Guide to the elegance of neoclassical design

The neoclassical style emerged as one of the predominant design trends, competing with Romanticism. Today, the style remains popular as a timeless aesthetic. Of course, most modern designers give it unique contemporary touches. Nonetheless, much of the period design language is still noticeable.

According to New York designer Brian McCarthy, founder of the interior design firm Brian J. McCarthy, Inc., which specializes in high-end residential design and the neoclassical style, you have to think of everything when it comes to this style, as it is a mixture. “Buy what you love and live with what you love” is one of his main phrases.

But how do you do it without feeling over the top? These are simple rules to follow to ensure a fresh approach.


This residence combines exquisite classic furnishings with luxurious finishes such as marble. (Monterrey Sotheby’s International Realty)

Key elements of neoclassical interior design

Neoclassicism does not tolerate excesses neither in furniture, nor in flowers, nor in decoration.

Design in natural and sober colors.

1. Colors. They tend to be very soft. They include white, cream, gray, yellow, blue, and green. Black, red, silver, and gold can be used as accent colors. Most patterns feature low contrast palettes.

2. Furniture. This style is characterized by simple and symmetrical furniture. Furniture usually has a wooden or metal frame. Many pieces are adorned with ornamental ends. The upholstery is usually of high quality and luxury without being ostentatious. A classic style daybed is a common feature of sitting areas.

3. Decoration. Floral motifs are common, especially in pillows, rugs, and wall designs. Urns, jugs, and statues are common ornaments.

4. Carpets. Antique rugs, with floral patterns are common, but geometric designs add a more modern touch to the aesthetic. This was not typical in the 18th century, but today it can look impressive.


In this outdoor terrace you can appreciate the balance of the neoclassical style with the contemporary. (Monterrey Sotheby’s International Realty)

The final touches

The neoclassical style is all about refined luxury, with some over the top finishing touches. If that sounds like a contradiction, it is. As the color scheme remains refined, it is the shapes and accessories where the bold proposals are made.

Furniture with classic style, but with a luxurious element such as a lamp with gold finishes or some works of art give this touch.

Brian McCarthy explains that antiques and works of art are inspiring and key triggers for these spaces, but they should always have a personal touch. “When I was younger, I had a love affair with late 18th century neoclassical furniture and, in particular, mahogany furniture. I was particularly inspired by Garrick Stephenson, who had an exquisite eye for these periods and for the unusual. From that experience, when I design a room, whether it is in an antique, modern or contemporary style, I envision it as a wonderful cocktail. I try to incorporate various elements, from all walks of life to make it interesting ”.

Take inspiration from the style’s Greco-Roman roots and decorate with ornaments for authenticity, but don’t go overboard. Final details such as wallpaper can also be added to match the furniture style and create a harmonious space.

A modern and elegant take on the style tries to find the perfect balance.