Timeless style : How to design your home to be enduringly tasteful
Have you ever walked into a room from a different era and felt like it could have been designed yesterday? It’s a rare thing to find style that truly manages to go beyond the latest trend and remain timeless, but seeking out enduring pieces is one of the best ways to achieve a beautiful home affordably and sustainably. If you’re succumbing to every fad and buying new pieces for your home on the regular, then you’ll be spending significantly more than if you’d bought one classic piece to last a lifetime. Likewise, all the furniture you end up rejecting after a year or so could end up as landfill, when a single piece could have lasted you the course. So investing time and money in finding truly timeless pieces is worthwhile!
But if timeless style is so elusive, how can we work out what will last? I’ve looked back on some truly enduring designs and boiled them down into a few principles which I think embody timeless style. Of course, I’m still learning, so I’d love to hear if you have any more.
1. Design that is both beautiful and functional
It’s so easy to fall into the trap of seeking to create a beautiful home, and forgetting that it also needs to be functional. Spending time finding truly functional pieces will go a long way to making your home feel and be timeless. Think about a sofa, for example. If it looks incredible but doesn’t make you want to collapse into it at the end of the day, it will never stay the course. I think this is why so many mid-century designs are still popular now - not only do they look beautiful, they are designed first and foremost to fill a need. If you’ve ever sat in a dining chair by a Danish mid-century designer, you know what I mean!
It’s important to think about function over your lifetime too. If you’re buying furniture for life, what works for you now might not work when you have kids or are elderly. We’re trying to think about this as we design the nursery for Clem in our newly renovated home. It’s tempting to buy child-specific furniture to make things easier now, but it makes much more sense to buy classic pieces that can work elsewhere in the house when the children are grown up.
In this age of fast fashion, new furniture can be incredibly cheap, and it can be tempting to keep spending just a little bit every new season. However, anyone who’s fallen into this trap will know that cheaper pieces just don’t last. Spending a little more on a piece that’s high quality can make all the difference to achieving a timeless look.
Hardwoods like teak and mahogany will stay beautiful for longer than softwoods. Tables and chairs that are made to order will tend to last longer than their flat pack equivalents. Not to mention the fact that quality workmanship will be appreciated throughout the years. I’m no furniture expert but I’ll never tire of looking at the beautiful crafted joints on our antique dining chairs. They will never look old-fashioned, because the quality of the workmanship can always be admired.
buying a piece that’s high quality can make all the difference to achieving a timeless look
3. Originality and simplicity
Timeless style is so often a combination of originality and simplicity. If you look at iconic furniture designs over the years, they are all highly original but they also tend to have an element of simplicity. For example, a chair may be ornately carved, yet it is made out of a single type of wood, lending it a timeless simplicity.
Simplicity can take many forms. Perhaps it could mean opting for a neutral or classic colour, such as grey, navy or black. Or perhaps seeking out natural materials like wood, marble or copper. These elements will always be staples for our homes because they are reliable and abundant. The colour black is never going to go out of fashion! This means that we can have beautiful, iconic designs in our homes without them being obviously tied to a certain generation. Do you think Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s chairs would still be in people’s homes today if they were made in avocado green?!
Like a piece of art, buying a timeless piece should be an investment. Yes, that probably means spending more than you would on a trendy item, but in the long run, your piece will hold its value and the quality of the design will mean it lasts. Fifty years ago, a home would probably have had fewer pieces of furniture, but each would have been more expensive. This is the timeless way to build a home, by making carefully considered choices and waiting for things that we truly love.
Now that we’re approaching the end of our renovation project, the temptation for us has been to rush out and fill the house as quickly as possible. Instead, we are trying to think of this as a long-term project, waiting to buy until we find the perfect item, and seeking out pieces that that will keep their value and that we will love for years to come.
I’ve spent a lot of time talking about what timeless style is in general, but at its heart, your home is yours, and creating it to meet your needs is essential! When you look at timeless homes of the past, what they have in common is a reflection of the person who lived in them. There are so many ways to bring your personality into the design, from art and soft furnishings, through to the ceramics you choose for your kitchen. The only way your home will be truly timeless is if it works for you, for life.
My gran is a great example of this. She has pieces in her home that she bought 30 years ago, that she still loves and still look beautiful because she bought something that was completely ‘her’. Not something her next door neighbour would have liked, not something a newspaper was telling her to buy, but something that reflects her taste and style, and will do so for years to come.
This post was written as an entry to a competition run by Habitat to celebrate their new ‘Furniture for Life’ campaign. I love the fact that Habitat aims to create furniture that will last a lifetime, with each piece being designed to be functional, beautiful and long-lasting. You can find out more about the competition and browse Habitat’s range of furniture here.