If you have a penchant for classic design, you can likely credit that to ancient civilization.
The Roman Empire has been a hot topic lately. The hashtag #RomanEmpire is nearing 2.5 billion views on TikTok alone, but in case you missed the viral videos, they consist of people asking men how often they think about the Roman Empire. And the answers are fascinating; many admit that the ancient civilization crosses their thoughts daily or weekly.
And while the social media dialogue is all in good fun, there might be a reason people are thinking about the Roman Empire so often. The Romans had some serious style that has stood the test of time, and it’s hard not to see their impact as you look around your living space.
From trim to tile and window treatments to sculptural accents, many details of our homes today reflect Roman designs from thousands of years ago. Here are a few home design elements that you might not know originated from the Roman Empire.
1. Open-Concept Layouts
The popularity of open floor plans has ebbed and flowed throughout the decades, but the trend saw a tremendous resurgence in the 1990s, particularly in new construction homes. While the difficulty of furnishing such a large area has some rethinking their open concept, the trend is still widely embraced—and it came directly from the Roman Empire.
The ancient Romans traditionally had a great room as the central focus of their home, also known as a domus. The layouts featured an oversized atrium where visitors gathered, along with several side rooms, such as bedrooms or an office. The atrium essentially connected the rest of the domus, much like a kitchen can open up to a living area and dining room in a modern open-concept space. The idea is to make the home feel more inviting and inspire the people living (or visiting) there to connect more with one another.
2. Crown Molding
Technically speaking, molding wasn’t invented by the Romans. The Egyptians and Greeks were using it first, but the Romans set out to simplify it. Rather than overly elaborate trim, they lined their ceilings with half-round and quarter-round shapes. Many of the same designs are used in homes today with just one major difference: the material. In ancient Rome, crown molding was made of marble or stone, while current day contractors tend to use wood or plastic molding which is much easier to apply. You can even use Command strips to hang trim around your ceiling for a temporary Roman aesthetic.
3. Herringbone Patterns
You’ve likely spotted herringbone floors or tiles in modern homes, because it’s a timeless detail. But did you know that the Romans are credited with inventing it for architectural purposes? They were allegedly inspired by the pattern of a herring’s skeleton—hence the name of the pattern—and used it to pave roads throughout the empire.
4. Marble and Stone Surfaces
While modern-day molding isn’t made with marble or stone, we still use those materials frequently by way of countertops, flooring, fireplaces, and more. If you’re not in the market for a renovation but want to incorporate these Romanesque materials in your home, look for accessories or a dining table with a pedestal made of marble or stone.
5. Roman Shades
This likely won’t come as a surprise, but Roman-style shades did actually originate from ancient Rome. In fact, Roman shades were discovered in the ruins of Pompeii. While today they’re used for aesthetic purposes, the shades were originally used by the ancient civilization to keep dust and heat out of their homes. The main difference is that their shades—especially those in the Colosseum—hung horizontally.
6. Mosaic Tiles
Mosaic tile designs have been around for centuries. They were found on the floors, walls, and ceilings of Roman homes, proving this design element is timeless. In modern homes, we still incorporate mosaic tile designs, but they’re often reserved for home features that the Romans didn’t necessarily have. These days, they’re often used for kitchen backsplashes, bathroom walls, and walk-in showers.
7. Minimalist Furniture
Despite their palatial great rooms, the Romans were fairly stingy with their furniture. Similar to the open concept, keeping pieces of furniture minimal and close together encouraged people to congregate. The reasoning behind the “less is more” aesthetic we’ve been seeing lately most likely has less to do with gathering and more to do with embracing a clutter-free lifestyle. Still, the pull to choose quality over quantity furniture is something you can attribute to the Roman Empire.
One specific piece of furniture from ancient times that is still hanging around is the chaise lounge. Similarly to crown molding, the Egyptians and Greeks were also sitting on them but, until the Romans learned how to upholster the lounges, they would load them with cushions for comfort. In fact, they were known for using a plethora of throw pillows much like we tend to do today—although we don’t know if the Romans ever mastered the pillow chop method.
8. Pops of Bold Color
Although the general color scheme of Roman Empire homes consisted of earthy neutrals, they let their creative side out through accents in striking hues. Red and yellow were two of the most popular choices but they also incorporated blues, purples, and even black throughout the space by way of rugs, artwork, and pillows.
If you’ve grown out of the minimalist style trend but aren’t quite ready to convert to a maximalist lifestyle, take a lesson from the history books and pair a mostly neutral palette with a statement color in small doses.
9. Sculptural Candles
Funky-shaped candles are all the rage currently, and the sculptural element is loosely inspired by the handcrafted statues the Roman Empire is known for. Take the trend a step further and look for Roman statue candles that mimic the plaster busts found throughout ancient homes for a conversation-starting decor element.