5 Resurrected Old-World Interior Design Trends

Much like acid wash jeans or zombies, these styles were dead but are back — and when done right, totally amazing. posted on

Like a famous woman trying to pull off a pantsuit or a swan dress at the Oscars, these interior design trends can either be completely amazing — or just look like huge mistakes. It’s a cautionary tale, really. Here’s how to get them right.

1. Hand Painted Murals
Nothing says “we will never move, in fact we are pretty much trapped here forever” more than hiring an artist to paint a custom mural on your walls. But maybe you aren’t afraid of commitment. Or maybe you’re just super loaded. Either way, murals are making a comeback all over commercial and residential interiors — and some of them are straight-up good. How to pull it off?

Don’t do this:

Unless you live in Tuscany, in the 18th century and you your best friend is Michealangelo then avoid the above. “Realistic” murals of landscapes, cityscapes or seascapes of foreign countries especially (and in past centuries) should not be painted on traditional walls in 2012. Keep it abstract so you don’t literally have the view out a window in Sienna. You are fooling no one and could cause serious injuries during alcohol-induced sleep-walking accidents. (True story.)

Something else to avoid:

No matter how much you love Ariel from The Little Mermaid, or Nicole Kidman or… Wendys hamburgers you don’t need to pay homage to them on your walls.

Instead, try this:

An ‘80’s-inspired, crazy, striped mural. Especially try this is you are a color genius and extremely good with painters tape. The bold colors and the organic shape that flows across walls is perfect for this modern loft and says, “I’m risky, artistic and powerful in a way that will turn you on instantly.”

If you’re not a bold colors person, try an abstract watercolor-inspired mural. This is ridiculously pretty.

Think of your mural like a tattoo. It’s kind of a big deal, so choose very carefully and make sure that you love the shit out of it and that you’ll still like it in 20 years — otherwise opt for a temporary wall sticker.

For more dope mural ideas, check out my blog.

2. Quilts
I’m hesitant to ever call them terrible because there is such an innate sweetness about quilting, which I love. But quilts can go two ways: an heirloom that you store in your closet until you can bequeath it or burden the next victim with it; OR quilts can be a work of art modern enough to hang on your walls and interesting enough to display all year. Your kids might actually fight over them, not vacuum seal them and shove them behind the slap chop they got from an aunt. So, how to make it cool?

Skip these old-school patterns and colors — they aren’t exactly turning any of us on. Except her. If you wouldn’t wear it on your body (even a pop of the color), you shouldn’t put it in your house, that’s my rule.

And this? Somehow makes the poor teddy bear look uncomfortable and lonely.

Instead! Here’s what to do:

Commission the resident family quilter (or, if your gene pool didn’t produce one, an Etsy designer) to whip up one of these modern masterpieces:

In a kids’ room? Yes, please. My kids will cry out with love and appreciation until I tell them to hush or they’ll wake the quilt.

And how about this in a huge foyer?

Welcome home, Mr and Mrs. Visionary. That’s what this will say to you every night. And it’s still an heirloom that can be treasured.

Dear quilts, you get a bad rap, but I like you — see more on my blog.

3. Old World Textured Walls
I don’t like anything faux. Faux walls aren’t fooling anyone, and can be very stylistically upsetting. Just look at the Real Housewives of New Jersey — they are super upset all the time and I have to assume it’s partly because someone smeared diarrhea colored plaster meant to evoke Tuscany all over their overpriced McMansions. You can avoid falling into their trap.

First, don’t do this:

No. No no. We are not in Spain, and your real estate is probably not an old plaster buildings. These walls are akin to the beautiful Meryl Streep getting a bad spray tan in January: they just feel wrong.

Instead do this:

This one works because its not trying to look like an old building, but more like a huge painting that references the idea. It has unexpected colors and inconsistent color variances and texture so it looks almost wild. Try it in a really old building with exposed brick or beamed ceilings. Or a new loft with sleek simple architecture, not a 1950’s American bungalow or Cape Cod style house, which will be tricky.

Or go for a hot pink painterly look:

This works because, well, it’s expertly done by Kelly Wearstler but also because it’s such a saturated, unexpected color with with a tone-on-tone look that feels random but with great composition and incredible styling.

4. Tapestries
Oh you remember tapestries.

When done wrong a tapestry can can ruin a whole room — and your soul.

But when done in a fashionable color palette and applied a new way, they can look as amazing as this settee does:

It doesn’t have to depict the Last Supper to be heavenly.

Nor does it even have to depict a scene — a tapestry can simply be something beautiful and abstract.

5. Persian Rugs
Welcome to your bad ‘90’s acrylic nightmare. You do not want something cheaply made in a bad colorway (merlot and beige being the biggest culprits).

To review, don’t do this:

Unlike a lot of people, I love me some antique or vintage Persian-style rugs, if the color palette is right.

So instead of a merlot disaster, do this:

These days a lot of rug companies are taking older rugs with either really faded or questionable color palettes and dying them in these crazy saturated colors so they work with more contemporary styles. It’s like BOOM. Color.

It’s a trend that you don’t want to go overboard with (just buy one rug and stay away from Neon, which will get dated really fast) and definitely choose a color that you really love because they make a huge impact in the room and are expensive to replace. You don’t want to get sick of this thing — it’s not like repainting a wall. But the good thing about these rugs is that they can be found in more affordable stores (even West Elm is doing a version of this); they’re recycled and therefore “green”; and they’re wildly impactful.

Ridiculously pretty, with an old-world feel but also totally modern and fresh.

So the general rule is to not try to copy an ‘old world’ look unless you, yes, live in the old world, in a castle. You can reference it, you can let it inspire you, but you probably don’t want to try and actually recreate it. Instead make it artistic and abstract, reinvented for this here 21st century.

Emily Henderson is the 2010 Design Star winner; the host and designer of Secrets from a Stylist on HGTV, and founding editor of her own daily style blog. She also has inappropriately intense feelings for Ryan Gosling and believes that a kitten can never be too small. For more of Emily’s favorite home things (and generally awesome photos), follow her on Pinterest.

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