Decorating Guides

So That Your Style Is: Preppy

What it is: Preppy decoration is as much about a culture and lifestyle because it is about a particular set of decorating dos and performn’ts. It talks of country clubs and social graces, family customs and a tasteful approach to play and work. Even though it’s frequently the goal of gentle ribbing, preppy decoration is less about snobbery than a positive mindset which radiates confidence.

Why it works: There is something classically, comfortably American concerning preppy style. It manages to evoke an unstudied atmosphere that belies the meticulous detail that goes into it. Its aspirational quality arouses in us a desire to enjoy the elegant things in life — and who could not use a little more of this?

You’ll enjoy it if … You have memorized The Official Preppy Handbook. You’re on a first-name basis with the L.L. Bean folks. You’d never dream of vacationing anywhere but Cape Cod. You have your tennis racquet. You can tie a bow tie in your sleep.

Much More ‘So Your Design Is’:
Conventional | Arts & Crafts | Hollywood Regency | Rustic | Old World | Cottage
Eclectic | French Country | Coastal | Art Deco | Transitional | Contemporary
Midcentury Modern | Industrial

Lisa Borgnes Giramonti

Design Secret: Layered Patterns

The preppy look is gathered and curated, along with a genteel mixture of patterns lends itself to the aesthetic. Plaid is the iconic preppy print, but you also can’t go wrong with all stripes, houndstooth, gingham checks or herringbone, topped off with a tasteful needlepoint pillow or 2. The trick to mixing patterns is to pay attention to the scale and colour — a lot of large scale prints will overwhelm each other; a bunch of small ones can get lost. Colours do not have to fit, but they ought to at least stay in precisely the exact same family.

Upgraded twist: Offset patterned bits with textural components to boost the visual thickness. In this breakfast region, basket-weave chairs match the plaid banquette beautifully.

Casart Coverings

Style Secret: Conventional Palettes

Preppy colors are strong and classic. The iconic color scheme is pink and green, à la Lilly Pulitzer apparel (a prep staple if ever there was one). But navy and red, pine green, mellow golden, and rich and leathery browns are equally suitable.

Upgraded twist: You do not have to go overboard and drench a room in your chosen color scheme. The vibrant pink and soft green at the bedroom over are balanced by a healthy dose of white to allow them to feel more of the moment.


Design Secret: Classic Furnishings

Preppy furnishings hew to conventional profiles and time-honored materials. Think club chairs, Chesterfield couches (particularly in leather) and bamboo étagères. Authentic Oriental rugs and kilims dress the flooring — when they are not left bare to flaunt beautiful hardwoods.

Upgraded twist: Freshen old-school furniture using some newer pieces that retain a hint of the preppy look. The coffee table would not be from a place in a commercial setting, yet its mellow patina feels right at home in a room filled with lightly worn counterparts.

Emily A. Clark

Style Secret: Monograms

What is preppy fashion without monograms? They pop up on everything out of bed and bath sheets to barware and toss pillows — a discreet (or not so discreet) markers of pride in one’s name and heritage.

Upgraded twist: Give monograms a fresh spin with mod-looking fonts and entertaining colors. Or think about monogramming unexpected objects, such as seat backs.

Linda Rosen Interiors

Style Secret: Nautical Accents

Boating goes together with the classic preppy way of life, so maritime touches are de rigueur. You can’t go wrong with nautical stripes, prints or maps — only avoid overdoing it and end up with a brassy space. Preppy is not kitschy.

Upgraded twist: Maintain these accents simple and graphic. For example, a screen of nautical flags hung in a grid would give an attractive graphic punch. Or focus on only a few simple, standout components, like the oar, rope knots and version sailboat above.

Just a Girl

Style Secret: Trim and Rickrack

In preppy design, details matter. Trims, from grosgrain ribbon to piping to pom-poms, add a polished touch to upholstered furnishings, window treatments and lampshades. The main guideline: Keep it tasteful. Think plain and small, not overblown and in-your-face.

Upgraded twist: To steer clear of fussiness, restrict the number of trims you integrate into one space. The yummy lamp over, for example, is balanced by sleeker accents at precisely the exact same color family for a streamlined appearance.

Style Secret: Vintage Accessories

Preppy houses celebrate their hand-me-downs and family heirlooms in an artful manner. Old steamer trunks, classic suitcases and much more whisper of a worldly, well-traveled way of life. Items that hint at the athletic life, such as older tennis racquets or riding equipment, feel pitch ideal also.

Upgraded twist: Twist in these types of objects judiciously to avoid a mishmash or, even worse, an exceedingly stained space. From the bedroom revealed here, suitcases are stacked softly to stand for a night table, along with the clean, crisp look that defines the remainder of the space lets them glow.

Frederick + Frederick Architects

Style Secret: Blue and White China

Blue and white china — ginger jars, plates, pitchers — is a preppy mainstay. Whether it’s Delft or Blue Willow, it’s timeless enough to blend with almost any colour and mix of furnishings.

Upgraded twist: Instead of a conventional bunch of wall-hung plates or mass of jars on a mantel, arrange blue and white dishware in a more streamlined manner. Put it in a orderly grid, as in this dining room, or group only a few bits on a tabletop or shelf.

Old-School Prep and Modern Prep

Getting Kate and Andy Spade’s Preppy Look

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