What is Empire?

Empire refers to an opulent and majestic interior design style that originated in France during the First French Empire (early 19th century).


The Empire style, hailing from the early 19th century, is a distinct interior design and architectural style that saw its rise during the rule of Napoleon Bonaparte in France. It is characterized by its grandeur, opulence, and emphasis on symmetry and order, reflecting the imperial ambitions and military successes of the Napoleonic era. This style often incorporates robust and heavy furniture, rich fabrics, and detailed ornamentation, including motifs of eagles, bees, laurel wreaths, and stars which symbolize power and victory.

Elements such as columns, pilasters, and gold accents are commonly found in Empire-styled interiors, alongside inspirations from ancient Egyptian, Roman, and Greek art and architecture. Furniture pieces are substantial and classical in form, often featuring dark woods, marble tops, and bronze or gold mounts. Empire style is not only about the lavishness but also about making a bold, authoritative statement through interior design.

The color palette for Empire interiors typically consists of strong, deep hues like dark green, navy, black, and rich reds, complemented by metallic gold and bronze tones for added luxury. Fabrics are sumptuous and heavy, with velvet and silk among the preferred choices for upholstery and drapery.

Today, the Empire style offers a timeless elegance and can be incorporated into modern interiors through selective furniture pieces, architectural elements, and decorative accents that convey a sense of grandeur and historical depth.


The Empire style can be seen in historic homes, museums, and luxurious hotel lobbies that aim to convey a sense of opulence and majesty. In contemporary settings, elements of the Empire style may be incorporated through statement furniture pieces, regal color schemes, and decorative accessories that echo the style's distinct motifs and themes.


  • How does Empire style differ from other historical interior design styles?

    Empire style distinguishes itself through its emphasis on grandeur, order, and symbols of power and victory, reflecting Napoleon's imperial ambitions. It incorporates specific motifs like eagles, bees, laurel wreaths, and incorporates ancient civilizations’ art forms more directly compared to other styles.

  • Can Empire style be incorporated into modern interiors?

    Yes, elements of Empire style can be carefully integrated into modern interiors, using statement furniture, color schemes, and decorative accents to add a touch of historical elegance and luxury without overpowering the contemporary aesthetic.

  • What are typical colors and materials used in Empire style interiors?

    Empire interiors feature deep, bold colors like dark green, navy, and rich reds, complemented by gold and bronze. Preferred materials include dark woods, marble, heavy fabrics like velvet and silk, and metal accents in bronze or gold.

Practical Application

To incorporate the Empire style into your interior, start with statement furniture pieces like a dark wood cabinet with bronze mounts or a classically inspired velvet upholstered sofa. Add accents in gold or bronze for that opulent touch, and don’t shy away from bold colors and heavy fabrics. Careful selection and placement of these elements can help you achieve a modern interpretation of this majestic style.