50+ Timeless Home Furnishings-Pieces You Need To Know

freaking-out-over-your-paint-colors

 

Hi Everyone,

Before I get into today’s 50 plus classic and timeless home furnishings, a few words.

Maybe twice a month, I wake up and have absolutely NO idea what I’m going to write about. And, it’s a “blog day.” You might say: “Well, Laurel, if you’re really at a loss, why don’t you take a day off? We’ll be fine.”

 

Yes, of course you’ll be fine. ;]

 

But, I prefer to reserve the rare day off for when I’m really on vacation; OR, in case of a true emergency. Although, I’ve had a couple of those and managed to post something anyway.

And, besides, I genuinely love writing the blog. It gets me out of my head which has a tendency to live in lala land if not well-occupied. Therefore it is far better to channel that creativity into something that’s for the better good (I hope!)

 

Luckily, this morning, God swooped in to rescue me, as I received the most darling email from a reader named Patti. And this note was the spark that I needed to come up with today’s topic about classic and timeless home furnishings.

 

Although, “classic and timeless home furnishings” is the over-riding theme of this entire body of blog posts, I’ve never actually put some of the top ones in one place.

As, an aside I am NOT fishing for compliments. Not at all! However, many of you have sent me similar notes and I know that they’re coming from your heart. I actually save them in a special place to read when I’m feeling down.

 

But please know, just your being here is enough for me. And, I mean that!!!

 

Therefore, without further wasting your time stalling, haha, here is Patti’s email.

 

Dear Laurel,

I want to say thank you for everything that you’ve shared with me (and others). I’m one of those people who took a little longer to discover my unique style (I’m 52). But, I guess, that’s partly because I’m notoriously thrifty and love a “good deal.”

However, I’ve come to learn that a good deal for me is actually something that I guess one would call classic and timeless home furnishings. (are those the same thing??)

 

To me, they are!

 

And, that I won’t have to replace, because the quality is poor or the items are so darn trendy that we all get sick of it quickly.

 

Anyway, we recently moved into our dream home and I know I want to decorate in a way that truly expresses who we are.

 

To that end, I did a an internet query where I began the search for “my style”. You might not think I’d have to get help with that but I do. And, I like to think that what I love are classic and timeless home furnishings too! 😉

Luckily, your blog was one of the first things I came across. And, what a find it’s been! Your pictures are gorgeous, your advice is sooo helpful, and your humor aligns with my own. So, I find myself laughing out loud at times.

 

I’m so glad you’re enjoying my silliness!

 

And please know, I’m not writing you to get advice or ask for a paint color or anything like that.

 

Thank you. I very much appreciate that. :]

 

You’ve already given so much to me and you seem like a friend (not in a psycho stalker way though!) 😉 So, I want to take a few minutes to say– THANK YOU!

It’s only “stalking” when one is being annoying to the stalk-ee. Otherwise, it’s following or investigating. haha!

Thank you, too, for being willing to spend the time working on this blog and thank you for sharing your talent, insight and experiences! I love your blog and I especially love the search box! Lol!

I hope you have a lovely week! Thank you again for adding beauty to my life and helping me develop my unique style along the way!!

xoxo,

Patti

 

*********

 

Thank you so much Patti! I so appreciate the kind feedback! But, know that every once in a while, I receive a message that is anything but kind. It always catches me by surprise too. In fact, sometimes I’ll think, “I bet I’m gonna get some flack for that.” And I don’t.

 

But, let’s jump into the classic and timeless home furnishings, because there’s a lot to cover.

 

I actually created a list on a separate notepad, so I wouldn’t forget anything. But of course, it’s inevitable to leave many things out. After all, I imagine that at some point, I’ll need to get some sleep. Therefore, any oversight is unintentional.

Okay, it is after midnight. (that was two hours ago as I’m doing a final edit) I’ve spent hours creating a super widget with captions.

So, what I think I’m going to do is lay out a few basic ideas for what constitutes classic and timeless home furnishings. Then, the widget with over 50 items, and then some other thoughts afterward.

 

Classic can mean different things in terms of home furnishings, but a great place to begin is with the origins of classic design.

 

And that is Greece and Rome. This is a really good post that explains a lot about that.

