How to create a timeless interior: Tips from 20 designers
- By: Ashley Saunders
- April 2021
Even if you’re an aspiring interior designer, who spends hours scrolling on Instagram, you’ll likely still want to create a timeless interior design that will still look fantastic in five years, albeit with a few adjustments.
With the big picture complete, you’re able to spend time, effort and money experimenting with smaller details. Whether that’s arranging family photos, styling shelves for the season or finding the ideal spot for your latest piece of art.
That said, creating a timeless interior is no easy feat. So with the help of our good friend Minuca Elena, we’ve reached out to some of our favourite interior designers and architects from around the globe.
We asked them a simple question:
What is your best advice for furnishing a home with a timeless look?
What’s impressive is that our experts didn’t hold back! There’s some magic, along with great advice and tips, and a healthy dose of good old inspiration! So grab a coffee, sit back and enjoy!
For me, it’s about choosing furniture and furnishings that manage to look enduring as well as on-trend and with this in mind, it’s Mid-Century Modern all the way. Specifically anything designed in the years 1947-57 to me, manages to blend classic and contemporary style beautifully.
It’s curvy, clean-lined, simple, sophisticated and seems to complement today’s patterns, prints and pops of colour wonderfully. It’s a ’trend’ that’s here to stay for sure. Think sofas, armchairs, sideboards, dining tables and chairs from the era and team with your preferred style of Scandi or Industrial to bring it bang up to date.
If budget won’t allow for original pieces, there are plenty of reproductions that look just as good but won’t break the bank. Try Andrew Martin, Oak Furnitureland, Maisons du Monde, Perch & Parrow, La Redoute and Dunelm.
If you want the real deal, you can always invest in original items and build up a collection over the years to come.
Hayley Gilbert //
“They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.” Andy Warhol
Creating a timeless look requires exercising restraint to the latest trends. It can be the colour of the year, the one ethnic style or the singular wood choice for the season. I refer to it as “a moment in time”.
All the choices need to be considered mindfully. Just put yourself in a time machine and ask one question “Will I love this in 5 or 10 years”?
The first step is to articulate the need and define the function. An interior is timeless for one reason and one reason alone. It has survived the test of TIME. Foremost is the decision to invest in quality when you are purchasing, in order to insure longevity.
Design is subjective, emotional, sensual and always a process of discovery. It begins with creating a collage of materials, fabrics, furniture, art and key elements. A timeless look always includes a reference to history.
A marble black and white floor is timeless. An Eames chair is timeless. A French period sofa is timeless. The magic is created in how you combine these diverse elements.
Follow my one steadfast rule, LOVE and I mean absolutely LOVE every piece in your home and remember to always mix old and new to keep life interesting. Design should always bring out the best in how we live, work and play.
Kim Depole //
- Buy the best you can afford, that way your pieces will always look amazing for years on end. The cheaper the sofa, the sooner it is going to look worn in and tired.
- Start with a neutral palette for the largest workhorse items in a room. It is so much easier to incorporate the current trends in smaller accents versus larger furnishings, unless of course you really love them.
- Add original artwork to walls, layer your lighting in a room and ground each space with area rugs.
- Create a welcoming entry that tells the story of your home. It can be as simple as a gorgeous mat at the door, a console placed under a mirror and a vase of your favourite fresh flowers. Add a bench, some decorative hooks and a character umbrella stand for interest and appeal.
- Select natural materials like marble, wood and stone. They speak to classic architecture & interiors and will never go out of style
- Think about symmetry, balance and proportion in your home. These few design principals whether applied to a colour palette or a grouping of furnishings, will guide you seamlessly into a luxuriously liveable space.
Ana Cummings //
So much of what is pushed in interior design today is the latest trends, the newest thing, the best way to save a buck. And all of that has a place of importance but lost in the disguise of those shelter magazine topics is investing in quality.
