What is preppy interior design? The style, explained

So classic

Two pictures of a preppy living room on a blue floral background
(Image credit: Wayfair)

If you're decorating your home with sophistication in mind, preppy interior design could be the style for you. It’s a really timeless choice, which makes it a great option if you’re on a budget and don’t want to keep endless refreshing your place.

You might think of preppy style and instantly think of college and dorms. It’s not massively school related, though — it’s more to do with classic styles being paired with a whimsical flair. Think like a white crisp shirt paired with a fun plaid skirt, but for interiors.

Looking to redecorate your small space and want to know what preppy style is? I’ve got you. I’ve spoken to a range of experts to find out all about its history, its style hallmarks, and how to dress your home with it, too. As well as this, I’ve also shopped a range of decor buys, in case you want to get the look.

Your preppy interior design questions, answered

Ready to find out all the info? Here’s everything you need to know about preppy interior style… 

What is preppy style? 

First of all, let’s start with the basics. “The preppy home aesthetic is a quintessential all-American style that embodies sophistication and cheery hues,” says Shivani Vyas, interior designer and owner of Studio Vyas.

A picture of Shivani Vyas sitting on a chair
Shivani Vyas

Shivani Vyas is an interior designer who specializes in preppy, southern, and traditional designs. She owns Studio Vyas, a boutique interior design studio in Macon, Georgia.

Preppy interior design is all about mixing the old and the new, with a sophisticated edge. “It combines classic, traditional elements with a touch of whimsy and an affinity for layering patterns and textures,” explains Nathan Thompson, interior designer and founder of Luza Lights. “This style is extremely comforting and confident, making it alluring and timeless,” adds Vyas.

A picture of Nathan Thompson next to a window
Nathan Thompson

Nathan Thompson is a renowned interior designer and lighting store owner. His journey began with a love for design and a desire to transform ordinary spaces into extraordinary ones. Over the years, he has honed his skills and developed a unique style that combines classic elements with modern touches. 

Where did preppy style come from? 

Even though preppy style isn’t full-on school related, it did originate from there. “The preppy home aesthetic is a style that comes from the American ‘preppy’ or ‘prep’  culture, which is rooted in the Northeastern college preparatory schools and the Ivy League universities,” Thompson tells me. “The history of the preppy aesthetic dates back to the mid-20th century, when the preppy subculture emerged as a distinct group with its own fashion, lifestyle, and, eventually, home decor style.” He says that over time, the preppy aesthetic has evolved and adapted to include modern elements, yet it still maintains its classic and refined undertones. 

What are the style hallmarks of preppy interior design? 

Want to know what to look for when shopping preppy home style? “Hallmarks of this aesthetic include monogrammed textiles, jute rugs, wicker, and playful motifs,” explains Vyas. “Classic patterns like animal prints, paisleys, stripes, and geometric shapes are also key.”

Preppy interior design decorating tips

To decorate with the preppy home aesthetic, Thompson says to start by selecting a light and bright color palette, with a base of whites or creams and accents of pastels. “Incorporate classic patterns, but don't be afraid to mix and match — for example, stripes with florals or plaids with polka dots,” he tells me. “Choose furniture pieces that are timeless and elegant, and accessorize with monograms, needlepoint, and other personalized touches.”

In terms of specific pieces, Vyas suggests starting with decor buys will never lose their appeal, like cozy rugs derived from nature (including sisal, wool, and jute), monogrammed sheets, towels or shower curtains with scalloped trims, and blue and white ginger jars. 

She also says to bring in warm textures like rattan and wicker, such as with furniture, vases, and frames. “Nailing down your color palette is just as important to getting the overall look just right — and some fail-safe preppy hues include blue, green, pink, white, and navy,” Vyas adds.

“Ultimately, the preppy aesthetic is about creating a space that feels polished yet comfortable, sophisticated yet inviting,” Thompson finishes by saying. 

Get the preppy look with these six buys

Want to bring preppy style into your place? Here are six affordable, beautiful buys to help you do just that. 

The prices below were correct at the time of publishing this article.

Now you know everything about preppy home decor, you can bring it into your place. Want to find out about more preppy-inspired home design styles? Coastal grandmother is a popular trend that draws on it beautifully.

Eve Smallman
Staff Writer

Hi there! I’m a staff writer at Real Homes. I've been a lifestyle journalist for over five years, previously working as an editor across regional magazines. Before this, I graduated from Nottingham Trent University a degree in journalism, along with an NCTJ gold diploma. I love running, decorating my rented Victorian home, and discovering new cheeses.