Anything that is created in that manner after that period is referred to as neo-classical. The hey-day of the neo-classical period was in the late 18th century into the early 19th century. There are different terms you’ll hear, such as

Louis XVI

Swedish Gustavian

Georgian

Adam

Chippendale

Hepplewhite, Sheraton

Directoire, Empire

 

All of these terms are part of the neo-classical period.

 

The furnishings were inspired by exotic lands in the east from Greece, to Egypt, India, China and Japan.

 

And, there was a new term coined called Chinoiserie which is probably mentioned to some degree or another in at least a third of the blog posts here. Chinoiserie was wildly popular in the late 18th century as it is now. This is much like the renewed popularity of composers like Mozart (click there if you’d like check out some gorgeous Mozart) who was also a part of the classical period concurrent with design.

 

Therefore, anything created in this period. OR a faithful contemporary reproduction is in my opinion timeless. And that includes all of the architectural elements of the period.

 

This time in history is the basis for all classical architecture and design.

There was a resurgence of the neo-classical style in the early 20th century. One of the finest examples of that period is the New York Public library at 42nd and 5th.

 

Laurel Bern Interiors-bronxville-dining-room - timeless and classic home furnishings

 

The Bronxville home I was privileged to get to work on was built around 1910 and also embodies the neo-classical style with it’s perfect proportions and classical design elements throughout.

 

Bronxville living room - pink sofa

 

 

Bronxville Entry - timeless and classic home furnishings

 

 

Sounds pretty simple. So, what’s the problem?

 

That is a very good question. Thank you for asking. ;]

The problem is that there are folks who are well-meaning, I’m sure (well, actually, I’m not sure) who design home furnishings. Sometimes it appears that they’ve just made up some weirdtastic thing. Other times it appears that they have taken the classical designs and either made something up, that should not be there; or, they took the basic idea and blew it up to be about 30% larger than it should be.

And/or, the proportions are bad.

 

In short, it’s wrong. It’s not in any way classical.

 

It’s Laurel’s favorite word to describe abominable furnishings?

Yes, ERSATZ.

Fake.

The thing is… A lot of people don’t realize that it’s wrong because there is a glut of bloated, badly proportioned, flabby furniture  prevalent in the marketplace.

In the widget, I’m including much furniture that is in the manner of the 18th century neo-classical style. None of it is that old, although many of these pieces are antiques. If you don’t already know, if a piece of furniture was not made in the precise time the original style was made, it is called Chippendale STYLE. Or, neo-classical STYLE.

Here’s the widget. This was a fun one to put together. Please click on any image if you’d like to find out more. Some of these are one-of-a-kind pieces and may not be available. But the sources may have other similar items.

 

 

 

As you can see there are elements that are heavily influenced by the neo-classical period of the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

 

 

 

And some modern classics such as the

 

 

50 + timeless & classic home furnishings

please pin to pinterest for reference

 

Well, I could’ve kept going. There are 100s of classic and timeless home furnishings. The idea of this exercise was to choose items that you won’t go in ten years: “ugh, what was I thinking?”

Of course, you don’t have to like this style. Or maybe you only want to incorporate a few things into your more modern or less formal style. And that, is absolutely fine.

xo,

 

PS: Please check out the newly updated hot sales!

 

5th edition rolodex-post-graphic - November 2018 - A unique shopping guide with hundreds of sources created by Laurel Bern

  • Carolina VG - June 25, 2019 - 3:42 PM

    Hello Laurel, your post is wonderful and enlightening!
    You always leave me wanting more!!!! ha ha
    What´s your favorite sofa for napping? I mean a stylish and elegant one, that would fit in a small living room. I do not mean chaises or recliners. But one with an ottoman or a banquette for rising your feet and then using the ottoman for another purpose. Does it has to be deeper than normal? or lower? Or with more angle at the back? with arms?
    I am sorry, but all of these questions are your fault! ha ha! You are opening my eyes to beauty, comfort and style! Thank you so much for that!!!!

