Today's Southern décor features many of the same elements of its historic predecessors: deep wood furnishings, subdued color palettes, and classical styling. Photo: Broyhill Furniture.
Authentic Southern décor is on display today at locations like Middleton Place in Charleston, SC, where history has been painstakingly preserved. This photo shows an interior room typical of the 1755 time periord. Photo: Middleton Place Foundation.
Soft, soothing colors like those seen here in a bedroom in the restored gentleman's quarters at the Middleton Place plantation museum and gardens in SC, are typical of traditional Southern décor. Photo: Middleton Place Foundation.
Many of the traditional décor elements used today trace back to historic beginnings. The canopy poster bed, toile fabrics and hardwood flooring are elements that date back to the 1700s as shown here in a restored room at Middleton Place, SC. Photo: Middleton Place Foundation.
Historic Paint Palettes
If you’re looking for an authentic look for your wall colors, there are a number of historic paint palettes available. Consider Duron’s “Colors of Historic Charleston” collection, the “Mount Vernon Estate of Colours” collection from finepaintsofeurope.com, Valspar’s “National Trust for Historic Preservation” collection, Benjamin Moore’s “Historical Colors” collection, the “Williamsburg” collection from Pratt & Lambert, or the “Classical/Colonial” collection from Sherwin Williams.
Fans of Southern décor will be interested to know more about the special shade of green/black paint called “Charleston green.” Its origins date back to the end of the Civil War when Union relief donated large quantities of black paint to aid in repairing the massive damages sustained during the conflict. Locals took exception to the color—which served as a reminder of funereal proceedings and loss—and modified it by adding yellow and green paint. The resulting shade of dark green/almost black is still popular with Lowcountry designers and can be seen throughout historic Charleston.
Classic Southern Style
How to infuse your home with the essence of traditional Southern décor.
- by Trisha McBride Ferguson
Charleston, Savannah, Atlanta, Williamsburg—there’s an unmistakable look classic historic homes in these great cities have, and it’s the perfect source of inspiration. Here are some essentials to help you add a dash of traditional southern style to your home.
Capture the Colors
The signature look of a Southern-inspired home relies heavily on its color palette. From wall colors and textiles to flooring and furniture finishes—color sets the tone and mood of the interior. In wood finishes, traditional cherry and mahogany finishes dominate. While no one paint color fits all, shades commonly seen in signature southern décor include: antique white, cream, navy blue, delft blue, gray, peach, rose, tan, brick red, gold and billiard green. Today’s paint manufacturers offer historic paint collections that make matching these color palettes easy.
Highlight the Architecture
Traditional Southern décor highlights and accentuates the architecture of a house. While every home can’t boast 12-foot ceilings, there’s always something to accentuate. You can draw attention to your doorways and ceilings by adding trim moulding. Drapery panels and window treatments draw the eye to windows, while the precise placement of artwork and accessories make the fireplace a focal point.
Make Old New Again
Traditional doesn’t have to mean dull and aged or formal and fussy. Within a classic framework you can update your heirloom or antique furnishings to fit your lifestyle. Reupholster your heirloom sofa with a stunning new fabric or enliven an old side table or bureau with a fresh coat of paint. Truly classic furnishings evolve with your décor (and your taste) throughout your life.
Bring the Outside In
Magnolia blossoms, roses, dogwood blooms, azaleas and Spanish moss-filled oak trees are common themes in southern décor. Choose artwork that highlights these botanicals or fill your rooms with floral arrangements (fresh or artificial) in classic vases and urns. You’ll also see these motifs frequently in wallpapers and fabrics.
Sweat the Details
As your eye sweeps over your room, where does it stop? If it’s a color or shape that seems out of place—start rearranging. Classic Southern décor doesn’t have a haphazard, thrown-together vibe. Instead it’s a more intentional balance of design concepts such as color, light, shape, scale and texture.
Refine Your Selections
Overcrowded is not the look you’re trying to achieve. Instead, you want everything to appear as though it was carefully and thoughtfully chosen. Take a look at areas in your home that collect clutter—like your tabletops, mantle and dressers. Evaluate all the pieces displayed and choose one thing you don’t love and remove. You can repurpose it in another room, or find it a new home altogether.
Highlight Your Own History
Traditional Southern décor is inspired by history—yours as much as anyone’s. Replicate the look of antique framed portraits by choosing your favorite family photos and have them printed in sepia tones; then frame in classic dark wood frames. Or, have a portrait of your children or pet output onto an oversized canvas and surround with a classic frame. Old family documents, maps and pages from treasured books are perfect for framing as well.