10 Tips for Classic Style Decorating

Decorating our homes should be very personal and creating a home that not only is functional but beautiful is what we all aspire to. Today I’m sharing my 10 tips for creating a classic style home in decorating.

How do we get a personalized home that’s classic and refined, yet does not succumb to expensive decorating trends along the way? It’s sometimes a hard path to figure out along the way and it’s taken me years and years to decorate my home in a way that feels like “us” and yet seems timeless and classic too. Honing in on my style has been a lifelong journey and one that I’m still learning.

I’ve come a long way just since starting this blog. When I look back at my decorating style over 10 years ago, it’s not nearly as classic, I don’t think. I’ve gotten better about seeing past trends and focusing on what is going to be long lasting and timeless. That’s the look I aspire to all the time. But it’s OK to use some trends along the way, just do the trends on a budget and don’t spend too much for those items that won’t stand the test of time.

Here are my top 10 ideas for a classic designed home. These are my opinions and things that I have figured out along my decorating journey. Of course, the architecture sets the one for a timeless home and the more millwork and gorgeous molding, the better in my book.

Affiliate links used below for items I found to share.

1. White Walls (or light neutral paint) with white painted trim

Our main paint color throughout the house is Magnolia Home Gatherings, a soft greige. We love it! I Often get asked what color it is.

One of the trends today in decorating for the last 10 years or so has been to paint walls white. I love this look so much, but we chose a very light neutral for our main wall color (see above). Neutral walls allow your furnishings and accessories to shine. Neutral decorating has been a trend for a few years too and a neutral backdrop is part of that.

I use plenty of color and don’t just stick to neutrals in all of my decorating, but do what makes you happy. I do love a neutral and lightish wall color though, that really does provide a perfect background for furniture. I save the colored walls for smaller spaces and use light and neutral in all the main spaces.

We plan to add more millwork to our stairway wall both inside and outside the staircase. Millwork and molding are a great way to add a more classic and timeless look to your house as well as add value.

(From Caroline on Design)

A beautiful example is this classic staircase that highlights gorgeous architecture that stands on its own.

2. Wood floors and Classic wood patina furniture

We love our wood floors and wood cannot be beat for adding a classic look to your home. Wood will always be my first choice in flooring. It’s been around for centuries and even through the covering up of wood floors that was popular in the 60’s when carpet made a big debut nationwide, those wood floors always get discovered and uncovered again in today’s renovations.

That French buffet I bought 20 years ago is a great example of a vintage patina furniture and how it adds such a classic feel to a home.

Wood floors in a medium brown stain will always be a classic. Trends have seen wood floors go really dark (like I did in my previous house and loved too) and then lighter as was the trend years ago (remember honey blond floors?).

My previous house had darker wood floors and even though I loved them, I would not choose this dark again. Darker floors suck a lot of light out of the room too.

(From Plank and Pillow)

Today’s trend seems to be more in the gray tones with weathered oak flooring being a popular choice these days, like this newish home from Plank and Pillow. I’m not sure what I’d choose for new flooring if I was building a house now, but these are really gorgeous and I would probably choose something similar. You can’t go wrong with a medium brown tone.

3. Lanterns

Lantern style lighting is always at the top of my list for a classic look. Lighting styles come and go, but I think a good lantern design will always be a great choice. We chose this large lantern fixture from Lamps Plus when we moved in our house to update the fixture that was there. This was a bold choice, it’s about 4′ high, but the open cage gives it a nice bold airy look in our foyer.

I love a good looking lantern fixture!

I also love decorating with lanterns too, like these pretty black ones from Pottery Barn I picked up around Christmas last year. They are fun to move around and use for different seasons.

Lanterns are great to decorate with!


4. Collected Art

Art is so subjective and something that takes awhile to collect and hone in on. I’ve always loved vintage art as well as abstract modern art, so we have a mix of that around our house. I love them both! This large piece of original abstract art was a Homegoods find. I love original art, but most of the art galleries I visit are too pricey for my budget. I love finding affordable art that looks good too.

Places like Minted online are a good place to look for prints that add a lot to your home. I have one of those in my laundry room and my office.

Also Etsy has nice prints too for affordable prices. I got the ones in my living room there.

A good collected gallery wall is fun too. I collected all of these vintage prints from various places like yardsales, estate sales, antiques stores and thrift type stores. These are so fun to find!

Mark loves original watercolors and has a big collection of his own. We hung these in our family room and he has lots more in his man cave. Most of these came from Ebay and Etsy and were very inexpensive.

5. Patterned rugs or neutral textured rugs (these are fun to mix      up)

With the pattern on our stair runner, I went with a neutral textured rug by our front door. It sort of blends right in, but I like the texture of it.

In our dining room, I’ve still got the brown bordered seagrass rug that I’ve had for several years. I’m thinking about changing this rug out eventually and I might do a patterned blue and white rug for a change.

This Shaw rug (that’s no longer available) that I’ve had for several years is a fun patterned look in our family room. Rugs are fun to change out over the years to make a space feel fresh. These days I don’t spend a lot of money on rugs (like thousands!) because I know I’m not going to keep them forever.

