The Ultimate Guide To American Colonial Decor

The American Colonial style is perfect for those seeking a practical approach to daily life, genuine craftsmanship, and simple decorations. Similar to colonial decor, homes from this period feature classic 18th-century elements such as wall moldings, wallpapered rooms, upholstered furniture, and crystal chandeliers. When imagining this style in your home, picture the desired result. "We recommend starting with setting a vision for the entire home, room by room," designer Bria Hammel told Better Homes & Gardens. "This way we can ensure the same style is cohesive throughout your home. Even if you decide to complete your home project in phases long-term, by setting that initial vision, it'll help you easily pick up where you left off and stay on track."

Homes inspired by the American Colonial aesthetic have a refined yet casual warmth. The style dates back to the 1700s when the United States during colonial rule and remains popular today (via The Spruce). Rustic decor, earthy elements, muted colors, and handmade furniture are all iconic elements. If you love the look and feel of colonial-style houses, continue reading for home decorating tips to use in your American Colonial vision.

Paint your front door red

Colonial-inspired homes have as much grandeur and awe on the outside as the inside. To add some curb appeal, paint your front door a vivid shade of red. Choosing this shade for your front door can make quite the statement. A door painted the right shade of red can be impressive from a distance and close up, as the bold color captures the eye. "My favorite red paint right now is the very regal and charming Blazer Red from Farrow & Ball," designer Yuna Megre told Elle Decor. "It's a perfect option for those seeking a rich color, but scared of a classic red's loudness." If you really want a loud color, go for a deep and rich apple red for your home.

Red front doors were once a symbolic feature with a message. A red front door represents a welcoming home where people can rest and relax (via 33rd Square). While the meaning has evolved over time, the statement is remains. Choose a bold red color for the home of your American Colonial-inspired design.

Accessorize with stars and stripes

Stars and stripes are everywhere in American culture, from the flag to the national anthem. According to PBS, stripes are on the United States flag in a red and white alternating pattern and are an important symbol to the country. The stars are just as notable. For the ultimate American Colonial look in your home, draw their inspiration from these symbolic features and introduce them into the decor with accessories. 

Find ways to add striped patterns into your home, regardless of what color palette you choose. Try to decorate with this motif on multiple objects around one room. The repetition of similar patterns in a single space provides visual appeal that relates to the entire room. For those still learning to decorate with patterns, incorporate them in one or two elements in the same room. "I would suggest starting with some pillows or a rug," designer Liz Cann shared with Veranda. Arrange your striped patterns in vertical and horizontal alignments, as the difference in directionality will help balance the space.

Layer quilts around the home

American Colonial homes often evoke feelings of comfort, making the next decorative piece a must-have for your humble abode. "Quilts bring warmth, depth, and texture into any room," quilter and designer Suzy Williams told Concord Monitor. A folded quilt over an arm of a chair or at the end of the bed are classic ways to decorate your home with soft elements. However, quilts have come a long way and found a new purpose in home decor present-time.

For a contemporary twist on the classic quilt, consider alternative placements. Have you ever pondered displaying a quilt on the walls? Yes, the walls! "Designers are modernizing and refreshing the aesthetic," said designer Laura Preston to Concord Monitor. "Hanging a quilt on the wall or incorporating quilted items into your home is a tactile alternative to traditional decor that can provide texture, softness, and even sound dampening." Using a curtain rod and curtain clips, hang your favorite quilt pattern above a bed or sofa for a creative art display. Find ways to add quilts to your home to accentuate the American Colonial style.

Tie everything together with handmade rugs

Handcrafted objects were not uncommon in homes of early America, as most residents decorated their spaces with items made by hand rather than a machine. Whether duplicated or one-of-a-kind, hand-woven rugs are a great way to add softness underfoot in the living room, dining room, or bedroom. Consider introducing a bit of history into your home by decorating with a stunning handcrafted area rug. According to RugKnots, these floor decorations are available in several styles, including flatweave, hand-tufted, or hand-knotted.

