12 Old World Interior Design Tips

Get all of the tips for creating that charming Old World Interior design with just a few simple items. The layered European aesthetic is cozy and layered, weaving in so many timeless design elements.

table in a kitchen with wooden chairs

So many trends come and go, leaving you with an outdated home that requires lots of monetary input to bring back into style.

One way I like to remedy that is to bring in old world elements that create a layered look that is timeless.

There are certain things that have stood the test of time and make any home feel classic and elevated, such as the perfect white paint color or adding a simple line with vertical shiplap.

“Old world” doesn’t mean stale and outdated, but rather enduring in a way that makes a space always feel pulled together.

gallery wall on white dining room wall

What is Old World interior design?

You might be asking yourself what “old world” even is in regards to design.

This decor style is made up of many staple design elements that don’t waver when it comes to the trends.

Much of the design comes from centuries ago and can be traced back to homes found on the French countryside or in English cottages.

European design is often neutral, using classic colors and patterns, and can be paired with almost any other interior design trend.

This makes it perfect for the foundation of your home design.

You won’t have to worry about redesigning your space every 5 to 10 years when you lean into a classic design aesthetic because those pieces never go out of style.

keeping room in a kitchen

How to incorporate Old World Design elements

The best part about sticking to an old world design, oftentimes called European interior design, is that you can add in more modern trends and still have a good foundational design.

European design is comforting and forgiving since it uses lush textiles and mixes patterns.

You choose classic style and add to it things that are in vogue here and there.

That breathes new life into your home without breaking the bank and causing an entire design shift.

What are some of those European design elements that give a nod to old world design?

living room with piano and velvet sofas

Layered Rugs in European Design

Think back to a time when there wasn’t a furnace heating every home.

Floors weren’t covered in carpet and walls and windows didn’t offer much in the way of insulation.

Layering rugs not only offered design appeal, but it also allowed old world homes to feel warm and cozy.

When picking rugs to feature European design think of authentic wool rugs and hand knotted rugs.

I’ve shared before how to buy the best rugs without breaking the budget so you can get the look you want.

Laying a large rug as the base for your room that is timeless will give you space to layer a smaller rug on top that is trendier.

Smaller rugs are less expensive and can be switched out easier.

Stick to a more old world rug for your foundation so you always have a classic look to the space.

antique photo hanging under and sconce

Wall Sconces for Old World Interiors

In European design, there is always a touch of history on the walls.

Wall sconces point to history when candles and sconces covered the walls and hallways of small cottages as well as lavish estates.

Today, there are so many options with wall sconces.

If you have a hard wired sconce, give your room some old world flair with a mixed metal sconce and clear glass.

I have also used sconces in our bedrooms where there isn’t a place to hang a hard wired sconce.

Many stores offer plug in options, which I have done.

If that’s not an option, simply add a battery button light to the sconce shade and click it on when you need it!

blue velvet sofa in a living room with a piano

Velvet Sofas and Pillows

Velvet is a lush fabric that creates a cozy and inviting feel.

It also elevates a room and gives it a formal appeal, without making it feel stiff.

While it was often found in French Chateaus you can bring it into your own home in small or big ways.

All of our sofas are velvet and I love how easy it is to sink into them and read a book.

I also enjoy how it takes a simple room and makes it seem sophisticated.

If a sofa isn’t an option for you, don’t hesitate to add layers with classic velvet pillow covers.

plaid blanket on a white chair

Textiles and Patterns in Old World Design

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention a textile other than velvet, although it does make my heart sing.

Classic textiles, such as plaid and paisley are perfect for old world design.

They can bring a feminine and masculine pairing to a room and balance it out with a timeless pattern.

Plaid brings in the strong masculinity, while paisley brings in a bit of refinement.

It also creates a cozy minimalism to your space that helps bring style without the clutter.

vertical shiplap in kitchen with open shelving

Open Kitchen Shelving

Open shelving isn’t new.

In fact, it has stood the test of time and been featured in homes throughout the generations.

Cabinetry is expensive and open shelving has allowed for storage without the steep investment.

Adding simple dishes, clear glassware, and tasteful decor makes them functional and beautiful.

I shared several tips for open shelving here.

Spoiler alert, I adore my open kitchen shelving!

white cat on a wicker basket by a black fireplace

Wicker Baskets and Furniture

Wicker baskets can be seen hanging in European homes from generations ago.

Many homes feature them hooked on kitchen ceilings so they can carry laundry or fetch some eggs.

If you don’t want wicker baskets lining your wooden beams, tuck them in corners of your home.

They bring in a warmth from the wood and add texture that isn’t overbearing.

antique artwork on dining room wall

Artwork and Old World Design

Sift through the antique stores for great pieces of artwork.

If you don’t enjoy this process, there are many places online where you can find digital downloads for antique prints and create your own artwork!

Adding a statement piece to your wall or an entire vintage art gallery wall will instantly bring that old world feel.

concrete bust and thyme tree on a piano

Old World Rustic Elements

There are many things that are quintessentially old world.

Create a beautiful juxtaposition in your home by pairing a plaster bust next to your soft, velvet sofa.

Other rustic elements that harken back in time are wrought iron or limestone.

Copper and brass can be found in kitchens and bathrooms and bring in a charming patina signaling centuries of history.

long narrow living room with a white antique buffet and black fireplace

Adding in Antiques for Interiors

I am always on the search for solid antiques.

They have a history in and of themselves and you get to bring that history into your home.

You will find that antiques are typically made better than modern pieces and offer ample storage or craftsmanship.

I have shared many times about why you should decorate with antiques.

If you’re nervous about it looking “old” try one small step. Maybe a side table or antique mirror and see what you think.

bedroom nightstand with a white swan and flowers on it

Natural Wood Tones

It seems that we are coming off of a design trend where everything is whitewashed and it feels so good.

While trends come and go, classic is, well… classic.

Natural wood tones are classic and might not be what’s “in” from time to time.

But, they will never drag down a space.

It is nice to have some painted wood, as well, but don’t be afraid to layer in natural wood.

concrete bust and thyme tree on a piano

Layering in Plants

Every room, no matter what design you choose, needs a plant.

Whether you add in real plants or you choose to create an arrangement with faux flowers and plants, a room needs life.

My favorite way to bring in life is with airy, realistic arrangements.

You will see many dense floral arrangements, and they have their place, but timeless arrangements don’t scream at you.

If you want to layer in plants go with realistic herbs and ferns.

Pick flowers that have a muted color palette that reflects your taste.

gas range in a white kitchen

European Design in the Kitchen

Many old world kitchens featuring European design have an “unfitted” kitchen.

This simply means you don’t have a bunch of countertops and cabinetry attached to the walls.

Everything is free to move about the room as needed.

Your sink and stove will stay stationary due to water and electric, but the rest can be changed.

Bring in old world charm with your appliances and by adding in elements such as shiplap backsplash.

They are investments and can make a huge statement in the room most of us call the “hub of the home.”

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