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Traditional Bedrooms For Every Decorating Taste

Traditional design is not a single look, but many

Written and produced by Candace Ord Manroe
  • Choosing the right piece of furniture can make an enormous difference in whether your bedroom feels like a bland box or a stately escape with as much visual intrigue as your home’s public spaces. In this bedroom for the San Francisco Decorator Showcase, interior designer Michael Burg included a hefty antique Napoleonic cabinet with an ebony-and-gilt finish for storing books and accessories. The bold black furnishing keeps the room man-friendly (it’s a given that women will love it), and the piece’s scale and design lift the space from the mundane by adding an architectural gravitas.

    Tip: The benefits of black furniture for the bedroom can’t be overemphasized. Include a large black cabinet for architectural interest in a room that is lacking; use a black furnishing to anchor a light and airy design; and appease the man of the house with a black furnishing that’s a nod to his masculinity.

    Interior design: Michael Burg

  • As a his-and-her space, the master bedroom requires some finessing to get the right balance of masculine and feminine so both members of the couple are happy. A black-and-white color palette is a safe bet. Plus, it’s one of the more interesting color combos, with the bold, graphic strength of the contrasting colors. This bedroom in a South African home celebrates that country’s colonial style, but its popular design components know no boundaries. The big black wrought-iron bed serves as the room’s focal point. Cotton bed curtains puddle to the floor and hang loosely at the top for a casual, breezy elegance. Dark wood flooring and dark shutters contrast with a white coffered ceiling. The look is as appropriate for Cleveland or Kansas City as it is for Cape Town. And, for this homeowner at least, it didn’t require the services of an interior designer. The key: Keep it simple.


  • Black and white is a favorite color palette of many designers and design editors for one simple reason: It’s hard to mess up. This small guest room defies its shoebox shape and lack of architectural embellishment with a graphic palette of black and white. Black and white floor tiles laid on the diagonal get the room pulsating with visual rhythm. Patterned on the bed linens, a splashy modern design of stylized black leaves and vines on a white ground holds its own against the flooring. Even the art dips into the black and white scheme for guest quarters that are lively, much-anticipated destination.

    Interior design: Kazumi Yoshida

  • Aubergine, a complex color between lavender and brown, carries the style statement in this glamorous traditional master bedroom. The tall hotel-style headboard is upholstered in mohair. It creates the illusion of higher ceiling heights in a room that appears squatty due to almost dormer-size windows. Textural interest is provided by glossy fabrics on decorative pillows, the nubby appeal of the bedcover, and the soft mohair of the bench at the foot of the bed—all variations on aubergine. The rich color palette emanated from the Fortuny-style painted silk chandelier.

    Interior design: Karen Miller

  • The bedroom’s glamorous style continues to the dressing table, which is skirted in aubergine silk taffeta. An antique mirror flanked by matching hand-painted lamps and a mohair vanity stool centered with the mirror accessorize the table in pleasing symmetrical balance. More opulence is indulged at the windows. Tightly gathered silk curtain panels are underscored by a tailored stairstep valance in a matching fabric.

    Interior design: Karen Miller

  • Every room—especially bedrooms, it seems—faces design challenges. In this richly appointed master bedroom, the biggest obstacle to a sophisticated traditional design heavy on the glam were unfortunately small windows. To overcome the windows’ weak proportions, designer Karen Miller ingeniously crafted a stairstep valance  that fools the eye into thinking the window is taller than it really is. She also mounted the valance directly to the ceiling to increase the heightening effect.

    Tip: In a low- or standard-ceiling bedroom, mount window treatments from the ceiling to increase the perception of vertical space.

    Interior design: Karen Miller

  • Now take a step back and look at the bedroom as a whole. Its sum is at least as good as its parts. As beautiful as the mohair headboard is, that’s not the end of this bedtime story. Luxury and attention to detail continue all the way to the floor, where a lush skirt skirt fabricated with box pleats skims the carpet. It’s traditional style with Hollywood glam.

    Interior design: Karen Miller

  • One of traditional design’s most popular and enduring styles hails from Scandinavia. The light touch of this 18th-century design style, also known as Gustavian, is ideal for decorating the bedroom. This lilac-painted master bedroom traces its quirky ceiling (really, roofline) contours with white-painted wood, defining the room with charming pastel color and linear simplicity.  The only hint of formality is the small lilac-glass-bead chandelier. Even the floors are left raw in their pale natural wood. A French bedcover, a chair upholstered in old linen, and a painted pine table complete the furnishings. The bedroom was designed by the homeowner.

