Furnishing

10 royal interior design tips for Epiphany

Sira Huwiler-Flamm

On 6 January, we celebrate Epiphany – the day is even a public holiday in Ticino, the cantons of Schwyz and Uri as well as in some parts of Graubünden. According to the Bible, Caspar, Melchior and Balthazar followed the star to visit baby Jesus and offer him their valuable gifts. It’s the ideal occasion to take a closer look at the royal style: which pieces of furniture and accessories will make you feel like a king or queen?

A room is decorated in the royal style.
© Getty Images/ Frank Herfort

In this article

1. Opulent fabrics: velvet, velour and brocade

Whether for curtains, pillows, blankets or upholstered furniture covers – special fabrics make textile accessories look sophisticated and extravagant. Velvet is currently experiencing a real revival. With its plush, shimmering surface, this heavy fabric makes an opulent cover for pillows, cushions and wall coverings – and it’s luxuriously soft too. Crush or panne velvet is particularly shiny.

Another material used in a similar way for furniture and accessories is velour. And it’s just as suitable for creating patterns of light. Its fibers are slightly longer and therefore even softer. But the most magnificent precious fabric of all has got to be brocade. Wafer-thin gold or silver threads are woven into this heavy material made of cotton or silk. Along with similarly elaborate fabrics such as jacquard and damask, real brocade remains one of the most expensive fabrics in the world today. However, mixed fabrics with shiny metallic threads can also be found at more affordable prices. On account of its eye-catching patterns, brocade is particularly popular as a decorative fabric, furniture covering or even as wallpaper.

2. Pompously eye-catching: sparkling chandeliers

Nothing fills a large room with glamor more than a sparkling chandelier. Chandeliers are often designed in the shape of a crown. And for centuries, these pompous sources of light have enjoyed pride of place in the prestigious halls of aristocratic houses and churches, as well as in the homes of the rich and beautiful. Where multiple layers of real candles once flooded rooms with brightness, oval light bulbs now adorn the glittering ceiling light fixtures.

Depending on the size, dozens, hundreds or even thousands of cut glass stones refract the light in a very specific way, creating a particularly atmospheric ambiance. A ceiling chandelier manifests its full effect in rooms with high ceilings. But nowadays it’s also possible to find smaller models, as well as table and floor chandeliers – which give even a bathroom, kitchen, child’s room or dining area a touch of solemnity.

A sparkling chandelier hangs in a modern white kitchen with high walls.

Modern and pompous can also be combined – here a sparkling chandelier hangs over a plain dining table.

3. A child’s room: a dream come true for a little prince or princess

A room for a little prince or princess – a modern child’s bedroom doesn’t have to be designed in classic pink or blue tones. Muted shades of beige, gray and white lend themselves equally as well to a romantic night-time atmosphere. Chandeliers and a softly flowing canopy over the bed also create a regal mood, in the same way as for an adult.

Ornate dressers, floor-to-ceiling curtains, delightfully playful wall mirrors and discreet accessories featuring crowns, swords, dragons and unicorns will make any little knight or lady’s heart beat faster. Depending on the child’s taste, rugs, blankets and pillows in soft tones can be picked out in a style fit for miniature royalty.

4. Festive dining: porcelain and crystal glass

Want to dine like the aristocracy? Porcelain, crystal glass and genuine silver cutlery make it possible – and have recently grown in popularity again. You’re very lucky if you’ve inherited a coffee set or the family silver from your grandmother. Admittedly, genuine hand-painted Meissen or Kilchberg-Schooren porcelain is expensive. But if you pay a visit to a second-hand store or flea market, you might come across rarities such as blue and white saucers, or jugs with floral patterns or golden embellishments.

Gold cutlery in general is now very much back in fashion – provided that it’s not as heavy and bulky as it used to be, but is interpreted in a modern, minimalist way.

Did you know that porcelain figurines, crystal glass bowls and royal-style decanters are also indispensable when it comes to decorating? Even a few special individual items will do the trick. Serve your guests sugar cubes from a crystal glass bowl with silver sugar tongs – they will be delighted!

Marble-look porcelain with cutlery in black and gold – the modern alternative to the feudal banquet table.

The modern alternative to the feudal banquet table: marble-look porcelain with cutlery in black and gold.

5. The noblest of colors: royal blue

Royal blue is doubtless the royal color par excellence. This deep, slightly reddish shade of blue takes its name from the uniforms of the courtiers and personal guards of the French Sun King, Louis XIV. He was at the origin of the construction of the magnificent palace of Versailles and is probably one of the most influential aristocrats in history. Gold decorations, brocade wallpaper, huge chandeliers, mirrors, wall and ceiling paintings – and of course all ten points mentioned in this text. Louis XIV took all these principles to heart, implementing and celebrating them like no other.

