Colonial Furniture Styles

American Colonial style is a mix of English Gregorian and Native American influences. Original pieces were created in the time when furniture and fabric were exceptional luxuries. With a dash of vintage charm, Colonial furniture is the most traditional of American styles. Marked by minimalistic, high-quality construction with simple lines and rich hues, the style can be updated or remain in classic/true form. 


The spirit of independence is strong in each homespun element from carved wood to pewter hardware for kitchen. With stately design heavily featuring wood and metal, the style of kitchen is cozy and minimalist. Cherry, mahogany or pine wood cabinets and matching floors are the norm/foundation. This look is also customizable. If wood in this space is too bare or neutral, consider a makeover with red paint. If a stain is preferred, deepen the tone to espresso or walnut. Colonial kitchen pieces can also be updated by swapping out standard pewter or tin for brass or nickel. 

Living room

Marked by elegant simplicity, a Colonial living room can be functionally sophisticated. Many pieces were stunningly hand carved and can make a statement in a neutral or colorful space. When possible, opt for Chippendale (ornate style using cabriole legs and claw feet, primarily crafted from mahogany), Hepplewhite (little to no carvings, with a focus on serpentine shapes and cabriole legs) or Sheraton (inlays and painted decorations crowning straight legs) styles of furniture. Textiles for seating could be upholstered in leather or earth tone fabric. A handmade quilt as a throw or wall hanging can work as a sensational accent.  Sisal rugs will fit in with the theme as will ones made from rags for an authentic look. Accent pillows with understand floral embroidery will also work in a Colonial-inspired living room. 

Dining room

Start with spindle back chairs also known as Windsor-style or American Windsor chairs to create a dining room with Colonial flair. Offering a carved seat and widely spaced rods for back support, these humble wooden seats anchored formal eating areas during colonial times. The chair design may be centuries old, but the look is timeless and fits in any contemporary home without looking too retro. However, the classic chair has been updated with a lower back that still supports while being distinct. Traditionalists can stick with the high back for authenticity. Beyond seating, Colonial tables generally have curved/cabriole legs and a planked top that will gain character over the years. Complete the exceptional style with casual tablecloths and a lace runner.  


The phrase sleep tight comes from Colonial times. During that era, a comfortable sleeping surface was made by crisscrossing ropes on a bed frame. A bed with delicately tapered octagonal posts, also known as pencil thin posts, and a canopy offer a bedroom historical charm. Nowadays, the canopy is optional, but it does add flair and warmth. Beds were elevated during this period, so use raisers to achieve the same effect. Make use of the space at the foot of the bed with a vintage trunk that can store extra blankets or be a simple decoration. Another optional is to create a sitting area with up to three chairs anchored by a handmade rug. Top the look off/Put the look to bed with a simple or elaborate/ornate quilt. 

Walls, windows and floors

The traditional colors to match Colonial furniture include mustard, sage, ivories and gray-blue. To further dress up a space, colonists used bead board and wainscoting halfway up the walls and then painted the rest of the surface in nature-inspired hues. Curtains were also popular for style and warmth. For an authentic look, consider muslin or linen with a twine bow. For a modern look, tab curtains on wooden rods will earn compliments. To balance between modern and antique, shutters will work in any home, inside and out. Detailed crown molding and portraits with dark backgrounds will complement this style of furniture.  Without exceptions, floors must be hardwood. They can be restored, but given the rustic nature of Colonial-style, any other option would appear out of place. However, any wood is acceptable. 


For any room in the house, consider wood bowls, handwoven baskets and brass candlesticks as ideal accents. Stencils were commonplace in Colonial America, taking the place of wallpaper and borders. During this time, pineapple and willow tree motifs were quite popular. Pineapples signaled warm hospitality while willows were symbols of strength and devotion.  Simple chandeliers and wall scones also enhance the timeless look. Lighting should be minimalistic chandeliers of wood, tin, pewter or iron. Simple walls sconces also create an accurate historical ambiance. 

Craft a classic or updated Colonial look with the tips inspired by the July 1958 issue of Better Homes & Gardens magazine. 

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