  • San Francisco designer Martha Angus is an art collector extraordinaire, so there was never any doubt she would include favorite pieces in the master bedroom of her Nob Hill home. A painting by Ciao Fonseca hangs above her bed, while a David Hockney print rests on a French chest at the side of the bed. To give the art its due, Martha kept the design calm with a custom bed that’s streamlined and crisp, and quiet jute carpet on the floor.

    Interior design: Martha Angus

  • His bedroom proves his point. Interior designer David L. Smith is hard-pressed to label his decorating style—an artful and unexpected blend of old and new. “I like things crisp and clean. I’m becoming more of a modernist as I get older, but with a little of the old thrown in.” Old, as in the 1930s painted screen that hangs above his bed. The funky, faux-valanced screen creates an instant and one-of-a-kind focal point for a room that’s a celebration of tailored modernism and Old World curves.

    Interior design: David L. Smith and Gary Clark

  • David L. Smith’s love of all things decorative means a bedroom that’s as compelling as any room in the house. His includes a work area, which is possibly a good excuse to anchor more gorgeous period chairs around a highly stylish glass-top faux bois desk. It’s also a grand reason to define the work area with art. His collection ranges from portraits to landscapes, from equestrian to avian art.

    Tip: Make your bedroom work for you. Determine your needs, then create different furniture arrangements to address them. Don’t skimp on personal collections. Displayed en masse, they are a great way to differentiate one space from another.

    Interior design: David L. Smith and Gary Clark

  • For the master bedroom in her Manhattan apartment, designer Gail Green created a complex neoclassical design in basic blue, a universal favorite. She rolled back the calendar to the 18th century, picking up the motifs and style elements popularized by that periods’s influential architect and designer Robert Adam. The room includes neoclassical architectural embellishments, and it also playfully and expertly incorporates Adamesque influences in its well-curated mix of blue-and-white fabrics. Interestingly, this most traditional of bedrooms coexists in an apartment elsewhere enlivened with strong modernist features. “For a decor to be remarkable, you have to be willing to take risks,” advises the designer.

    Tip: Consider a dark paint for guest room walls for ultimate cocooning. You won’t grow tired of it, and neither will your guests.

    Interior design: Gail Green

  • Warm chocolate-painted walls spin an inviting cocoon around guests who stay overnight at the New Orleans home of architect Ken Tate and his designer wife, Charme. “Every house needs at least one dark room,” she insists. The dark (Benjamin Moore paint) hue in this room is a dramatic foil for bright gold-and-white checked draperies, and for the two abstract paintings by Ken that hang above an antique table. An ebony four-poster bed from Harden contrasts with its snowy white coverlet. An antique Oriental rug brings the palette together.

    Tip: Consider a dark paint for guest room walls for ultimate cocooning. You won’t grow tired of it, and neither will your guests.

    Interior design: Charme Tate

  • When space permits, cozy up a bedroom with comfy seating to facilitate reading, relaxing, TV watching, and conversation. This is especially important in a guest room, the only retreat of their own your overnight visitors may have. The guest room in the home of a Louisiana architect and his designer wife delivers Southern hospitality with a pair of soft-cushioned club chairs covered in an elegant brown-on-white Cowton and Tout toile. Creature comforts like an oversize mirror don’t just lend themselves to great design, they serve an essential function. The style is quintessentially traditional, but the warm chocolate walls lift it into the moment.

    Tip: Up the visual interest by elevating art to unexpected heights such as above a door. Sure, it breaks the rules, but that’s the point.

  • A restrained traditional style reigns in this master bedroom. It begins with the edited blue-and-white palette. Bits of blue blossom helter-skelter in the space, versus blue bathing the room. This lends the design a clean look with a modern bent. A geometric blue cube pattern covers the bench at the foot of the bed, while the bed’s coverlet is tasteful and spare blue stripes coloring a mainly white field. The geometric patterns are reinforced by abstract art (blue) above the mantel. The graphic pattern on the club chairs suggests a rhythm akin to that of the art.