The New Traditional

The adjective "traditional" carries some negative connotations. When an interior is described as traditional, I tend to picture a space that is stuffy and outdated, laden with heavy fabrics and draperies, dark wood, gilded frames, and brass lighting. That's not a fair assumption because traditional can mean plenty of things.

For example, I would describe Versailles as traditional...which I LOVE.

Perhaps "traditional" in a modern context translates to understated elegance. If so, then Williams-Sonoma Home, more than any other major retailer, has really embraced and shaped the new traditionalism. To me, their product line epitomizes modern elegance and I think that buyers young and old can relate to their offering. Their furniture, in particular, is timeless and can usually be made more or less current depending on the fabric/finish selected.

From William-Sonoma Home's site, this room illustrates what "traditional," in its best sense, means to me. I love that transitional pieces are used in the stately setting to update the space and make it feel more livable. It seems warm and comfortable but still feels classic and not trendy.

These pieces were used...when taken out of the context of the traditional room they look much more modern, don't they?
Presidio Sofa

Presidio Settee
Fulton Zebrawood Mirror

What does traditional mean to you? When you use it to describe a room, is it a positive adjective or a negative adjective?


  1. The images are beautiful, and this is a wonderful post! It really made me think. I had to take a hard look at how I define traditional. I have a tendency to use it as a negative adjective, I didn’t realize that until you posed the question, but I think it’s because I grew up in the Southeastern US. Traditional often meant matched sets or whole houses in the style of a certain period. Every piece stayed in the same place, and never crossed purposes. It’s synonym was “staid."

    I love Versailles, but I would have a hard time LIVING there, because of the formality. I am much more relaxed than that. (Plus, I think I would need a new wardrobe to match!) For my own home, I am personally drawn to a more transitional style, much like the Williams-Sonoma room above, with clean lines and touches of modern mixed with antiques. I could move into that room with ease!

  2. Keely from Luxe + Lillies was just featured in Traditional Home magazine and I was shocked at first, since I don't consider her space to be stuffy at all and to me traditional = granny. I like how the style has evolved beyond windsor chairs and beige!

  3. New Traditional is so glamourous, not stuffy at all. I'm so excited to see the pics of Versailles! I go there for the first time next week!

  4. I am usually on the fence on "traditional" - on the one hand it can mean classic and therefore timeless and beautiful for a very long time. On the other hand it can feel like our mothers' decorating style, which isn't bad, but not our own! It's a tough one. I think the key is a mix of styles so it can't be easily categorized and also so it feels fresh. My two cents! :)

  5. Hi Kyle,

    Scandinavian decorating book up for grabs over at the Northern Light blog, thought you and your readers may be interested!

    Northern Light

  6. Maybe I'm the only one but I've always gravitated towards traditional. I guess because I felt it would stand the test of time. When I think traditional I think of wood furniture that was built to last.
    Currently I love everything transitional because you can freshen up the older pieces to make them look more current.

  7. Gorgeous images! I love spaces that have very high ceilings - they look so grand.
    Traditional to me, means classic, timeless and not the trend of the moment. Traditional is definitely positive!