I went with a patterned rug for the master using it as a starting point for colors in here. It’s very restful and peaceful.

Here are some rugs that I have in our home as well as some that I think are so pretty. Rugs are a great statement maker and a way to add color and texture.

6. Glass and Pottery Pieces

Accessories are a great way to personalize and add classic touches to your decor too. I have lots of glassware, table settings, and they all are fun to decorate with. I love a mix of vintage and new, they all have a place in decor, but adding those vintage things in a home really give it a history and storied feel.

I love collecting these cute vintage pottery planters and they add such a fun and colorful touch around the house.

Glass aqua bottles are also one of my favorite things to collect. Some of these are vintage, some are new and they all came from different sources.

Blue and white pottery is considered a classic as well. My collection of blue and white also came from all different sources and collected over time.

7. Plants and flowers

Plants and flowers in a home really bring the personality and texture to a space. Most of my plants are real and those are my favorite, but a good faux here and there is great too. The faux plants out there now are a lot more realistic than ever! So don’t let a lack of a green thumb hold you back. Go for a good faux!

Real plant

Real fern

Faux Succulent

Faux Bonsai

8. Mix of Modern and Vintage

In our living room, there’s a mix of modern and vintage. Mark’s vintage lamp in the corner, the chairs are not new but classic design style. The brass armillary on the glass and iron table is a vintage yardsale find that I still love. Definitely a classic.

Mixing up modern and vintage is the best way to personalize and really make your house special for your family. I wouldn’t recommend living in a cookie cutter home that looks like a furniture store. That’s where the fun comes in when we are accessorizing our homes. Find things that speak to you and work with them. If you love it, find a place for it.

My dining room is a mix of new and old. The vintage buffet from probably the 50’s is a good mix with this newish Empire style dining table and new upholstered white linen chairs. I love a good mix, which is much more interesting than matchy-matchy collections from the furniture store. There’s a time for collections of furniture, but most of the time they’re better broken up and used separately.

9. Mix of Pillows

All of these pillow covers are from Etsy.

I love the color and pattern it brings to the living room.

This is the pop of color along with the rug in the space.

Pillows are one of the easiest things to change up and I love Etsy for pillow covers. That’s where several of my pillows came from. With down inserts, all you have to do is order several pillow covers and change them out seasonly if you wish. Pillows are a wonderful way to personalize your space, so have fun with them! Most of these in the family room are from Homegoods.

10. Classic Lamps

Lamps have changed over the years, but I love a mix of modern shaped lamps in my home now. Ten years ago I had all traditional shapes in lamps, but over the years I’ve changed them all out to a more modern design. I love the mix with my Traditional furnishings. A good mix of Modern, Vintage and Traditional furnishings and accessories is what makes a pretty home to me.

This modern gourd shaped lamp adds a modern touch to our Traditional space. That’s my grandmothers side table that I just can’t get rid of. It’s from the 40’s or 50’s.

I’ve got 2 different lamps in the family room, one is all glass with a burlap shade and the other is Art Deco inspired with a neutral shade as well.

This classical pair of lamps (Hollywood Regency) were a Homegoods find a couple years ago and I love them in our dining room. They add just the right touch and the gold color adds a little bling.

In our guest room, I have a pair of pretty blue and white lamps that I found years ago too. I haven’t found a need to change them yet and still love them.

On the foyer table, this brass and glass traditional yet modern lamp is tall and narrow, perfect for this table.

More modern shaped lamps do a lot to bring in a fresh look to your home. Ten years ago I had mostly Traditional Tuscan style lamps, but I’ve changed all of mine out to a more modern shape and it makes a big difference. These modern shapes are very classic too.

So I hope you enjoyed this recap of 10 tips from me and my experience in decorating over the years. Decorating in general is very subjective and we don’t all like the same things, but I think these 10 items are a great way to hone in on a beautifully decorated home.
We all want to have a pretty home and it takes time to get there. Have fun with it!
I would love for you to pin this post for others to find and enjoy! Thanks so much! 

- Rhoda


  1. Rhoda,
    I love your home and the manner in which you have accessorized each room. I do have a question – is it difficult to keep clean with the many items on tables, shelves, etc.? I would be interested in hearing how you manage housekeeping chores on a weekly basis. Thank you!

    • Hi, Pam, thank you! It’s not too bad, since it’s just the two of us. Mark dusts for us and I’m not a fanatic about dust, so as long as things stay pretty neat and tidy, I don’t stress about it. The foyer table and shelves in the kitchen have the most things displayed, but I don’t dust them every week.

  2. Doreen Bednarski says

    Good morning Rhoda,
    You and Mark have created so many lovely additions in your home. In fact, I loved what he did to the peninsula wall in your kitchen so much, we had it duplicated in our condo. Where did you find your Chevron runner in the kitchen and the TV stand? What size is it? Every aspect of your home is lovely.

