The trademark of Old World style is its comfortable, aged appearance that is reminiscent of European manor homes, estates and villas. Details like hand troweled plaster walls, exposed stone surfaces and rugged wood beams are the basis of Old World style. Add to that oversized furniture pieces, lots of texture and rich color and you have the formula for a stately style that’s not afraid to show its age.
Old World style is a European hybrid encompassing a range of design standards dating back to the Medieval and Renaissance periods. Its influences come from different countries and regions, but most designers treat it as a mixture of Tudor, Spanish Colonial, Tuscan, Mediterranean and French chateau. Whatever its true origins, Old World is one of those styles you know when you see it—easily identifiable by its time-worn finishes, arched windows and doorways, barrel vault ceilings, fabulous textures and a tapestry of rich colors reminiscent of stately European manors and villas.
If you want a style that creates a flawless combination of reserved and rustic, then Old World is perfect look for your home. Rough elements such as wooden beams, aged plaster, limestone and wrought iron blend beautifully with luxurious textiles such as velvet, silk damask, needlework and brocade. Furnishings are weathered yet retain their aristocratic countenance. Rooms are formal but manage to maintain a welcoming ambiance.
Old World colors run deep, dark, rich and noble. Imagine aged shades of indigo, raw umber, gold, Prussian green, bisque, ochre and Venetian red—straight out of a Rembrandt painting. Employ a variety of finishes from dark-stained woods to painted, worn and weathered techniques that replicate centuries of wear.
The hallmarks of Old World furniture are attention to detail and handcrafted design. Furniture pieces include a variety of classic European styles from Gothic to Baroque. One thing they all have in common is their weight and stature. The oversized wood furniture is either ornately carved or basic and rough-hewn.
Seating features distressed leather and exquisite fabric upholstery with hand hammered hardware accents. Look for dining tables with crossbar supports or chunky pedestals. Bookcases and cabinets are imposing pieces with carved detail such as fluted pilasters, acanthus leaf accents and crown and base moldings.
Old World fabrics include richly decorated brocades and damasks, sumptuous velvets and elaborate tapestries. Heavy, elegant and ornate drapery panels create warmth and visual interest hung from substantial wrought iron or turned wood curtain rods. Upholstery, tablecloths, bedding and curtain panels are accented with a variety of decorative embellishments like tassels, French gimp, bullion fringe and braided trim.
Floors and Walls
Choose natural materials to create an Old World mood. Travertine, limestone, tumbled marble or salvaged wood planks are good options. A more economical option would be laminate flooring that mimics rough-hewn wood or dark, large-scale ceramic or porcelain tile that looks like stone.
Warm up those hard surface floors with period appropriate area rugs. Look for rugs that have that faded, Old World appeal. Oriental, Aubusson and Persian rugs suit the style perfectly. Even though antique carpets are extremely cost prohibitive, modern manufacturing processes give new rugs that distressed, muted look found in age-old floor coverings.
Go all-in with the Old World look by installing wood paneling, painting, faux finishing or texturing your walls. Picture walls of antiquity with their worn, chipped textures and uneven surfaces. Color washing can give walls a subtle hint of warm, earthy color by mixing glaze and water with pigments of rust, tan, gold or ochre. Create a plaster finish on drywall by applying joint compound with a trowel. The results are rustic yet refined.
Wrought iron candelabra and decorative wall grilles add a romantic, Spanish colonial feel. Oversized vases, urns and hand painted pottery make an Old World room come to life. Paintings in ornately carved frames depicting rural European scenes, portraiture, floral and religious art add a sense of authenticity. Take advantage of large bookcases by filling them with a variety of old books, decorative boxes and period artifacts.
Lighting creates warmth that can’t be achieved with furnishings alone. As with accessories, most Old World lighting fixtures are crafted from metals and wrought iron. Scrolls and curves are common lighting designs. Sconces, lanterns and chandeliers dominate Old World lighting. No style defines Old World lighting more than hoop or multi-ring chandeliers. This style dates back to Medieval times and continues to inspire today.