Neoclassical interior design originated in the 18th and 19th centuries and is inspired by classic Greek and Roman architecture.
Elements of Neoclassical interior design include crown molding, chandeliers, gold finishes, marble features, and more.
You can incorporate Neoclassical design into your home in a cost-effective way with tricks like wood-look tile and unexpected decor.
While the days of ancient Greece and Rome are long gone, the neoclassical interior design these eras inspired is still alive and well today. Though some characteristics of this style are better left to our ancestors, many others—like parquet flooring, marble decor, and chandeliers—have proven time and time again that they’ll never truly go out of style.
Get to know a bit more about the origins and key elements of neoclassical design, how it’s evolved over the years, and how to include the style in your home, whether you want to go all-in or incorporate just a few features.
What Is Neoclassical Interior Design?
Neoclassical interior design is a revival of classic Greek and Roman architecture that also includes elements of 18th- and 19th-century design. Like Greek Revival homes, neoclassical is notable for characteristics like clean lines, geometric shapes, open spaces, neutral colors, and architectural features like columns and crown molding.
Origins and Influences of Modern Neoclassical Interior Design
Neoclassical interior design first surfaced in the 18th century as a more refined counterpart to the other styles of the same era, like flowery Rococo. This was a return to basics for people of the time as it relied on clean lines, classic architecture, and reserved elegance rather than the bombastic, over-the-top styles of coinciding interior design approaches.
On the other hand, modern neoclassical interior design has evolved to be even more toned down to better suit our contemporary needs and modern-day architecture. For example, many designers are forgoing extravagant marble columns and outdated chandeliers in favor of sleeker, paired-back alternatives. (More on that in a bit.)
8 Key Elements of Neoclassical Design
There are many features of neoclassical home decor but these eight have come to define the style.
1. Crown Molding
Crown and wall molding are common features in neoclassical spaces. These additions will give your home a regal feel in no time, and installing crown molding is relatively affordable and easy for anyone to DIY—yes, even beginners!
2. Greek- and Roman-Inspired Architecture
Old school features like columns and intricately carved doorways are common in neoclassical design. That’s all thanks to the influence that ancient Greek and Roman architecture had on the style.
While these types of elements still occur in modern neoclassical interior design, they’re used less frequently to better accommodate contemporary architecture and tastes. Instead, more attention is paid to softer elements that were introduced in the 18th and 19th centuries, like warm wood floors and delicate colors.
Ornate crystal chandeliers were frequently featured in neoclassical spaces of the 18th and 19th centuries. Chandeliers still have a place in modern neoclassical design, but the ones that are used tend to be more pared-back, sleek, and functional than what was common centuries ago.
4. Neutral Colors
Unlike the vivid colors of Rococo design, neoclassical design instead relies on a primarily neutral palette. Contrast is limited and walls are typically painted white, beige, or gray to create airy, open spaces. Bold shades are used only in accents and decor, like in art and textiles.
5. Parquet Flooring
Hardwood flooring—and especially parquet-style flooring—is another defining characteristic of neoclassical design. This feature was introduced to the style during the Classical revival in the 18th and 19th centuries, and it was used to contrast the harder, colder features of marble and stone neoclassical home decor.
6. Marble Fixtures
Though marble was just about everywhere during the origins of neoclassical design, it’s used much less frequently in modern interpretations. Nowadays, you’ll usually only find it on kitchen and bathroom countertops rather than built into the architecture like it once was.
7. Gold Finishes
Small amounts of gold are used in neoclassical home decor to add flair and glamor without overdoing it. In general, you’ll find gold-plated mirrors, picture frames, table rims, and small furnishings (like chairs and stools) in neoclassical spaces.
8. Minimal Decor
Originally, neoclassical design kept decor to a minimum to set itself apart from the excessive ornamentation of the Rococo era. At the time, that meant little-to-no wall art—apart from the occasional painting or designated gallery space—and few additional accessories.
However, modern neoclassical interior design has loosened up its rules regarding deco. Designers today have found a way to embrace all the previous elements, as well as a fair amount of additional decor, without going against the core principles of this design movement.
How to Incorporate Neoclassical Design Into Your Home
Now that you know a bit more about what makes this design style so special, here’s how you can begin adding it to your own home. And if you still need help after these tips, consider reaching out to an interior designer in your area to find your perfect set-up.
1. Use Surprising Decor to Make a Big Impact
Embracing neoclassical design is as easy as decorating with the right accessories. Embrace vintage or antique vases, art, and sculptures to add a classical air to even the most modern spaces. That could be a marble bust that you’d never normally think to buy or an old, hand-painted portrait of a relative that you found in your attic.
2. Pick a Color Palette With Minimal Contrast
Neoclassical spaces are known for being light and airy, with minimal contrast from darker hues. Can’t quit color? You don’t have to! Instead, opt for light variations of shades like blue, green, and yellow for walls and furniture. Bolder hues aren’t off-limits, but avoid using too many. Stick to one to two accent colors max to stay within the style.
3. Add Drama and Old-School Elegance With a Large Mirror
Adding a big mirror to your home will expand your space and make your home feel like a ballroom fit for royalty. Opt for a gold-finished frame to add even more of a regal atmosphere to your abode.
4. Embrace Antique Furniture
But not just any antique furniture. Neoclassical furnishings are noteworthy for their clean lines and functional shapes, unlike the round and curved features of Rococo furniture. If you’re trying to decorate your home with a neoclassical approach, look for any kind of furniture that fits this description, even if it’s from a different time period. And opt for dark wood fixtures whenever possible.
5. Use Wood-Look Tile or Vinyl to Create Faux-Parquet Flooring
Installing original parquet flooring is a costly project, but you can easily create a similar effect at a fraction of the cost with wood-look tile, vinyl, or lino flooring.