    Love,
    CarolinaReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - June 26, 2019 - 1:04 PM

      Hi Carolina,

      There are several that could fit the bill. I’m sorry. My sleeping hasn’t been going too well recently, so I’m not operating on all cylinders today.ReplyCancel

  • Charlene Sjodin - June 24, 2019 - 3:35 PM

    Dear Laurel,
    I was so happy to see the title of this post! I often attend estate sales throughout Chicago’s north shore searching for classic pieces, so your post will be a great reference guide on what to look for. Feel free to post another 50 items the next time you’re out of ideas on what to write, ;). And I just ordered the 9×12 seagrass rug from OKL. Can’t wait for it to arrive. Thanks again!ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - June 25, 2019 - 1:22 AM

      You’re welcome! And, I could’ve easily done another 50 or even 500 items!ReplyCancel

  • Mary E - June 21, 2019 - 3:12 PM

    Hi Laurel,
    What are your thought on the Saarinen Tulip Table? Do you consider it a classic?ReplyCancel

  • Kate - June 20, 2019 - 8:08 PM

    Wow! And you were stuck on an idea to write about? That was GREAT!ReplyCancel

  • Carolina VG - June 20, 2019 - 11:10 AM

    Great post!!!!
    I own several pieces that fall into these styles and would like to paint some of them because they are all dark brown. Is there a style that suits better to be painted? Like Swedish?
    I also think that the birthday is for both!
    Thank you!!!ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - June 21, 2019 - 2:28 AM

      Well, that’s not an easy question to answer. But yes, Gustavian furniture is almost always painted. And it mixes with stained pieces too. If you look at Loi Thai’s blog Tone on Tone, you’ll see what I mean.ReplyCancel

  • Maureen - June 20, 2019 - 1:31 AM

    Thank you so much, Laurel! This information helps me so much. I usually know I like a room but I’m not sure why if that makes sense. This definitely makes it simpler!ReplyCancel

  • Brooke Goforth - June 20, 2019 - 1:03 AM

    Absolutely salivating over this issue sitting in my 1929 800 sq ft Sears catalog home in Sacramento CA. So gaga over anything this-or deco period.
    Thank you for the brain vacation to paradise!ReplyCancel

  • Parnassus - June 19, 2019 - 11:36 PM

    Hello Laurel, I think the best way to recognize classical and elegant is not through a list of rules, but by looking at lots of photographs and actual pieces, especially those vetted by trusted sources such as your blog. I also recommend “Fine Points of Furniture” by Albert Sack, which shows similar pieces of furniture rated good to best, allowing the reader to develop an eye.
    –JimReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - June 20, 2019 - 1:49 AM

      Thanks so much Jim. I’ll have to look into that book. It sounds fabulous! I’ve had fantasies about designing furniture for the last 23 years, at least!ReplyCancel

  • Melinda Bahr - June 19, 2019 - 8:26 PM

    Dear Laurel;

    Thanks so much for this post! I’m trying to teach my twenty-something daughter about the importance of buying quality, classic furnishings.
    Mostly she is very receptive, but we have one argument; I have 2 cloisonne candlestick lamps which I adore and think are classic and a work of art. She claims they are just outdated. Don’t you think cloisonne is classic. I do!

    MindyReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - June 19, 2019 - 8:53 PM

      Hi Mindy,

      That is a very good question. Cloisonne is definitely classic and a work of art. However, I can see how it might not be everyone’s taste. And that goes for everything I posted. So, in this case, I would say that you’re both right.ReplyCancel

  • Melissa - June 19, 2019 - 6:34 PM

    Dear Laurel,

    Patti is fortunate to have found you right away. Your blog is such a positive light for me on the days it shows up in my inbox. I love your insights and advice, as well as the obvious effort you put into finding just the right photo to illustrate your always well-made point. As a lover of color and antiques, I am always happy to see another well-written, gracious, and humorous post. Thank you.ReplyCancel

  • Ann Dwelle - June 19, 2019 - 2:27 PM

    Dear Laurel,
    We recently moved and I’m still working on the living room layout. Currently, we are using 2 outdoor swivel rockers across from our couch. The funny thing is that they actually look great in the room and are super for conversation! I’m looking for something that will be more comfortable seating for watching a movie or etc. but everything is either ugly, weirdly proportioned, or way out of my price range. So I’ll be a good girl and wait until I find something of which you would approve!
    PS: I followed your blog while redecorating our former home. It sold for top dollar within a month with multiple backup contracts!ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - June 19, 2019 - 3:10 PM