This is your home, it’s the one place in the world that represents who you are and who you hope your loved ones will become. So, you want to ensure that what you fill it with lives up to the standards you’ve set for yourself.
- Do the things you buy and bring into your home have meaning to you?
- Are they made with the same values you have in life?
- Do they represent your beliefs?
When you approach furnishing your home with this type of intentionality a timeless look naturally occurs because it’s who you are.
Your likes are going to change over time but your values they’re timeless and you want your home to have meaning.
John Monte //
When furnishing your home with a timeless look it is important to avoid jumping on the bandwagon of the latest trends and replicating exactly what you see in magazines.
Instead, choose items to incorporate into your home that fill you with joy, evoke memories, capture your personal sense of style and reflect your personality. If you fill your home with pieces that really mean something to you, they won’t ever go out of style or become dated.
Remember, you are designing your home for you, nobody else, so choose pieces that are timeless for you and that you won’t go off within a season or two.
Stacey Sheppard //
A timeless look means to survive over time and that stands for the sturdiness of materials and techniques used. And that doesn’t mean neglecting options like flat-pack furniture. Just enhance it! Put it together by using extra brackets, extra glue, nails, or anything else to make it last longer!
Personally, for me, timeless means heavy-duty and minimalistic. No matter the style of interior you want, having less will always look more, not to mention cleaner designs being far less tiring, too.
The next layer of surviving time is all about being sustainable and eco-friendly with the materials and brands you use. Many companies have shifted to recycling and self-sourcing materials, which is something I myself highly value.
Dmitri Kara //
I often tell my clients that my design philosophy for furnishing a home for a timeless look consists of a careful balance between functional, beautiful, and cost-conscious design solutions and styling throughout the home. A good timeless design is thoughtful and intentional. When you design with intent everything falls into place.
When furnishing a home reflect on your personal style and life. Is there kids in the home? Are you more eclectic or contemporary? Then go from there.
Here are some things to consider: a timeless home has a healthy mix of neutrals and colour. Try to combine antiques with modern pieces. Try create elements in your home that introduce scale and drama will create a timeless look.
My only hard and fast rule for furnishing a home for a timeless look is in regard to art. I always advise my clients, “if you love it, if it speaks to you, get it!” Art is personal and timeless.
Jessica Davis //
A timeless home is not a beautiful, lifeless furniture showroom, but a comfortable space you enjoy spending time in. To achieve this you must draw together 4 distinct but integral parts of human behaviour; Intentional, Emotional, Intellectual and Physical.
Having a purposeful design makes sure that every part of your project has been thought through and that the result of the design is beautiful and specific to the users needs:
• Dive deep into the problem and purpose
• Considering the long-term effects of design decisions
• Choose the best option over the consensus option
• Focus intentionally on craftsmanship and quality
Our senses play a vital role in how we responds to the world around us. It is not only the physical aspects of an object, person or place that makes them attractive to us. It is the essence that we perceive, the emotions that are triggered in us. Beauty is all about feelings. When we see something beautiful, we feel alive:
• Considering the colour that may trigger a memory
• Harnessing tactility and acoustics within your space for comfort
A functional interior is a space where you can comfortably perform the most significant actions. In each design the needs of real humans are at the centre of everything and the objective is to understand the underlying needs and behaviours and the rationale behind them:
• Consider daily routines
• Activities to be performed
• Storage requirements
Layout and composition play a major role in creating a timeless interior. A timeless interior maintains the balance between all furniture pieces and décor elements. The most important elements and principals of design you must pay particular attention to are:
Timeless design cannot exist without thoughtful intention, consideration of emotional responses to a space, intellectually understanding the functional requirement and integrating design elements and principals into all design decisions.
Your ideal home is not a showroom, where furniture exists with a sole purpose to please people’s eyes but one that captures the need, personality and essence of the people that live within it.
Diane Fernandes //
The best advice for furnishing a home with a timeless look is to ask this simple question: “will you still love it in 10 years or more?” You’ll want your investment to stand the test of time with quality and style.
