Classic vs. Modern Classic

by Creative Style Interiors

Modern Classic is an extremely popular design style. I’ve found, however, that many people aren’t sure how it differs from Classic design, and have a skewed concept of both styles. There are plenty of differences between the two; some obvious, some subtle.


Classic design appears exactly as the name suggests; timeless. The overall classic look is plush, with fluid lines and luxurious fabrics and finishes. Some characteristics of classic style include:

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  • Pigmented colours such as dusty reds and burgundy, chrome yellow, plum and violet, olive green, duck egg and navy blue, peacock, gold and bronze. Neutrals are dirtied white or cream and black.
  • Highly polished brass for fittings such as lighting, door knobs/handles, furniture details and decorative accessories, though some decorative accessories can include polished silver.

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  • Timber built-in furniture such as kitchen cabinets, fireplaces, mantles and bookcases that are stained and lacquered or painted.
  • Timber furniture such as tables, buffets, credenzas and armoires. Dining chairs are timber with an upholstered seat (and often back). Timber finishes should be mid to dark in colour, with gloss finding favour over matt or satin.
  • Tables and chairs with carved or turned legs. Table tops and other timber furniture can also feature routing.

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  • Sofas with rolled arms and skirts. The chesterfield sofa is an ever-popular choice for classic décor, and is usually covered in aged brown or burgundy leather.
  • Patterns such as damask, crisp florals/chintz, regular stripes, scrolls, Grecian key, cameo, bee pattern.


  • Lush fabrics including silk, jacquard, velvet and brocade.
  • Passementeries such as tassels, braid, cord and fringing.
  • Patterned rugs, often Persian silk.

Modern Classic

Modern Classic can only be described as a contemporary interpretation of the Classic design style. The two styles share many similarities, but Modern Classic incorporates modern design elements to create a new simplified look. These elements include:


  • A mostly neutral colour scheme incorporating whites, beige, stone, grey and black.
  • Metallic fittings and decorative accessories. Mirror, matt gold and all shades of silver are all in keeping with the style, but rose gold is top of the current trends for metallics and looks oh so chic!

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  • Furniture with clean lines. Pieces may look similar upon first glance, but are generally less detailed than most Classic style furnishings. Unlike the Classic styles, Modern Classic furniture can be made from mirror, glass with metal or timber in matt or satin finishes.
  • Tables and chairs with square profile legs, which are sometimes tapered or gently curved. If they are carved or turned, they will usually have a more contemporary finish – perhaps painted in a high-gloss black.


  • Sofas with square arms and no skirt. Sofas with exposed legs have a much more contemporary feel, making them perfect for a Modern Classic style.
  • Patterns such as regular geometrics, irregular stripes, oversized floral prints and simplified versions of damask and cameo.

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  • Lush fabrics with subtle texture. Velvet with an uneven pile and self-patterned chenille are great fabrics to incorporate into upholstery. Also fabrics such as linen or a linen look.
  • Few or no trimmings. Once again, Modern Classic is a simplified version of Classic décor, and tassels and trim only add ‘fuss’. At most, upholstery can include piping and stud work.


  • Rugs with oversized patterns and textures. These can often be a simplified version of the Persian rug in more contemporary colours, or made from natural fibres such as jute or coir in simple textured patterns.


If you love Classic or Modern Classic design, but need a little extra help implementing it in your home, call Jenny on 0416 190 792 or email at [email protected].


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