As an interior decorator, one of the most often asked questions about home interior decor is, “Does my interior design style have to match my home’s architectural style?” The answer is yes…and no. Let me explain.

Exterior architecture is what first attracts you to a place. It acts as an introduction to your design taste and preferences, hinting to how you want your space to feel. However, the type of home style you like may not relate completely to your favorite furniture style. For example, if you grew up in a traditional, colonial home, you might be drawn to that kind of architecture. You love the brick exterior, the columns flanking the front door, the double-hung windows, and the crown molding inside. Yet, you’re not a huge fan of 18th Century furniture typically found in these homes. You like some pieces, of course, like the treasured antique cherry china cabinet (18th Century British) and oval-back occasional chairs (18th Century French) you inherited. But, you prefer the curved and comfy lines of contemporary upholstered furniture, bold patterns, and brighter colors. So, how do you blend seemingly opposite styles?

Use Shape and Color to Create a Smooth Transition

Here are some ideas for a smooth transition from outside to inside:

  • Select contemporary furniture shapes and design elements that give nods to the expected furniture period. For example, pick a sofa with an arm choice that is a rolled arm, but go with a flatter panel version (contemporary), rather than a highly pleated version (traditional). Add toss pillow accents with bright colors and stylized patterns.
    throw pillows on a sofa
    Stylized patterns and bold colors introduce contemporary style.


  • Re-cover the oval-back, Louis XVI chairs, but choose a contemporary fabric with a geometric print and bold color. Select a traditionally shaped coffee table, but paint it a high-gloss contemporary accent color.
    traditional coffee table
    Coffee table with 18th Century traditional curved legs boasts a new look painted a bright, glossy color.


  • Pick contemporary wood side tables in a coordinating mahogany finish, similar to the finish of the antiques.
  • Retain the interior crown molding and hard wood floors to pay homage to the exterior architecture. Pick wall paint colors that are more contemporary, like indigo blues and stem greens.

While I’m using specific examples of one architectural / decor combination, these ideas apply when merging other combinations. Create harmony with shape, color and finish that reference both style periods. Remember, interior design does not have to match, but should complement your home’s architecture.

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