Today, velvet upholstered furniture and beds exist in royal blue, as do large rugs and heavy curtains. In modern apartments, a royal blue wall combined with royal pieces of furniture or accessories can give a home a museum-like feel. Royal blue goes particularly well with gold or silver. But gemstone colors like emerald green and ruby red – again in combination with gold or silver – can also make an interior look royal and elegant.

6. Thrones fit for a king and queen: Chesterfield-style seating

Soft upholstery covered with velvet, velour or brocade, wide armrests and a high upright backrest, all elaborately decorated with ornate carvings – this is the prime example of a throne. And wherever you look, be it in hip designer stores or mainstream furniture chains, royal armchairs like this are now available everywhere. If you have simpler tastes, you can also find less colorful versions, for example in brown or black genuine leather upholstery.

This type of curved and yet sturdily designed furniture with button stitching offers a comfortable, upright sitting position – this is the design that is said to have been requested by the British nobleman Philip Dormer Stanhope, fourth Earl of Chesterfield, in the late 18th century, when he commissioned the first collection of seating furniture.

7. Pomp and kitsch – but in moderation

Common royal symbols include crowns, brilliant-cut gemstones and glass stones, as well as stylized irises, which symbolize the French monarchy better than any other image. Even great fashion and interior designers have been inspired by such royal symbolism. The Versace Home Collection, for example, is full of crowns, laurel wreaths and other floral patterns for wallpaper, carpets, home textiles and tableware – and here too, gold sets the tone in terms of color.

Pomp and kitsch are certainly part of it. But watch out: a royal interior design can soon look cluttered. The art lies in setting the right degree of emphasis. Choose high-quality or at least not obviously cheap-looking materials, and don’t overdo it. Too full can quickly become too much. A clear room structure and a few carefully chosen extravagant eye-catchers will make the room look neat and tidy – for a guaranteed wow effect!

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8. Princely frames and mirrors

Floor-to-ceiling wall mirrors and huge paintings in lush golden frames are other must-haves for anyone seeking a princely, opulent look. Solid wooden frames in the baroque or rococo style are a classic choice: mostly golden, curved, and elaborately decorated with ornamental motifs. The variety of shapes ranges from rectangular and oval to symmetrical, bulbous and massive. Plainer frames in gold or silver can also represent special wall decorations.

The good news is that mirrors can make small rooms seem bigger. Louis XIV himself used this effect in his Hall of Mirrors at Versailles – to make the great prestigious ballroom appear even larger.

9. Pieces of furniture: solid and elaborately decorated

Good-quality, durable pieces of furniture made of solid real wood characterize any royal interior. It’s essential that nothing should look cheap. Instead, dressers, tables and cabinets should be adorned with heavy marble tops, golden feet and brass fittings – even though they can be a nightmare for moving companies.

In addition to natural or transparent lacquered dark solid woods, sturdy pieces of furniture in black or white are also popular elements of the royal furnishing style. Modern alternatives nowadays tend to combine white or black with elaborately decorated gilded ornaments or carvings.

A coach and an armchair with velvet upholstery and button stitching can be seen in front of a paneled fireplace. A large golden wall mirror and a chandelier hang in the center.

Upholstered furniture with a wow effect: the coach and armchair with velvet upholstery and button stitching are the royal version of Chesterfield upholstered furniture.

10. Sleep like noblemen

A four-poster bed is certainly the classic image that comes to mind when you think of a royal bedchamber. But you don’t have to buy a whole new bed: a canopy can quickly transform any bed into a sleeping oasis that resembles a four-poster bed.

But, of course, there are also many royal looking beds available in stores. The one thing they all have in common is a large headboard with button stitching – as well as an extensive lying surface with a high mattress, a large number of pillows and ornate decorations. Here, too, it is typical for gold and silver to be combined with white, black, gray, emerald green, ruby red or royal blue.

Conclusion: a little pomp can’t hurt

The royal furnishing style is certainly not for minimalists: it is prestigious, eye-catching and screams out loudly “I’m here!" But you don’t have to overload the whole house with pomp and kitsch. Whether you design an entire room in the royal style, or simply opt for an individual piece of furniture, a sparkling chandelier or a special porcelain service – all these elements have the potential to become your favorite eye-catching feature in your home.

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