Classic Interior Design: Inspiration from Roman and Greek Antiquity

Ancient Rome and Greece shaped Europe as we know it. Many of our languages and letters are drawn from Latin; their ideas and philosophy have profoundly influenced our society; and their design principles remain enduringly relevant. This article guides you through these key principles of classic interior design from ancient Rome and Greece.

The principles of classic interior design were largely based around the body. Layouts should appeal to human nature, moving the occupant naturally through the space; proportions should be harmonious and measured, with the delicacy and accuracy of the Vitruvian Man; and, the space should always be comfortable, inviting and cater to bodily comforts. Here, these principles are outlined, so you can introduce this harmony and serenity to your living room.

Architecture and Human Nature

classic interior design

Within classic interior design, a living room is not only defined by its furniture arrangement; everything from the the doors, to the walls, to the fireplace are incorporated as part of the aesthetic. That is, within classical interiors, architecture plays as much of an important role as furnishing, so the entire configuration can work in harmony with the occupant. This is one of the key principles of classic interior design; layouts must appeal to the body, and to human nature.


In order for a body to move freely within a space, the area must be uncluttered, sleek and simple. This is not to say that the decor should be so minimal as to be uncomfortable or stark; quite the contrary. Fine porcelain ornaments which reference Greek and Roman legend complement elegant, thoughtfully arranged living room furniture perfectly, as their organic, flowing forms appeal to tactile sensibilities.

Classic Interior Design and Vitruvian Proportions

classic interior design

A little known fact about Leonardo Da Vinci’s famous Vitruvian Man is that the ‘golden ratio’ of his body was devised by an architect. Based on geometry described by Roman architect Vitruvius in Book III of his treatise De architectura, the Vitruvian Man was devised from his description the human form as the principal measure for proportion within the classical school of architecture.

Therefore, harmonious proportions are another central principal of classic interior design. Like the body of Da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man, the living room should be arranged with the proportions of the human body in mind; however, don’t be afraid to play with scale. Tall, airy ceilings and high, imposing mirrors are the perfect way to create an open, harmonious space which the body can traverse with ease.

Elegant Drapery and Bodily Comforts

classic interior design

Although there is great emphasis placed on simplicity in classic interior design, the importance of the body means that a space should always be comfortable. In the living room, furniture should be clean and uncluttered, yet soft and inviting. A few well-placed cushions in neutral colors, or an elegantly draped throw are an easy, uncomplicated way to create elegant, tactile textures.

In the villas of ancient Rome, classical architects were particularly fond of chaise lounges and day beds. Perfect for reclining and relaxation, chaise lounges remain effortlessly glamorous and seductive. Adorned with cylindrical cushions and placed by a window, a chaise lounge or day bed can transform the living room into a space reminiscent of an airy, well-proportioned Roman atrium.