How to Decorate a Colonial Home

How to Decorate a Colonial Home

Simplicity with rich details are the hallmark of this classic American style

By Sylvia Cochran

Colonial Style Wingback Chairs in Living Room
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American Colonial design stems from 17th century Britain. It includes style elements from the period 1600 to 1800 that focused heavily on elegance that was both simple in design and rich in workmanship and material selection. Furniture choices--such as high chests, drop-leaf dining room tables, side tables and closable writing desks--had to be functional as well as long-lasting.

  • What You Need to Know
  • Choose neutral paints for walls and ceilings and bold or muted natural colors for trim and accent pieces.
  • Visit your local library for a few pictorial books depicting Colonial life or check your local newstand for magazines that cover Colonial home styles.

Step 1:

Choose a room to begin your decoration project. Sketch changes in furniture setup onto a pad. Remove pieces that clash with Colonial style, keeping such elements as molding, wrought-iron plant hooks or painted window framing.

Step 2:

De-clutter your home by placing superfluous items into storage containers. Simplicity and elegance are part of the Colonial style charm. Remove bric-a-brac, such as dish displays that were quite common with Victorian design schemes. Keep your rooms overall looking plain and minimize the amount of furniture.

Step 3:

Accessorize rooms with Colonial accents. Install a wooden chair rail that features an elaborate pattern in the dining room, mount mahogany wood paneling in the bedroom and add a quilt rich in subdued color shades to the bed. Install mahogany crown molding; opt for dentils to give your Colonial home a more authentic look and feel. Purchase needlepoint pillows or folk artwork for the living room and pewter kitchen ware for display. Add wide, plain trim around your doors and windows. Use silver hardware on your furniture. Another option is brushed nickel, especially for kitchen and bathroom fixtures and door handles.

Step 4:

Paint walls, ceilings and woodwork in Colonial hues. Your primary color for walls and wood is cream. Complement this with accents of dark green, ocher, blue-gray, taupe, barn red or brown. Major paint manufacturers create period-specific paint combinations.

Step 5:

Add wrought-iron accents. Hang a wrought-iron chandelier over a drop-leaf dining room set. Replace towel holders in the bathroom with wrought-iron.

  • Tips & Warnings
  • If your budget does not permit you to do a complete overhaul, adopt a step-by-step approach. Your home may be a work in progress for a couple of years, but the final result is well worth the wait.
  • Avoid mixing ornamentation styles. If you install dentil crown molding in the living room, do not use rosettes in the hallway. Carry the dentil style all the way through the house.
  • Use chair rail around the room and match it will white walls. Early Colonial homes had low ceilings and white walls lent an open feeling.
  • Hit antique auctions and look for period pieces to create a focal point in each room. Antique shops are also good spots but expect to pay top price for the items.

About the Author

Sylvia Cochran is a regular contributor to DexKnows, specializing in home and garden.

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