Home Improvement

What is Federal Style Home Decor?

When the American Revolution ended in 1783, leaders of the United States officially adopted the Federal style of architecture and design for its neoclassical principles.

Inspired by visits to Etruscan and Pompeiian ruins, style creators Robert and James Adam of Scotland used motifs like urns, Corinthian columns and mythological figures on wall and ceiling moldings, light fixtures, wallpaper, even ceramics.

Emphasis is also on symmetry and balance, especially through a coordinated look of ceilings, floors, curtains, upholstery, hangings and other elements.

The overall effect? Refined comfort.

Walls in Federal Style homes


As in the Georgian style, walls have four segments: cornice or frieze hugging the ceiling, the center “field” and dado below the chair rail.

The frieze and cornice feature wooden carvings or plaster stucco work—including arches, fluting, reeding, garlands, interlace and dentil patterns. Greek Revival influences, such as egg-and-dart and anthemion, are also prevalent.

Full paneling disappeared in the center field, replaced by whitewashed plain plaster, sometimes covered with wallpaper or fabric.

Dados display gouge work, carved foliage and frets with “Adamesque” designs—named after Robert Adam, father of the Federal style. Designs incorporate neoclassical architectural details and are painted or grained to simulate mahogany.


Until 1800, wallpaper was plain with festoon borders at cornice level and around doors. Later, it bore floral, striped, geometric, or neoclassical motifs. Chinese papers with birds, flowers and landscapes were considered high style, as were French-imported scenic wallpapers for the wealthy.


  • Key wall decoration features Adamesque surrounds, chimneypieces, and overmantels with a neoclassical flavor.
  • Wooden surrounds and overmantels bear molded urns, swags, garlands and figures or simple Ionic columns and pilasters.
  • Large rectangular mirrors are placed above the mantel.
  • Central panels bear mythological scenes, such as sphinx and floral motifs or tableau of a chariot procession for a god.


Floors in Federal Style Homes


Floors are often white or yellow pine. Better homes have tongue-and-groove and, occasionally, parquet. Boards are painted, sometimes a solid color, or in diamond patterns. Stenciling is also popular.


Knotted English-made carpets bear scrollwork patterns, polygonal shapes, floral designs and Turkish, Persian and neoclassical motifs. Some are specifically woven to match ceilings, especially in well-to-do homes decorated by Robert Adam.

Better homes dress entry halls in flagstones or white marble, patterns of white marble and blue stone, or in white and black marble squares.

Also popular are multicolored floors of scagliola, a cheaper composition of plaster and marble chips made to resemble marble.


Colors in Federal Style Homes

Georgian influence

In most homes, Georgian colors are still widely used: walls and ceilings are off-white, stone, gray, olive, light blue, oak or walnut. Pea green is preferred for libraries and dining rooms.

Internal skirtings and doors are chocolate. Livelier colors remain in general use, including Dutch pink, lemon, strawberry, ultramarine, Prussian blue and verdigris—a deep green derived from corroding copper. Reds are deemed best in libraries and dining rooms to set off gilt-framed paintings.

Bolder colors

Bolder, more vibrant colors, unearthed with the rediscovery of the ancient world, distinguish the Federal style. Lilacs, bright blues and greens, bright pinks, blacks and terra cotta red-browns are paired with black for an Etruscan look.

Source By https://www.realtor.com/advice/home-improvement/federal-style-home-decor/