The look of Casual Elegance is one of my favorite styles – sophisticated and beautiful, yet comfortable and approachable; refined and chic, yet simple and relaxed. It truly is a mix between Formal and Informal but to create it, you need to use the right mix of pieces in the right way.
To begin, let’s first define “Formal” and “Informal” in terms of decorating. When you think of what is used to create a formal space, you think silks, roses, silver, ribbon, velvet, delicate glass, high sheen, carved detail, tailored pieces and matching items/sets. Conversely, an informal space might contain mismatched items, linen, chunky glass, simple lines, rustic pieces, lots of textures, burlap and natural wood. The look of Casual Elegance is a mix of these two styles done in a combination of two ways:
1. Formal elements used in an informal way
2. Rustic or natural elements mixed in with formal pieces
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Using Formal Elements in an Informal Way
With this approach, you can take SOME – not all – of your formal pieces and break the rules a bit (as if there are any true rules in decorating!). For example, take your heirloom flatware (or candlesticks) and mix the pieces to create a more eclectic look.
Or take a gorgeous silk drape and allow it to puddle on the floor.
Or even use a tablecloth that puddles.
Or a traditional, gold mirror that is leaned against the wall instead of being hung on the wall.
Mixing Natural Elements with Formal Pieces
With this approach, you can include some rustic, natural pieces with your more formal items. This could include setting a formal table and opting not to use a tablecloth, leaving the natural tabletop exposed.
Or maybe creating a beautiful arrangement of roses and hydrangeas but using a Mason jar instead of a vase.
Or an ornately carved sofa that is overflowing with too many pillows.
Or even an unexpected finish such as crystal mixed with bronze instead of gold.
Additional Tips & Tidbits
- The look of Casual Elegance is created by using both approaches together, not one or the other. For example, if you use only formal pieces in a formal dining room but leave the tablecloth puddled on the floor, instead of looking like Casual Elegance it will just look like you bought the wrong sized tablecloth. Similarly, a room with a mix of formal and informal elements will be beautiful, but it will miss some of the grace that is created when you use a formal piece in an informal way.
- These approaches only work ONE WAY! Using all casual or rustic elements and adding a few formal will not achieve the same look as using formal elements and adding a few rustic. Similarly, using casual elements in a formal way will not achieve the same look. A tailored linen curtain is beautiful, but it’s not the same as a silk curtain that puddles on the floor.
- Personally, to create the look of Casual Elegance, I like to 1) start by using formal elements, then 2) add in a few rustic items and finally 3) alter some of the formal to use them in a more casual way.
- The overall look of Casual Elegance tends to be lighter and airier, so avoid using too many dark or bold colors combined with dark woods and finishes. If you do use them, be sure to balance them out with lighter neutrals or lighter weight materials.
Here are some additional inspirational images of casual elegance.
For more inspiring images of Casual Elegance, follow my board on Pinterest.
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This is a perfect article. My daughter is getting married on our farm this year. She wants to go elegant/rustic. These are some great ideas. I’ve been collecting old silverware and mixing and matching. I love the one where it’s tied in jute and a wildflower is tucked in. As always, you’re an inspiration. Cindy
Great article, just what I needed.