The rug type you choose for your home should be able to withstand foot traffic. You want to choose a living room rug that's not only handmade but crafted with durable materials that replicate the ones of classic American homes. Wool, cotton, and jute are some materials known for their longevity and traditional roots. Rugs are an investment for the home, and the size, material, and style you choose will dictate the price range.

Stay classy with elegant crystal chandeliers

What says glamour better than something made of crystal? Crystal chandelier, to be precise. Dazzling, shimmering, and elegantly beautiful crystal chandeliers can transform any living room, dining room, bedroom, bathroom, and even closet space with an instant dash of drama. With the flick of a switch, you can transform your dull ceiling into a regal focal point. You will be stunned at how much beauty and grace one fixture can deliver.

There is a place in every home for a crystal chandelier. Just be sure to pick the right one. "When looking for the perfect chandelier, go with your gut. Don't be afraid to go big and have the fixture almost serve as a piece of artwork to the design," designer Kerrie Kelly told HGTV. When decorating your desired space, try to purchase the grandest crystal fixture you can fit in the area. Your goal is to maintain visual balance. One too big or too small will look out of place. A crystal chandelier is just the element you want to include in your American Colonial-inspired home.

Go wild with red, white, and blue

No American Colonial-style home would be complete without red, white, and blue colors. The idea is to decorate with red, white, and blue in ways that will last year-round and not just for the Fourth of July. Stay away from holiday decorations and include contemporary techniques in your everyday decor. Consider adding these classic colors more functionally by incorporating them into your design scheme with accent pillows, throws, furniture, and wall displays. Begin your look by adding one or two of the colors into your room in several different elements.

"Red is great for making a statement," color expert Iman Stewart shared with MyDomaine. Tastefully incorporate this shade by decorating your space with a red accent rug. The color pops against the neutral paint colors and instantly elevates the furniture by making it more pronounced. If the walls are cream or white paint, skip this color and move to where you can add blue into the decor. Perhaps it's in a throw, set of pillows, or curtain panels. Find the perfect blend of red, white, and blue for your ultimate American Colonial-style residence.

Add natural wood furniture

If you want to enhance the American Colonial theme in your home, decorate with furniture from the era. Once very prominent, the china cabinet is making a comeback in interiors today. "Since 2020, we have seen more and more shoppers interested in China cabinets and buffets," Lani Murakami told Apartment Therapy. These versatile heavy wood furnishings are prominent in the American Colonial style. They provide ways for people to store goods and cookware in homes where storage is nonexistent or limited. Today these pieces are not only used for practical solutions but also to add a vintage, rustic charm.

China cabinets are a lovely addition to dining and living quarters. These pieces are typically thrifted and given a fresh coat of paint or sanded down for an authentic vintage appearance. Adding wood furnishings to your home is not limited to China cabinets. You can incorporate any table, bench, or chair into your space.

Bring in upholstered sofas and chairs

American Colonial homes often have upholstered chairs around a dining room table, in an office, or living room. Whether on its own or in pairs or groups, the chair style ranges from wingback to Chippendale. Add some rustic charm to your American Colonial home decor by decorating with handmade furniture as seen on Town & Country Furnishings. Most chairs feature floral patterned fabric on at least the cushion portion. Seating arrangements like a floral upholstered armchair can add movement to your space with detailed designs. This unique decorative element is not only furniture but a structural addition that enlivens a room.

If purchasing a new hand-crafted item is not in your budget, consider reupholstering a chair yourself for a fresh new look. The condition of your thrifted chair will depend on how much TLC it needs to look new again. For basic reupholstery of just the fabric portion of the seat, be sure to keep the old material for proper measuring.

Stick to a simple color palette

Stick to the basics when choosing paint colors for your American Colonial-style home. Residences in the past would typically have walls covered in shades from a limited color palette. As primary colors were popular, the typical shades featured natural hues as per Sherwin Williams, in color choices like creams, reds, muted pinks, oranges, and rich brown. This style thrives on the motto 'less is more,' so you should try to keep it simple.