    • Hi, Doreen, thank you so much. That chevron runner in my old kitchen is from Ballard Designs. I think they still have it. The TV stand is from Homegoods and I painted it. It’s just over 5′ wide and 17″ deep.

  3. I never get tired of seeing pictures of your home, Rhoda, it is so lovely and PERSONAL. When we built our house almost 30 years ago, I had the floors stained red mahogany. They were beautiful, but our builder said I would hate them! He was right…dark floors show dusty footprints and pet fur like crazy. We ended up stripping the floors to the natural red oak and sealing them. Much better. There are some things I would like to tweak in our home, but JohnBoy is not buying into it yet…men! You’re so lucky Mark loves doing these projects! 💕💕

    • Thank you, Roxanne, I appreciate your support so much! I’m very happy that Mark likes to do projects with me too!

  4. I love how much simple white you have in your house. I have an older home and just don’t want to paint the living room a color. I’m ok with that now : ).

    • Hi, Susan, I love the all white walls and trim idea too. Ours is a light greige, but I could easily have done all white too.

  5. Just love the way you style your home Rhoda…truly speaks of yours and Mark’s personality. Happy Monday!

    • Thank you so much, Shirley! I’m a big fan of your decorating style too, yours is so classic as well.

  6. I love your home and decorating style Rhoda. Each room is decorated so tastefully. Are your fiddle leaf fig plants real? If so, how do you care for them?

    • Hi,Lynne, thank you so much! Yes, those fiddle leaf figs are real. I think they have to find a good spot and mine seem to like where they are. They get plenty of light where in those spots and they need a good amount of light and not too much water.

  7. Thank you for sharing – I get so much inspiration from you. The colors alone are absolutely gorgeous. Would you consider placing a rug under a dining room table with the floor being 24″X24″ ceramic tile? Thank you in advance.

    • Thank you, Cindy! I think a rug is great on ceramic tile. It definitely softens up a room to have a rug so go for it.

  8. Rhoda,
    You and Mark have done such a wonderful job at customizing your home to your taste and style. You are right there are too many cookie cutter homes out there that have no personality of their own.

    You have given some great “tips” for classic styling and I especially like the tip about staying with a warm neutral color hardwood for flooring. I know many people who have dark flooring and have regretted it because it shows every speck of dust and dirt as well as hair from pets. As far as trim goes, I haven’t found a better white than BM “Simply White”. I call it the perfect goldilocks white because it is just right! Its not too stark, too cool/warm and has no real undertones.

    Like you, I love mixing vintage with modern and think the two compliment each other so well. One of my favorite eras is the 60’s. I have the same Labarge coffee table as you and also some 60’s vintage faux bamboo furniture. I love the 60’s brass and white (blanc) Fritz & Floyd pieces especially if it has a chinoserie theme to it. I just wish Shaw still sold the turquoise rug you have because I have serious rug envy everytime I see it in your house! Ha

    • THank you, Teresa, it’s taken me years to hone my style, that’s for sure! Like so many of us over the years, I fell for a lot of trends, but I’m happy to say I steered clear of the farmhouse trend and that is, I predict, going to die a slow death in the next few years. I’m happy to watch it from the sidelines and not be in the middle of it this time. I love all those things you mentioned so much!

  9. Rhoda – I love the way you’ve styled your new home. I agree with all 10 points and will be following them as we decorate ours. When we sold our coastal home, we sold every piece of furniture and most of the decor to the buyers. Yikes, I’ll have a lot of shopping to do. Your blue/green pottery set in a silver tray is brilliant … I have a tray like that from my Southern mother and now I know how to use it. I remember when you found that wonderful glass top coffee table in your living room – what a score! I’ve pinned so many things … this was a well timed post (for me!!!). xo

  10. Thank you for this awesome post. I enjoyed learning from you. I love your beautiful home and I look forward to your posts.

  11. I love how you and Mark have decorated your home, Rhoda! It flows so nicely. When you decide you don’t want your entry table anymore or your buffet, I’d be happy to host them over here! 😉 Lovely tips!!!

    • Thank you, Barbara, I appreciate you stopping by! I’ll keep that in mind, haha, but I think they are staying!

  12. Love following you and love your home! What color paint did you use on your island? THANK YOU!

    • HI, Diane, thanks so much! That color on the island is Ben Moore Knoxville Gray. It’s a great color!

  13. You have a lovely home. I enjoyed your tour so much. Could you tell me the paint color in your living and dining rooms? I have been looking for a darker blue color and yours is perfect. Thanks!

    • HI, Kathi, the dining room blue is all navy grasscloth and one wall in the living room is too. The rest of the living room walls were colormatched to it and they are Ben Moore Spellbound.

  14. Hi Rhonda,

    Where did you get your bed in you master bedroom?

  15. Cecilia from Georgia says

    I have admired your home on several occasions via bloggers. I am happy to start following you now. I’m delighted to learn that lantern light fixtures are timeless. I’ve been trying to make a decision for new lights over my counter and pendant lights are too small. Thanks for the wonderful information.


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