Classic style with clean lines and typically neutral colours tend to offer enduring style. This is why you see a resurgence in Mid-Century styled furniture in the marketplace and classified as “modern.”
Furniture arrangements that create symmetry and balance in a room are also timeless.
For instance, placing a classic, clean-lined sofa as the focal point between two complementing chairs facing one another with a large table centred among all three and two smaller tables on either side of the sofa, creates a practical conversation grouping. It is functional, balanced, attractive.
This layout can be rearranged in many ways for other purposes. The two chairs could perhaps be used at a dining room table, so think versatility when purchasing. Add lamps and lighting where needed for ambiance and function.
Use pops of colour in pillows, curtains, and smaller accessories to add interest. Personalize to create a comfortable and appealing look with removable and reusable wall-covering as wall art to draw interest back to your focal point.
Ashley Spencer //
Trademarks of timeless style include elegant furnishings with simple decor and moderate architectural detail. It is the simplicity of the decor and clean lines that give a space a timeless look.
Walls are typically painted neutral colours, while artwork and accessories can incorporate more vibrant colours and patterns.
Woods in extreme tones from light to dark add drama to the metal accents whether they are in stainless steel, nickel or chrome. Built in cabinetry is also a feature of timeless style that always looks clean and smart.
Both wood and marble are great flooring materials for a timeless space, while window coverings with valances and panels create a warm, classic look. Track lighting or a floor lamp with sleek straight lines help to create an elegant atmosphere.
Remember that less is more when creating a timeless style, so don’t be afraid to blend old with new to create a look that will endure the test of time.
Josie Abate //
To achieve a timeless look in your home, work in old pieces with your new furnishings. For my clients, I am strategic in choosing what will be purchased new, what existing pieces we’ll retain, and what we’ll source from vintage and antique stores.
Adding in vintage furnishings or décor is a great way to create a layered look that transcends trends. Another way to be more timeless is to mix styles.
If you love Mid-century modern style, this is of course a great opportunity to find genuine MCM pieces, but avoid the time warp by throwing in something unexpected like a traditional claw-foot wing-backed chair upholstered in a fabulous print. Avoid the trends.
There are certain looks that are time stamps to a particular year or that everyone is going crazy for. You’ll get sick of them along with everyone else. The green velvet sofa with a Moroccan shag rug looks great, but it’s definitely going to have an expiration date since so many people have that exact same look.
In the same vein ignore the lists that say something is out of style. That earns a big eye roll from me as inevitably classics are on the list that will never go out of style.
Don’t be afraid to incorporate a lot of colour into your space. Many times people save the colour for the trendy décor that they can cycle through, however if you start with a broad aesthetically pleasing pallet from the start, you’ll have no need for cycling through anything.
And finally, pay attention to the houses in the movies you’re watching. Particularly older movies. What still feels as fresh today as it did in the film? Those are elements to incorporate into your space.
Rebecca Rowland //
When furnishing home with a timeless look – we would advise to focus on statement pieces! A statement piece – is the item people notice first about your home decor.
It is most commonly a piece of art – such as sculpture, vase, or a bowl. But it can also be something a little more luxurious, unique or quirky, like an architectural teapot or a genuine shagreen box for example.
It is true it might take some skills, but honestly – with just a bit of thought, planning and a touch of creative flair; any item in your personal collection, however small or inexpensive, can also go from a yawn to a massive “YES”.
But remember! Statement pieces deserve special attention – put them in a place of honour in order to make a major statement. For such display, you’ll want everything to be perfect: the location, the light and the décor.
Give the work of art enough room around and the surface space to have its full effect, which applies equally to small and large pieces. The statement piece will be an absolute stunner even in small rooms or a niche.
Natan Abalos //
My best advice for anyone wishing to furnish their home with a timeless look is to ensure every item chosen has a balance of comfort, sophistication and functionality.
