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10 Ways to Make Classic Design Work in Your Home

Call it grandmillennial, granny chic, GrandpaCore, traditional design or old school, there is no denying charm-filled classic design details like wicker, florals and formal table settings are back in style.

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Photo: Schumacher

Charming Style

You may have heard the term coastal grandma making the rounds, largely defined by a certain laid-back, feminine style. And now grandmillennial design is having a moment. Emma Bazilian, who coined the term grandmillennial, and Stephanie Diaz have just debuted their new book, Charm School: The Schumacher Guide to Traditional Decorating for Today. For Emma, grandmillennial design is about borrowing traditional elements from the past and making them feel less formal and more fun. "You don't want a room to look like a museum," she advises.

So what defines traditional, or classic, decor? Helpfully, Charm School breaks down the core elements, from chintz and florals, wicker and rattan to slipcovers and scallops. Think, more is more, mix and match all you want, and there are no hard-and-fast rules.

Sister Parish, Albert Hadley and Mario Buatta are some of the design legends who embodied traditional style, although it's key to remember that even these classic adherents sought to mix the old with the new.

Just like grandmillennial style is an homage to an earlier era, so is the book. Both are intended to understand the traditional foundation in order to give it new life.

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Photo: Francesco Lagnese

Traditional Design Features Tell a Story

Few elements better define classic decorating than chintz and florals. Emma touches upon the long history of chintz in her book, noting how the designs go back thousands of years to the Indian and Pakistani regions. (Chintz is actually a derivative of chint, meaning speckled or spotted in Hindi, Emma writes.) Though this look can be divisive — go too heavy on the chintz and florals and you teeter into straight-up grandma territory — an updated take involves using bold floral wallpaper in the living room, a look that used to be relegated to dining rooms.

There are even easier ways to ease into this design. Emma advises, "Rather than decorating like your grandmother's living room, add a few pieces you inherited from her: maybe some needlepoint pillows or a Queen Anne chair, and mixing that with brighter colors and newer things that you picked up."

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Photo: Francesco Lagnese

Chintz and Florals

There are endless ways to make chintz and florals work in your home. In this entryway, the floral wallpaper in a muted tone allows the modern artwork to grab all the attention. (Although the wallpaper takes a backseat here, it first gained fame when set designer Hobe Erwin created it for Gone With the Wind.) For a modern twist, this design comes in brighter colors, allowing it to take more of a starring role. In fact, Emma notes how some wallpaper companies are reviving archival designs in a way that makes them feel new.

A wallpaper backdrop, or really any vertical space, is also a great way to display collections, another key element of traditional design. "If you can hang something on the wall, hang it on the wall," Emma suggests. Besides saving space, "it's also a great way to create an art moment." Another tip? "If you're not going to be able to paint or wallpaper, just covering a wall in plates or vintage prints creates the feeling of a pattern on the wall without actually wallpapering," she adds.

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Photo: Francesco Lagnese

Vintage and Antiques

No self-respecting adherent to this style would forego vintage pieces and antique collectibles. Odds are you already own inherited items, such as the kind of heavy walnut or mahogany furniture that dominated homes before manufactured pieces entered the picture. Or perhaps you have kept sentimental mementos, like a jadeite glass collection that belonged to your grandparents. Instead of languishing in storage, these items can seamlessly blend in with your newer belongings.

And no worries if you lack these items — create a classic look with some strategic second-hand shopping. Emma and Stephanie observe how FaceBoook Marketplace is the current go-to for many (including themselves) to source era-specific elements. Craigslist, estate sales, consignment stores, flea markets and antique shops are additional places to find old treasures.

In this picture, designer Jenny Holladay repurposed her great-grandmother's George III end tables in a bedroom, complemented by a simple, stylish lamp with a custom lampshade.

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