As 2020 wears on, we’ve been seeing more and more traditional design elements enter the trend cycle. Traditional interior design has always prioritized comfort, and we need comfort more than ever this year. So it makes sense that this design style—which has been out of the trend cycle for a while—has made its way back.
We’re seeing it show up in comfortable furniture pieces that have been reconsidered in more modern, trendy ways. And, of course, we see it in the introduction of more comfort-forward pieces in popular design styles right now. (Modern rustic is a perfect example, which prioritizes comfortable furniture.) However, before we really dig into the Traditional Comfort trend, let’s take a closer look at what styles make up this trend and where it comes from.
What is Traditional Comfort?
The Traditional Comfort trend has roots in the combination of traditional and transitional interior design styles. Traditional elements combine with the simple lines of transitional design to create elegant and timeless pieces that are super comfort-forward. This comfort gives an element of ease to a space—resulting in rooms that are effortless but pulled together. Visually, they simply invite you to come and sit down for a while (while still feeling stylish, inspirational, and relatable).
Traditional interior design today isn’t necessarily what you remember seeing at your great-grandparents house, full of fussy, ornate details and breakables. In other words, it’s not purely American Traditional. Instead, today’s traditional design is more of a laid back take that easily integrates modern lines with traditional design elements.
Traditional Comfort in Pop Culture
Traditional Comfort definitely had a moment in the 90s, which showed up in a big way in TV and movies. The home in The Father of the Bride is a beautiful example. (Along with other Nancy Meyers films, like Something’s Gotta Give and It’s Complicated.) Rachel and Monica’s apartment in Friends is another great example, with a more eclectic spin. And Rachel even tried to bring a Traditional Comfort spin to the apartment she shared with Phoebe later in the show. (Remember the Pottery Barn episode?? You know, “The One with the Apothecary Table”?)
It even had moments in the early 2000s. Lorelei Gilmore, in Gilmore Girls, incorporated a lot of traditional elements in her funky, eclectic home. And, when we reimaged her home for 2019, we gave it more of a Traditional Comfort spin, while keeping her eclectic style. The design above is our modern reimagining of her space. All the base pieces in here are super traditional, from the sofa to the coffee table and rug, but when mixed together and with other elements in the room, it reads more eclectic. But comfort and approachability is definitely at the forefront.
Why is Traditional Comfort rising in popularity?
Why is Traditional Comfort taking off as a trend in 2020? Well, to begin with, it’s super comfortable. With all the time we’re spending at home this year, there’s been a resurgence of valuing comfort in our homes. We want to live in spaces that feel like a welcoming retreat—with soft lines, plush materials, and forgiving frames.
This flies in the face of stark Mid-Century Modern designs, which have long been at the forefront of trendy interior design. And it makes sense. People have long turned to traditional interior design in times of social and political uncertainty. And if this year has been anything, it’s been uncertain. So, surrounding ourselves with comfort and a sense of familiarity is the perfect antidote to this crazy year!
Wondering how to bring the Traditional Comfort trend into your own home? Keep reading for six ways to make it happen!
When designing a space that embodies Traditional Comfort design, you want to make sure your base furniture is comfortable above anything else. So, opt for pieces that are plush, with soft upholstery. Leather armchairs and roll-arm sofas both have that cozy, sink-in-and-get-comfortable vibe that’s inherent to the Traditional Comfort trend. Pillows and throws, along with plush rugs, can add to the comfort factor to add softness underfoot and extra warmth and coziness on the furniture. (Not to mention they can help play up the color scheme of a room.) In this room, the coffee and side tables, with their sturdy designs, support that sense of comfort and reliability.
Embrace Traditional Silhouettes + Motifs
This room is a perfect example of how a formal traditional space can come together today, in a way that still feels relaxed. While there are classic formal design elements in this space, the combination of straight lines, plush materials, and mixed wood finishes in the large furniture pieces give this space a Traditional Comfort vibe. And the use of classic patterns and motifs, as well as a classic blue and white color scheme add to the traditional vibes in a way that feels really approachable. Bonus: blue is a color of stability and calmness, perfect for these strange times!
To break it down a bit further, the foundational furniture (the sofas, accent chairs, and coffee table) have very traditional silhouettes. But the soft textures and upholstery of the sofas bring in a sense of warmth and comfort. Slipcovered sofas are the perfect blend of Traditional and Transitional. And the ruffles on the skirt of the second sofa add a softness to the space. Meanwhile, the striped upholstery on the accent chairs is very traditional, as is the shape of the chairs. The coffee table also suggests an element of comfort; it’s sturdy and durable while still being elegant.
Layer in Antiques + Vintage Accents
The base furniture in this living room is very plush and comfortable—a key element of the Traditional Comfort style, as we mentioned above. But the accent furniture brings in some antique influences. This gives that old-world vibe to the space that leans into older versions of traditional design.
In this room, we incorporated vintage European and French Farmhouse influences with the coffee table, side table, and lamp. All of them have vintage-inspired traditional forms. This elevates the look from being strictly traditional to a space with more nuance and character. To incorporate antique influences and vintage accents, look for provincial elements to incorporate into your space, such as a vintage lamp or antique side table—or even a vintage (or vintage-inspired) rug with a traditional pattern. Provincial landscape wall art will also do the trick. And traditional motifs—like the stripes on these chairs—will support the antique vibes.
Incorporate Dark Finishes + Ornate Detailing
A hallmark of traditional interior design is the use of dark wood finishes in furniture. That can range from a mahogany or walnut finish, to even an ebony finish like the furniture above. Dark finishes add contrast and elegance to a space.
Wood furniture in traditional interior design also tends to feature ornate carvings or turned leg detailing—which is highlighted in both the dining table and console in the room above. The traditional motif of the rug and the slipcovered dining chairs (which evoke an element of comfort) help drive home the overall Traditional Comfort approach of this space.
Include Plenty of Natural Materials
Part of what makes the Traditional Comfort look so, well, comfortable, is the use of natural materials. From wood and leather to caning, jute, linen, and even iron, the use of natural materials gives this design style a sense of approachability and comfort. There’s also a sense of sturdiness and timelessness in natural materials, especially wood, iron, and leather. In this office, the natural materials help give off the vibe of stability and familiarity in a way that feels reliable and transcends trends and a sense of time. The result is a look that feels timeless.
Don’t Forget About Functionality
Traditional Comfort is a very family-friendly design style. It’s very livable and functional, without many frills. Of course, as you’ve seen in some of the previous examples, some takes on Traditional Comfort include special details, like ruffles, tufting, or turned legs on furniture, but these details are done in ways that aren’t too precious or fussy. That’s because, next to comfort, this design style highly prioritized functionality. So, it’s necessary to bring in design elements that get at that functionality. This sideboard is a perfect example. It’s a functional storage item that has no major decorative elements or unnecessary details. But it has a traditional form that’s quite beautiful in its simplicity.
Want to bring the Traditional Comfort trend home?