First start with a neutral colour palette in various shades which will create depth to the space. Next, add interest to the space by adding multiple textures and/or subtle patterns into the wall finishes and soft furnishings.
Timeless style doesn’t always need to mean minimal colour. Colour can be added into smaller elements of the room such as cushions, rugs and accessories but I would recommend either deeper or muted tones rather bright and bold.
For furniture, always choose good quality pieces that can also provide adequate storage solutions to keep the space free from any clutter – being useful as well as beautiful is a key feature for creating a timeless look.
Always create a strong focal point in the space, this could be a fireplace, a view or even artwork. Planning your furniture placement for comfort and functionality is another key element for ensuring the space has been planned for longevity.
And the last detail I would advise is to add symmetry into the room. This completes a timeless look by providing balance to the space whilst being pleasing and relaxing to the eye.
Michelle McLean //
Creating a look for your home that endures the test of time can be difficult but is not impossible. My advice would be to resist current trends and begin by channelling your focus on modest, yet refined furniture. Homeowners should craft inspiration from current styles but avoid investing in costly, long-term items that are soon to be seen as ‘last season’.
Neutral colour palettes and natural materials have a long-lasting presence in interior design and are a must when creating a timeless interior. Neutral tones and natural material will generate a feeling of comfort to your home and allow you to effortlessly modernise your space with ‘on-trend’ pieces that are easily interchangeable, such as artwork or cushions.
Don’t be afraid to blend old with new. Combining classic and modern style will create a unique and cultured feel to your home. Timeless decorating doesn’t mean you cannot embrace today’s trends, but rather that your design choices should not be based on a current style.
Creating a timeless look doesn’t have to be a dull experience that lacks creativity. It is about making design decisions that allow you to embrace evolving trends and adapt to your lifestyle.
Veronica Sparagis //
When creating a timeless look, there is not just one answer to fit all. First, start by considering the building. What is the building telling you? In what style or in what period was this building built? Is there anything you can use from the style in your home?
For example, filling a hundred-year-old cottage with glass and chrome will never look/feel good no matter how “timeless” it could be.
So, always work from outside to inside.
When you make a decision about the basic style and feeling you are about to create, focus on creating a real timeless look.
What is always timeless is good quality and great design. Natural materials, simple neutral colour schemes and absolutely decluttered space will always achieve this. You can incorporate modern art to show your personality or mix traditional styles with more contemporary pieces.
Always keep an eye on symmetry and having the right proportions in your room in order to create a space that is visually pleasing, but also one you can easily use as it is fully functional.
Never create just a ‘pretty’ space filled with trendy decor. Of course, you can use trendy decorations which can be changed with the season just to keep the space nice and fresh, but these pieces shouldn’t overwhelm the whole room.
Julie Rawding //
When I think of a timeless home or when I’m designing a space that I hope to be timeless, I immediately think of the colour palette. I recommend sticking to a neutral colour palette that can serve as a classic foundation for your home.
Think beige linen sofas, a black armchair, or a jute rug. These pieces will ground your room and make it feel high-end because of the neutral colour palette. I also recommend adding in warmth through wood tones, gold finishes, or organic textures because a room that has depth and texture is always timeless.
Adding unique pieces like vintage furniture, a beautiful piece of art or a statement light fixture will add personality in a way that feels timeless to you. Another way I ensure a home feels timeless is by balancing new with old.
If you have a home that feels like it’s stuck in a specific time period, it won’t feel timeless. Have an even balance of pieces that are new and that are vintage or antique. Your home will transcend time and feel like a perfectly curated space.
My last tip is to keep a classic foundation of large furniture pieces like a sofa, bed, or dining table and add in trends through your pillows, artwork, and decor. The focus will be on the larger, timeless pieces in your home and you can incorporate trendier elements through decor that can easily be switched out.
Cassandra Schinkel //
My best advice for furnishing a home with a timeless look, is to incorporate neutral colours for curtains, sofas, and carpets. By using wooden flooring where you can, you can make a space durable and low maintenance.