      Hi Ann,

      I love hearing stories like that with your home sale! It sounds like you have a great eye!ReplyCancel

  • Michael - June 19, 2019 - 1:58 PM

    Dear Laurel,
    Just wanted you to know that I love your blog, and consider you to be a voice of great reason, taste, and humor that I appreciate to no end. I am a Parson’s graduate and retired teacher, and can’t tell you how often I tried to impart to my students the same concepts you describe about good taste vis à vis visual literacy. Had I known of your blog then, I would have made you required reading. Anyway, thank you so much. Keep up the good work !!
    Always a fan,
    MichaelReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - June 19, 2019 - 3:08 PM

      Hi Michael,

      Well, that just made my day! Thank you so much! I went to NYSID.ReplyCancel

  • Shari - June 19, 2019 - 1:12 PM

    Having been a designer for 40+years, I have seen a lot of styles come & go, and come & go again. My children have accused me of having “old lady” taste…well, I am an old lady but that’s beside the point. I was happy to see your list of 50 timeless furnishings and noted that we own at least 20 of them. We are about to build a new home and although the style will be a lot more casual, most of those things will go with us. Classic never goes out of style!

    BTW, I love your blog and your wicked sense of humor!ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - June 19, 2019 - 3:07 PM

      Thanks so much Shari! It’s funny, well, to me anyway. But I’m pretty sure that I could build a room with 20 of those elements and make it look quite modern– well, not at all “old lady” even though, I guess since I now qualify for social security, that makes me old too? hmmmm… hmmmm… Is that a challenge? lolReplyCancel

  • carol - June 19, 2019 - 11:28 AM

    Totally off-topic, but … I’ve been noticing funny little things in a few of your posts’ photos recently. Like the tiny thing under the table in the first picture in this post. I’m convinced it’s a toy mouse—the kind my cats love to play with.

    One or two posts back there was what appeared to be a large cut glass bowl on the floor between a sideboard and a chair in a dining room. I immediately assumed that the family must have a dog. Though it would be an awfully fancy water bowl, and a strange place for it. (I must have pets on the brain.)

    I love your blog posts. Finding these odd things makes me love them even more!ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - June 19, 2019 - 11:37 AM

      Hi Carol,

      Thanks so much! I believe in the first image, that’s a floor outlet that was there before we did the room. When my kids were little, there were often things on the floor that one wouldn’t expect to find. haha!ReplyCancel

  • lisa ruddick - June 19, 2019 - 11:23 AM

    Hi Laurel–just a note for whenever you’re having one of those days when you don’t know at first what you’re going to write about: I’ve LOVED past posts in which you go into some design principle you learned from your teachers, and/or give a little design history lesson with beautiful images. If you still have your notes from design school, you might just open them somewhere–on those days when you’re looking for inspiration–and take us back to what you learned. Unrelated note: when I was remodeling my kitchen three years ago, your blog was my bible. Down to the choice of drawer pulls, my kitchen is a classic Laurel Bern kitchen. Now that I’m selling my house, agents say it’s perfect–it’s what everyone wants, and yet it goes beautifully with my 1890s house. THANK YOU! –LisaReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - June 19, 2019 - 11:31 AM

      Hi Lisa,

      You know, I don’t have any of that anymore. But, I studied art history in my teens and then there was over-lap in design school. And, we had to put together this giant scrap book. I can’t tell you how many cans of rubber cement I went through! Sounds so quaint now as everything’s virtual now.

      However, most blog posts are infused with what I learned in school, but most of what I know, I learned first working for a decorator for four years and then after I began my business in 1996. My kids were six and one back then!

