course, you are, you've just finished Bridgeton for the seventh time and decided it's finally time to bring some Whistledown vibes into your home and embrace a more Period-style in your living room. And we are here to help those 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 the all the classic flamboyance of the Regency era, it can also include trends like cottage core and Mid-century styles – really the design possibilities that can be termed 'traditional' are almost endless. 

We take you through some of the most beautiful (but easy to achieve) design ideas for traditional living spaces, paying attention to furniture, color schemes, and paint ideas. And when you've settled on a design scheme you love, get more living room ideas over in our gallery. 

1. Go grey in a traditional living room

Coffee table decor ideas

(Image credit: Neptune)

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. 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. 

2. Choose the best paint for a traditional living room 

Room painted in Farrow and Ball Book Room Rea

(Image credit: Farrow and Ball)

For an elegant, traditional look, opt for darker bur muted paint colors, 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. 

3. Embrace clashing patterns and textures

Emma and James Pais’ colourful décor has turned their Glasgow home into the ‘party house’ of their street


(Image credit: Katie Lee)

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. 

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 also lay a floral rug underneath it. Roughly, 50 per cent of the room should be pattern, and 50 per cent plain color. This gorgeous living room demonstrates that rule perfectly. 

4. Choose a pastel color scheme

vintage-style-living-room-with-bright-pastel-coloured-furnishing

(Image credit: Joyce Vloet/Coco Features)

Pastels 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. 

5. Reclaim vintage furniture as living room storage 

Reclaimed vintage drawers

(Image credit: Colin Poole)

Ensure that your living room storage fits 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.

6. Contrast traditional wallpaper with Scandi shapes

Farrow & Ball wallpaper

(Image credit: Farrow & Ball)

Wallpaper is 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 traditional spaces can still have a chic, modern edge. 

7. Create cottage charm with a botanical theme

converted coach house


(Image credit: Future / Kasia Fiszer)

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 rustic wooden beams and spare furnishings of a cottage really work with botanical prints and flowering indoor plants. 

8. Add a French twist with opulent decor

Elegant living room with two blue sofas

(Image credit: Philip Lauterbach)

Want a traditional living room with a bit of a French twist? Sumptuous seating is key. Louix 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. 

9. Add warmth with wooden pieces

Period Living magazine

Well-crafted wooden furniture instantly elevates the look of any room, traditional or modern. Less is more, when it comes to wooden furniture, especially if you are going with dark woods – a statement chest of drawers may well be all that your room needs. 

Contrast the wood with lighter walls and delicate floral patterns. We love how in this room the blues greens really make the wooden furniture pop. 

10. Compensate for low ceilings with a light color scheme

Vernon House Farm Period Living magazine

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 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 ceiling color. 

11. Enhance a smaller living room with yellow paint

yellow living room with patterned rug

(Image credit: Bruce Hemming)

If your living room is tiny, 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. A zesty muted yellow is an excellent (and underrated) choice, that we are seeing growing in popularity on Pinterest and Instagram as we head into spring.

12. Let period features take centre stage

farmhouse living room with brick fireplace, wooden doorway and sofas

Tim unearthed the original fire surround during the first part of the renovations.

(Image credit: Bridget Peirson)

If your home comes with an original period feature, such as a fireplace or original stove, make the most of it. Let it take center stage in the design scheme by keeping the decorating scheme neutral. 

13. Go all-cream for a really luxurious look

Jane Emery Period Living

(Image credit: Jane Emery)

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 an all-cream scheme will really bring out all the different textures of your soft furnishings. 

14. 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-style pieces into the decorating scheme. They will not jar like contemporary furniture would, but will give the room a more up-to-date look. 

Want the Mid-century effect without the price tag? Try accenting the room with an orange piece or two. The color of the 1960s, orange will add a vintage playfulness to the room. 

15. Bring the outdoors in with rattan furniture

If your living room faces a lovely garden, 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 throws and cushions. 

16. Add relaxed formality with symmetry 

living room in a Regency townhouse


(Image credit: Kasia Fiszer)

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 the alcoves mirror each other as book shelves, but the mantel piece decor is lest formal. Plus the corner sofa create a more laid back feel than say two sofas facing each other would. 

17. Bring an eclectic boho vibe into a traditional living room

cosy farmhouse style living room with fireplace, sofa, footstool and home office desk area


(Image credit: Brent Darby)

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, laid back feel to your room. Pick out pieces that have a 'worn' look too, to give the space that very lived-in feel.

18. Embrace cottage core with quirky displays

living room in a renovated rustic cottage


(Image credit: Unique Home Stays)

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 chintz is good, vintage glass and patterned china will work too.

19. Panel your living room 

chair arts and crafts panelled room

(Image credit: Jody Stewart)

Nothing gives a room a more traditional feel than 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 wall panels using beading and wood glue if you are after an easy weekend project. We have a step by step for you to follow if you wanted to give it a go. 

20. Mix in contemporary pieces to a traditional living room 

Swedish lakehouse period living

(Image credit: Anne Nyblaeus/ A Design Features)

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 coffee table seen here) that really sleek and modern to contrast the rest of the room?