"Classic" is, of course, a matter of opinion. What one person considers timeless another may think of as trendy—but there are some spaces that just exude an air of enduring style so much so that we can't help but call them classic. Through a careful cohesion of historic details, elegant prints, and sophisticated color schemes, these spaces strike just the right balance where they never feel dated or drab. But often, it's a "know it when we see it" type of quality—which makes it very tricky to create from scratch.
The best place to start? A classic color palette that speaks to tradition. Some of our favorite home designers have pointed us in the right direction with the timeless combinations below—from perennially popular neutrals to rich jewel tones that never seem to go out of style. Whether you're giving a fresh coat of paint to a historic home or hoping to bring some established style to a new build, these designer-vetted color schemes will help you achieve a classic look.
Scroll on to see these pro-approved picks for a timeless color palette.
Greige + Umber
"Greige" is one of our favorite places to start with a color palette simply because it's so versatile. Nestled somewhere between gray and beige (as the name suggests), it's an excellent base layer for building upon with more vibrant hues, as seen here. “We worked with this client to create a timeless English cottage look and feel for a new townhouse in a north shore suburb of Chicago," explains designer Mark Lavender.
"This classic and timeless design features neutrals on the walls and floors, with pops of color on the furniture and pillows." While a rich shade of burnt umber is the primary pop color in the space, more hues begin to present themselves the longer you look at the room. "We used reds, blues, and oranges for the soft pieces, and pulled this all together with the English-inspired tile fireplace surround,” Lavender explains.
Leaden Gray + White + Wood
Picking the right shade of gray for a space can be a tricky task—but designers are quick to recommend the perennial blue-gray favorite Down Pipe by Farrow & Ball. Even in in-between spaces like laundry rooms, pairing this deep and dramatic hue with bright whites and pops of gold is a surefire way to channel a classic feel—though we've also seen this same color combination used to great effect elsewhere in the home.
"This laundry room was designed to juxtapose light and dark, using the dreamiest dark gray paint hue paired with hand-painted terra cotta tile on the walls," explains designer Mindy Gayer. "We're big believers in making every room in your home special—even the laundry room!" Crucially, the light-colored tile backsplash and floor brighten up the space, reflecting light from the window and allowing for a pleasant laundry-folding experience (or, well, as pleasant as weekend chores can be, anyhow).
Linen + Light Indigo
Blame it on the washed indigo hue that defines it, but this space just strikes us as cozy and comfy as a well-loved pair of jeans. "There was a large Scandinavian influence from the onset of the project, both in the broader concept of hygge (bringing a sense of comfort and well-being to the home) and also in the style of furniture we selected," explains designer Lauren Nelson.
She describes the colors here as "clean, calm, and cohesive—it’s all about balancing materials, tones, and textures." While blue and white in any form could be considered a classic combination, this palette in particular just feels like home—and what could be more timeless than that?
Sage + White + Wood
As much as sage is a beloved spice in classic cooking, it's a go-to for many designers as a versatile yet impactful shade throughout classic homes, too. This space proves that just a little can go a long way—especially when paired with the brightest, cleanest whites and light wood that lets this enduring hue show off.
"This entry foyer has a pair of bench seats off the front door, where we wanted visitors to feel welcome the second they stepped foot inside," says Gayer. "We painted the bench seats in a two-tone palette to bring in a little extra touch of color, playing off the front door."
Gray + White + Golden Leather
Cozy, handsome, and stately without being stuffy, this mix of varied grays, warm wood tones, and golden-hued leathers fits the bill for any classic home. “Dark neutrals are the best way to create a cozy reading room or den, specifically if you prefer an overall light home," explains designer Cortney Bishop. While darker color palettes can sometimes feel intimidating, this design is anything but—a fact that we attribute to the mix of patterns and shades present in the space. The wide-striped rug and wallpaper accent wall break up the moody gray wall color, providing a little respite for the eye (and adding a little whimsy, as well).
And while a darker shade of leather on the couch might've felt claustrophobic, in this space, the golden hue Bishop selected adds some levity—acting almost as an accent color, rather than the neutral it is. For anyone toying with the idea of undertaking a dark color palette in their own home, Bishop is resoundingly positive. "Give it a try; you won’t regret it!” she says.
Black + Cream + Gold
Of course, there's nothing more classic than black and white—except maybe black and gold. But striking a balance with such high-contrast hues can be tricky. (Go too bold, for instance, and the look will feel more modern than timeless.) This dreamy bedroom uses authentic vintage touches and vintage-inspired silhouettes to create a space worthy of a silver screen star.
"The color scheme here was simply bold, but soft," explains Joyce Downing Pickens. "The black velvet [headboard] softens the windows, but ties them in—and the vintage rug and curtains with their cream background take the edge off the blacks," she says.