There are two major styles competing for predominance throughout the 20th century – traditional and modern.

In general, it has been agreed that traditional house style has taken priority, but there has still been a strong following for modern interior design trends too.

The colonial-style interior design proved exceptionally popular in the first half of the 20th century, with two major sub-styles outlined.

Colonial home interior design

Both Early American and 18th century themes were frequent occurrences found in classical colonial homes.

Americans have long selected their favorite styles from the best of European culture and incorporated them into their own decorative techniques, an example in this respect being the Dutch colonial style. During the latter half of the 19th century, many public buildings were designed with historical European architecture in mind and a strong lean towards the classical homes interior.

During this era, traditional American colonial style decorating was considered to be dull and old-fashioned, but homeowners were still firmly rooted in the traditional concepts and clung to the colonial and, to their definition of a patriotic, design theme.

The Peak of American Colonial Interior Design

The traditional colonial style of decorating originated in 18th century America, borrowing heavily from typical European residences of the day. The twist, however, was that the grandeur added to the farmhouses found here, in the New World.

English immigrants into the country brought with them a flavor of their old homes and much of the architectural and interior decorating style of the period was heavily influenced by the practical and simplistic lines of the day. This is how, for instance, the Dutch colonial house style was born.

There are two ways you could convert your home to a colonial style interior design masterpiece with a classical colonial living room. Either a very traditional, rustic feel theme or a more opulent touch that would have been evident in the grand homes of the colonial era. It is easy in the 21st century to create both modern colonial homes looks on a budget, so the choice is up to you.

The Early American Look

Contrary to the formality of the 18th century, the homes of the Early American era were more rustic and casual. Suited best to summer homes and small residences, the furniture was more comfortable and crafts were significantly outlined.

Ivory and grays were popular colors on painted woodwork and walls and all kinds of handicrafts were represented. During this era that also influenced the 1920s interior design, there was an expectation that women would be spending their spare time creating beautiful accessories for their home and therefore rag rugs, embroidered slipcovers, and the essential home stalwart – the hand-patterned traditional quilt were found in every self-respecting home. You can easily match this interior with fireplace mantels with windows on each side and window seats and doors.

Heavy, farmhouse style furnishings in a small colonial house were common, with traditionally styled blanket chests, ladder back chairs, and trestle tables all the rage. Simple fabrics such as linen, wool, and cotton featured heavily in all kinds of rooms of the Dutch colonial homes, with polished chintz being common informal settings while decorating techniques included the use of stenciling on pine paneled walls.

How To Get The Early American Look In Your Home

Quilting and Handicrafts

If you are gifted in terms of crafts, you could always use one of the many design books available to help you design and create your own quilt that will decorate outstandingly your colonial dining room. On the other hand, you could always purchase one made up according to your specifications, using samples of your favorite materials.

In the Early American style, quilts would be used on beds and walls to liven the space as well as to create warmth. You too, could emulate this style and capitalize on it by adding quilted cushions and pillows.

Other crafts have a place in the Early American inspired home too. If you knit or crochet you could make cushion covers or blankets that will beautify any colonial interior design setting. You can also try hand-making some simple drapes or turn your hand to making a rag rug. Handmade items were a strong feature of Early American style so if you aren’t crafty yourself, look for stores selling authentic items and scatter them liberally in your rooms.

Colors in Colonial decor

This era was represented by natural and somber shades which give a specific color pattern to the colonial house design. During this era, there was no room for anything vibrant or too colorful. Whites, browns, yellow, reds and grays are all perfect for recreating this style, so typical for the Georgian colonial homes.

Floors and walls in colonial home interior

Hardwood flooring is the key to recreating the look of the colonial home interior. Cherry, walnut, and mahogany are all good choices as long as covered with handmade rugs.

Walls may be paneled or whitewashed, preferably with a featured stenciled decoration of fruit or flowers in borders or murals. Crown molding and dado rails were popular in this period and are easy to recreate your colonial style homes interior.

Furnishings in colonial interior design

The rustic styling of the Early American period led to an emphasis on heavy and traditional furniture. Simple pine, birch or maple cabinets together with trestle tables, trunks and ladder back chairs all have an authentic feel, and should preferably be handmade.

Lighting should feature cast iron lamps, with chandeliers and candle holders to complete the period look. Should you have difficulty in locating genuine antiques distributing modern colonial items, there are plenty of excellent reproductions out there that will give the same effect.

Simplicity in classic colonial homes interior

The keyword of the Dutch colonial houses was simplicity. Everything was functional as well as versatile and clutter was a definite no-no. Clean lines were the order of the day and so accessories should be kept to a minimum.

A few pitchers of flowers, an embroidered sampler, a wicker basket or two and perhaps a linen runner will be enough to give a hint of colonial elegance. Make sure, however, that you don’t leave your room in colonial revival style too bare and minimalist – your home should retain a lived-in the warmth that makes it welcoming and inviting.


Pewter was the metal of the day for the modern colonial interior design. This material could be found everywhere in the traditional colonial home, from serving plates to utensils. Featuring some pewter serving pieces prominently displayed in your modern colonial house harks back to this simpler time and you could add to this look with some copper cooking pots or brass accessories.

Converting your home to adopt this colonial style interior decoration will serve to make your home elegant and simple. The style lends itself to creating bright, airy interiors that make a pleasant and attractive living environment.

Pick the details that suit your taste best, and enjoy creating the beautiful 1920s colonial look in your home!

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