If you are going to use strong colours, ensure this is focused in a specific area of the house, i.e. study room, maybe an olive green or velvet red, a cinema room, maybe a cool grey.
In addition, I would really encourage beautiful green plants which when positioned intuitively, can distinguish between spaces and add life and nature to the room.
There is a wide range to select from, so this can be completely within your particular styles!
Simone de Gale //
To us, a look that is truly timeless is one that you continue to love, year in and year out. One that remains ‘in style’ with the changing trends of each new season, and continues to stand strong with the flow of life.
Start out with the bones of the room; the staple pieces that create the foundation for other features to come. These can be the more obvious items such as a dining table and lounge sofa, but also include the more subtle elements such as a window treatment and built in overhead lighting.
Investing in quality and durability creates flexibility and freedom for creative flair with styling accents, such as cushions, artwork and decorative trinkets
The use of different colours, materials and textures set the mood of a space; rich velvets create an air of elegant luxury, while crisp linens create an earthy organic feel.
Consider the look you want to achieve with the whole space, not just within each nook or surface, balance and cohesion come hand in hand. A truly timeless look is created with careful attention to quality and functionality, creating special value in your home. Make your home your sanctuary.
Gabrielle Sherwood //
To design a timeless look in your home the first thing to consider is the furniture style. For Traditional style use simple classic lines, some examples are Neoclassic Directoire style or Biedermeier, avoid overly carved or ornate details on your furniture.
If you love ornate use it on smaller pieces like a side table and art or mirror frames but not for your large investment furniture pieces.
If modern or contemporary is your thing, clean contemporary lines never go out of style along with Scandinavian or Mid Century Modern furniture. If you are unsure of your décor style, let your homes architectural style be your guide.
Whichever style speaks to you keep your overall pallet neutral or use lighter hues such as beige, grey, soft pink or sage green, then you will not fall prey to the colour trends. You can go bolder on the art work and accent pieces where you can also add some fun pattern.
You should carefully select the larger furniture pieces sofas, dining table and chairs because these are the most expensive items and you will not want to need to replace them too soon because they are out of style.
Some timeless wood finish colours are natural birch and natural or dark walnut. Purchase good quality furniture which can be recovered or refinished later and help reduce landfill waste.
Robbie Maynard //
The best spatial strategy for furnishing a home with a timeless look is to keep things simple and neutral. Timeless design is quietly understated and sophisticated.
Choose colours such as a greys, beiges and whites to create a blank canvas for the placement of artwork, furniture and keepsakes. The use of natural materials such as stone, wood and other organic fibres is also a great way to connect the inside with the outside through nature.
Most importantly, it is paramount to create clean lines with inviting, open spaces. Reduce clutter and the temptation to fill every open shelf and surface.
Be careful when selecting furniture to ensure it meets the scale of the space. I always tell my clients that they should leave, “Room to Bloom.” It tells the universe that you are still open to the possibilities of new opportunities and experiences.
Amy Bloomer, MA Organizational Psychology, Columbia University //
Use these tips and insights to create a timeless interior
As there’s plenty of magic to digest, I’ve attempted to pull out the key themes and ideas.
Do you LOVE it?
If you love a piece of furniture, a colour, artwork now, then you’ll probably still love it in 5 years.
Use natural material, where possible as they stand the test of time and become even more beautiful with age.
Balance and symmetry
Our eyes are drawn to symmetry and balance as it feels complete. It’s the reason Greek architecture is still influencing us thousands of years later.
Use colours intentionally
A problem with trends is there are over between you can even apply them! Consider using neutrals for the background and use colourful accessories to add interest and personality.
Mix and match
Consider adding some antiques (even faux antiques) to balance out a more modern style. Doing so adds an air of sophistication and timelessness.
Most importantly, be bold. It’s your home after all. Ignore the crowd, the trends and the so-called influencers. Instead, do you. Stick to what you love and what sparks joy!