Neo-Traditional Interior Design


For years I have often struggled with what to call the style of interior design that I do. I’m sure that I’ve already told y’all that the word “transitional” makes my skin crawl. I mean… what exactly are we transitioning to? It’s totally wimped up to say that a piece of furniture can go either way; meaning it could be traditional or contemporary.

Sometimes I’ve called it “Young Traditional.” Or the “New Traditional.” Actually, there is a wonderful book by Darryl Carter with that very name. The New Traditional.




And, there’s also an article in House Beautiful also entitled The New Traditional by another wonderfully talented designer. Mark Sikes. (Co written by Michael Griffin)


By the way, there is no copyright on titles of anything. Did you know that? So, if you want to write a book called The New Traditional you can. However, you’d have some stiff competition.

I love Mark’s and Darryl’s work and I think that “new traditional” is a perfect term for their  work. However, I prefer the term “neo-traditional.”

Yesterday, I got my new Elle Decor and in it. It is full of color and while it’s certainly traditional, it’s not anything like most people think of as traditional.



This is a fabulous color scheme done by one of my fave interior designers, Katie Ridder. I have always admired her brilliant use of color and beautiful rooms. We have been talking about color schemes a lot. And this is probably a split-complimentary scheme. Quite frankly, I don’t pay a lot of attention to what they are called, but more to how they look. What is interesting is that this is the same is very similar to this:



Remember? This is Alexa Hampton’s fabulous room at the recent High Point Market for Hickory Chair.

This room is also neo-traditional. So, what makes these rooms neo-traditional?

Neo-Traditional Interior Design Decorating usually has the following attributes.

(although not necessarily all in the same room)

  • clean-lined but traditional upholstery
  • painted pieces of furniture
  • usually something black in the room
  • Chinoiserie elements
  • elements of light, medium and dark
  • a mix of traditional and contemporary patterns

Now, Darryl’s and Mark’s rooms are more pale and monochromatic. Are they also neo-traditional? Yes, I think so. So, a neo-traditional room could be pale and monochromatic or bright and colorful. The pale rooms, however, are generally devoid or nearly devoid of pattern, except perhaps for an Oriental rug which is also a pale piece or a fabulous Chinoiserie wallpaper. Pale rooms, however, just like the room on the cover of Darryl’s room and Mark’s room will have elements of some dark accents and usually some black. That’s what keeps it from being blah.

For more examples of neo-traditional interiors, please take a look at my portfolio.



7th edition rolodex-post-graphic - November 2020 - A unique shopping guide with hundreds of sources created by Laurel Bern

  • COBY - February 3, 2017 - 10:36 AM

    Just wanted send a greeting from rainy California…Your blog is my FAVORITE!!
    Many thanks !ReplyCancel

  • Dolores - March 4, 2015 - 7:26 AM

    Another paean to you, Laurel!
    With this post, you’ve just given me a little blueprint that I can send to my nephew whose first home I am helping to decorate long distance. Love all your green rooms- they are so helpful to me.
    Thank you!ReplyCancel

  • Tone on Tone Loi Thai - May 16, 2014 - 6:45 AM

    Thanks for the breakdown on this style / look! Love your term, Laurel!! Gotta start using it – I’m so used to transitional. We do use that for antiques made between periods or with characteristics from multiple periods. Cheers!ReplyCancel