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Six Ideas To Bring Federal-Style House Design Into Your Home

Wall niches, arches, a pastel color palette, and oval shapes are all elements of Federal-style homes. Inspired by Neoclassicism, stemming from ancient Greece and the Roman Republic, this classic style took shape in America between 1780 and 1830 . At the time, America had just gained independence and the political pride soon infiltrated the architecture and décor. 

The characteristics of Federal-style architecture incorporate timeless features which are a great addition to any home. As a result, adding a Federal touch can transform even modern American homes. 

Below we take a look at what makes a house a Federal-style and explore 6 ways to bring Federal-style into your home. 

Federal-Style Architecture in Salem, Massachusetts
Hamilton Hall in Salem, MA (1805) is a classic examples of Federal-style architecture. (Credit: Wikipedia )

What Makes A House Federal-Style?

If you're looking to bring a Federal-style into your home, then the first step is to familiarize yourself with its key elements.

Curved lines, decorative flourishes, as well as symmetry and balance, are essential parts of Federal-style interior design. 

Balance and symmetry are critical to Federal-style  architecture. For this reason, the windows of a Federal house aren’t usually grouped. Rather, they are arranged in vertical and horizontal symmetry to give a balanced effect.

The color palette in a Federal-style home usually includes green, yellow, and blue pastels. Darker colors are seldom used except for sapphire and crimson. 

Another key feature of a Federal-style decorated home is ornamental motifs. For example, you’ll often find festoons , swags , and urns decorating the walls, doors, and mantels. Another popular feature is incorporating interesting patterns and textures with wallpaper.

Lastly, one of the more famous characteristics is the use of the oval shape. This is a common federal style characteristic that includes oval-shaped rooms and oval-shaped decorations and ornaments. The most well-known example being the oval room in the White House. Other examples include oval-shaped mirrors, furniture inlays, and molding details. 

The Oval Office is a great example of Federal-style interior
The Oval Office exemplifies Federal-style design with it's oval shape, colorful swags, arched wall niches, and patterned wallpaper. (Credit: Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post )

6 Ways to Bring Federal-Style Interior Design into Your Home

Incorporating a Federal-style doesn't require an entire remodel. There are simple and cost-effective ways to include this elegant and timeless interior design in your home. 

Below, we look at 6 easy additions to do just that!

Add in Some Elegant Wall Niches 

Wall niches have always been a popular architectural ornament. They work well at the entrance of a home, in the hallways, and leading up the staircases. 

Rounded wall niches with soft lines and engravings are a great way to reflect the federal style in your space. Try to avoid using square or rectangular wall niches as they bring a more modern and contemporary look to the room.

Further, if you have any Federal-style ornamental pieces like busts or urns, a well-placed wall niche is the perfect way to showcase those favorite pieces. 

A large wall niche with a soft arch serves as a functional and decorative element for Federal-style home design
A large wall niche with a soft arch serves as a functional and decorative element for Federal-style architecture. (Credit: Archways & Ceilings)

Incorporate Classical Archways 

An archway  is a statement-maker in any home. But, it's an even better addition if you want to create a Federal-style house interior. 

However, you need to make sure that you choose the right type of arch. Soft arches that go up straight and have a lower, more elongated arch are best suited for Federal-style homes.

Some tips to consider when building arches into your home: 

  • Be consistent. To make your home look and feel cohesive, consider having more than one arch placed around your home.
  • Arches are excellent for entryways and hallways to create flow and add an elegant touch to any home.

Further, consider adding arches with detail like soft lines and engravings. These are popular with the Federal-style.

Elliptical arch with columns on the side for a Federal-style home interior
An elliptical arch flanked by columns on the side give this contemporary home a touch of Federal-style flair. (Credit: Archways & Ceilings)

Fan-shaped Windows

Fan-shaped windows, or fanlights, are common additions when designing a Federal-style house. These are usually placed just above the front door of the house or used on the top story. This, once again, creates the desired circular effect common to the Federal-style of architecture. 

But, fanlights are not limited to the front of the house. Consider adding fanlights above the other doors or windows in your house. The addition of these window arches is an easy way to achieve a Federal-style home. 

A great way to add more light to a loft space in the house is with the addition of a fanlight to a dormer . This will also give the front of the house a beautiful Federal look.

Fan-shaped arched window being framed above a front door under a groin vault
Fan-shaped arched windows are easy to install with our Window Arch kits. (Credit: Archways & Ceilings)

Federal-style Ceiling

A detailed ceiling is often the main feature or focal point of a room. So, when it comes to Federal-style house interiors, using decorative ceilings is key to incorporating the elegance of the style. For example, adding detailed molding adds texture and depth to the room.

Curved lines and the oval shape also feature in the ceilings of Federal-style houses. So, consider adding a Federal-style ceiling to create the effect of a circular room. This way, you don’t have to remodel your entire room to get the desired effect. Simply installing the right ceiling will do the job! 

Some examples of ceiling additions for this purpose include dome ceilings, oval ceiling domes, elongated dome ceilings, cove ceilings, and igloo ceilings. 

A detailed Dome Ceiling with moldings in a federal-style oval room
A detailed Dome Ceiling with moldings in a Federal-style oval room. (Credit: Archways & Ceilings)

Add a Mantel to Your Fireplace

If your house does not have an original mantel or fireplace canopy hood , consider adding one to your living room. It can incorporate the Federal-style with engraved lines and other detailed moldings. Not only this, but the mantel also functions as a great area to display your ornaments. 

Incorporate Wallpaper 

Adding wallpaper to some of your bedrooms or living rooms is an easy and cost-effective way to bring federal style into your home. Consider choosing wallpaper that features the ornamental motifs of the time. 

In other words, use wallpaper to incorporate patterns, textures, and a pastel color palette into your room. But, make sure you choose the right rooms to wallpaper. For example, avoid textured and heavily patterned wallpaper in a small space. Rather use simple wallpaper that brings in the pastel greens, blues, and yellows to the room. 

Patterned green wallpaper in a Federal-style landmark at the Dumbarton House in Washington DC
Patterned green wallpaper in a Federal-style landmark at the Dumbarton House in Washington DC. (Credit: Dupont Kalorama Museums Consortium )

Final Thoughts on Exploring Federal-Style Home Architecture

Federal-style décor and architecture are timeless. With its versatility and abundance of design elements, why not explore ways to incorporate this classic style into your home. Thanks to our affordable and easy to install prefabricated framing kits, this does not have to be an expensive and laborious exercise either. Contact us anytime to see how we can help you transform your home today!

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