Home & Garden

Formal decor can be timeless and comfortable

Beautiful old buildings are among the places that give us a sense of connection to our past. Their formal rooms often radiate the beauty of a bygone era with a timeless quality that’s comforting and enjoyable.

Those qualities are helping formal decorating become popular again A few classic touches might be the missing ingredient for your decor. Here’s how to get a formal look in your home.


A hallmark of formal decorating is symmetry. Tables and lamps don’t make a singular statement; instead they are paired for a balanced look. In fact, this matching effect is what can give a room timeless appeal. From lamps to end tables, chairs to vases on the fireplace mantle, pairs exude elegance.

Whether it’s a picture window or a fireplace, all formal designs also work to emphasize a room’s natural focal point. When you want to add a formal touch to a room, select one distinctive feature, such as a fireplace, table, couch or piece of artwork and orient other furnishings to emphasize this feature.

Lush fabric

Also a key ingredient in formally designed rooms is an emphasis on plush fabrics in rich textures and colors. That doesn’t mean all fabrics must be in jewel tones. A formal room can have pale damasks as easily as it can have heavy velvets, yet both can be called formal.

Look for upholstery or drapes that are heavy and richly colored, whether those hues are pale or deep. You can also ramp up elegance when you layer in gilding using furniture with golden or silver accents.

Without question, dark woods create instant formality. Dark cherry, mahogany and walnut pieces give a room the timeless appeal that a pickled finish can’t match. Highly carved furniture is especially graceful and formal.

Other options

Include inlaid brass or gold finishes and heavy gold or dark wood frames on artwork.

Add formal lighting elements. Chandeliers dripping in crystal and shining brass or silver are the crowning glory of many an elegant room. Be sure to hang your chandelier low enough so it lights the room and not the ceiling.

Wall sconces add a soft light. Putting all lighting fixtures on a dimmer will instantly add drama and elegance.

Don’t overlook simple touches such as crystal dishes, a silk tassel dangling from a desk key, a majestic potted palm in the corner of a room, or a pair of small carved chairs tucked in a corner.