We’re Into: Federal Style

Ballard Designs Tremont Chair inspired by Federalist style

It’s no secret that we often look to the past for inspiration, painstakingly reproducing antiques we’ve found on our travels all over the world. But we didn’t have to look far to find a certain historical style we’re into right now.

Borrowing the name of the time period in which it flourished (1785-1820), Federal style is a uniquely American version of neoclassical design. The style largely drew upon European influences, particularly Scottish architect and designer, Robert Adams, who popularized ancient Roman and Greek architectural details.

With an emphasis on symmetry and balance (think Oval Office or New York’s Gracie Mansion), Federal style offered a look of pure refined comfort. Keeping today’s modern homes in mind, our interpretations are true to those qualities while featuring updated details.

Luciana Extension Pedestal Table by Ballard Designs

Luciana Extension Pedestal Table by Ballard Designs

Luciana Extension Pedestal Dining Table

Federal style flourished in the homes of affluent families in the large port cities, such as New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Charleston and Baltimore. We can picture our Luciana Pedestal Table holding court in any of these homes. The pedestal base and curving saber legs were popular features on large dining tables during the Federal period. Ours comes with an extension.

Suzanne Kasler Chapelle Urn by Ballard Designs

Suzanne Kasler Chapelle Urn Table Lamp

The classical motif of a curved urn could be seen everywhere in Federal design: in architecture, on furniture and as ornamentation. Suzanne borrowed the classic shape of an urn and transformed it into her chic, glossy Chapelle Lamp.

Evelyn Terra Cotter Bust from Ballard Designs

Evelyn Terra Cotta Bust Planter

A fascination with Roman artifacts meant that many Federal-style homes boasted classical busts on tables, dressers and desks. We got a bit cheeky with ours. Modeled after an actual antique bust, it’s also a planter.

Lourdes Mirror from Ballard Designs

Lourdes Mirror

Repeated patterns, such as ovals, rectangles, diamonds and circles were often used in hardware, inlays, fanlights and molding details. Our dramatic black and gold Lourdes Mirror replicates the look with intricately beaded medallions.

Tremont wooden dining chair from Ballard Designs

Tremont Chair

Although designed with cleaner lines and less ornamentation in the seat back, our chair pays homage to Federal style in its details: a square back, saber legs and sloping arms. Tremont Armchair and Side Chair would look right at home with our Luciana Table.

Ballard Designs Estella Plaque


Federal style corresponded with the popular concurrent Georgian style in Britain, named for the monarch. Inspired by a Georgian period relief, our Estella Plaque features intricate bellflower swags between molded floral medallions.

Casa Florentina Marche Console

Casa Florentina Marche Console

Designed in the spirit of a classic writing desk with a nod to Federal style in the reeded, straight legs and raised unadorned diamond detail, Marche’s function is made for today’s home office. The middle drawer fits a laptop, a feature George Washington didn’t need.

For more design inspiration, visit our Pinterest Boards, or find more gorgeous rooms in our Photo Gallery.

Caroline McDonald

Caroline lives for pairing together patterns, mixing furniture styles, and oogling over our newest furniture pieces. As you can imagine, her little 1920's craftsman is in a constant state of flux. Here on How to Decorate, it's her goal to help you turn your home into your own little slice of paradise.


  1. Reply

    April Cook

    May 26, 2016

    I’m loving the federal style right now. WE are looking for new furniture for our home, and I’m hoping we can go with this style. I really like the Lourdes mirror. It would go great in our front hall! Does this mirror come in a variety of sizes? thanks for the inspiration!

  2. Reply


    August 27, 2015

    Informative and interesting. Thanks.