      I bet that your home is gorgeous! And so glad that my posts were helpful for you!ReplyCancel

  • Carol Freeman - June 19, 2019 - 10:36 AM

    Thank you Laurel for another beautiful tutorial. Your post seems so simple, but of course you worked hours to make it look that way. I appreciate your wisdom in all of the confusion of “what YOU need to buy now” promotions.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - June 19, 2019 - 11:16 AM

      Hi Carol,

      Aka: “the hottest design trends.” Eyes rolling. Of course, some of those hot trends are enduring classics. And some are bastardizations of classics.ReplyCancel

  • Carol - June 19, 2019 - 10:29 AM

    Fabulous, helpful, educational and entertaining – as always. Thank you, Laurel.ReplyCancel

  • susie - June 19, 2019 - 9:58 AM

    I have always loved Swedish Gustavian…the style, the colors, etc. I’d love to have a Moda clock. On my wish list when I win the lottery, right after a new kitchen countertop!! Happy summer solstice,everyone!!ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - June 19, 2019 - 11:12 AM

      Hi Susie,

      I love Swedish Gustavian too! And love mixing in those pieces or pieces in the manner of, I should say.ReplyCancel

  • Pamela Dunn - June 19, 2019 - 9:57 AM

    Laurel…again you have me saying Ahhh…love that piece, love that piece, and on and on. Thank you for the post, I will definitely refer to it as I update the DR/LR.
    Hope you get a nap! And Happy Birth day ! I tell my (adult) girls the story of the day they were born on their birthdays…they just love that..Ha!

    Best, Pam DunnReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - June 19, 2019 - 11:11 AM

      Hi Pamela,

      It’s true. I never thought about it until I had kids, but their birthday is my birth day too! I’ll never forget with son #1 being wheeled into the delivery room and thinking, “Well, this is it. I’m about to become a mamma!”ReplyCancel

  • Elizabeth Gregory - June 19, 2019 - 9:42 AM

    When I look at bad furniture, it always seems to either be too big overall, the elements are too thick or the whole thing has too much detail. That seems to be a particularly American problem. It applies to our diet, too. It is sad when I see it in posts where a reader is looking for help, because the help they almost never want is “start over with your furniture that you just bought and probably spent a lot of money on.” You are always diplomatic, and when they have everything else right in a room, maybe they will have developed the eye to see what is wrong, and can replace it, hopefully after the young children have grown enough to not destroy the nicer things. I have noticed, however, that kids who are raised with bad furniture do not have the fear of white rings on wood that is instilled in kids who have grown up with good furniture. You can spot that distinction at any party, as soon as someone sets down a dish or a drink without a trivet or coaster. The kids who came from good furniture lift the dish/glass up immediately.ReplyCancel

  • Val from UK - June 19, 2019 - 7:50 AM

    Laurel, that was a great post! All your posts are very informative, but this one summarized them. I am not a designer and knew nothing about architectural or design styles until I started reading your blog. Very educational. Thank you so much!ReplyCancel

  • Val - June 19, 2019 - 6:47 AM

    Superb post! Honestly, I come back to your blog every day. And I want to read, read, read it. I’m dreaming that you would do design online school one day. And I would never ever sleep during your classes. I’m a bit selfish here, I guess you’re a bit tired from 24/7 questions already. But you’re amazing – what can I do?ReplyCancel

  • Pat - June 19, 2019 - 6:09 AM

    Hi Laurel,
    I love those lamps with the pierced porcelain. Are they Blanc de Chine?ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - June 19, 2019 - 11:05 AM

      Hi Pat,

      I suppose they would fall under that category, but mostly, as I understand it blanc de chine is more sculptural. I did look it up and there are some lamps that are pierced but they also have a relief of flowers on them usually. Very beautiful!ReplyCancel

  • Korina Ann Trew - June 19, 2019 - 4:36 AM

    Hi! Great post as usual! Any chance you could do a post on swedish gustavian, specifically with links to some good furniture. Apparently the old farmhouse we bought was originally owned by swedish people and I am pretty sure they are are haunting me. As in, whispering sweet things in my ear about white floors and bright cheerful rooms.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - June 19, 2019 - 10:54 AM

      Hi Korina,

      Well, the only thing I can link to are repros and some of what I have in the hot sales fall under that category. I used to be able to link to Wisteria who have a number of Gustavian-esque pieces, but pulled out of the program. Aside from that, it’s slim pickin’s.ReplyCancel

  • Runningonempty - June 19, 2019 - 3:54 AM

    I’m a classic. Just wait a week without shampooing and I have the Grease 😉

    Plus my daughter called me old in my thirties 😲ReplyCancel

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