Paint has significantly developed in terms of customizable color choices. The most important part is how the color looks in your home. When choosing which color to add to your walls, consider the existing lighting conditions in the room, as not all paint will appear the same under all light. You want to choose a neutral shade that will look as good at night as it does during the day. Avoid vibrant paint colors and stick with colorful accessories in red, white, and blue.

Incorporate heirlooms and antiques

Decorating in American Colonial style home decor should feel a little like looking into the past. This decorative preference is about making something that once was old new again. With this in mind, consider ways to bring the past to life in your home. The vintage earmarks scattered throughout this style make it memorable and attractive. The old pieces speak just by being there.

What vintage pieces do you decorate with, though? First, consider the things you already have. You may already possess some of these treasures. "A lot of our clients are looking for something new, but new things don't always offer that patina and depth I crave in a room," designer Cortney Bishop told MyDomaine. "I'm a sucker for family heirlooms, antique rugs, art, and vintage accessories." If there are no old items for you to put on the shelves or add to a tabletop, you may want to start collecting as soon as possible. These pieces are critical to the ultimate American Colonial style.

Frame anything as art

Whether you make, buy, or print it, collecting art for the walls can plague a decorator, regardless of the home design style. What if that doesn't have to be the case when decorating in American Colonial style for today's homes? "Anything is art once it's in a frame," creative director Tessa Wolf told Vogue. "Every day, we frame hundreds and hundreds of pieces of original art, prints, and canvases." When you think about all the items you already have, can any of them be art? Use what you have and make it beautiful.

When decorating a home, not all art needs to be purchased. Instead, you can make your own art but make it look vintage. Paint a blank canvas with an abstract landscape design in muted tones or frame black and white family photos in a gallery wall layout. If you love it, frame it, as this is what will add interest to your space and help convey your personality.

Take a light approach to millwork

American Colonial decor generally favors simple colors and textures, making the structure a necessary component of your design. One way to add dimension to your space is by attaching wood trimmings to the walls. You could add wainscoting or paneling to the wall surfaces. In most cases, any millwork on the wall instantly adds a touch of elegance to a room — just the vibe you're looking for with colonial-inspired decor.

However, approach this wall treatment with caution when decorating in the American Colonial style. Too much detail will overtake the design. Aim to keep the woodwork simple by adding a chair rail to the walls. "In the old days, people used to push their furniture up against the walls, and the chair rail kept the tops of the chairs from digging up the plaster," architect James Dixon told Remodelista. While a more decorative feature in today's dwellings, these elements still provide practicality.

Cover the walls with wallpaper

Covering the walls with millwork is not the only option you have for decorating flat surfaces. You can create an eye-catching visual element in your American Colonial-inspired home with a few simple supplies, including a paintbrush, paint color, and a stencil. Use a stencil to create a border or personalized design on the walls that introduces charm and character. Once you've picked your stencil design and paint choices, it's time to measure for proper pattern placement. According to Charlotte Magazine, it's best to use the middle of the wall to mark as your starting point since you are creating the pattern rather than relying on a premade wallpaper.

The idea of proper placement and measurement also applies to wallpaper. This part is essential if your design has a floral or geometric pattern. You want the entire design to align for a seamless finish. Mark any start and ending points and begin your personalized project to complete the American Colonial aesthetic in your home.

Decorate with clocks

A definitive way to bring your house back to American Colonial times is by decorating with elements from the period. What represents time better than a grandfather clock? While maybe less practical in the digital era, this item is just as impressive today as it ever was. This treasured piece can elevate almost any room in the house, from the kitchen to the entryway. Given this decorative timepiece's substantial weight, it's common for a grandfather clock to accent a wall on the first level.

Perhaps you want to keep the look of the clock but use it as a functional item in your home. If so, you can repurpose a grandfather clock for storage. Remove any hardware from the clock and add shelves, as seen on Eclectic Twist. The placement for this timepiece is endless, and it can complement any room that needs an ornate storage piece. The combination of nostalgic finds, wall creations, crystal chandeliers, and upholstered furniture will create the ultimate American Colonial style in your home.