Preppy Style at Home

How preppy. Photo: Ralph Lauren HomeI grew up in the very “preppy” town of Duxbury, Massachusetts. We were so preppy, in fact, that we got a mention in the 1980 Official Preppy Handbook. The thing I really came away with was that being a real preppy was something innate. There were those born to the preppy life who were never particularly comfortable there and others who became preppy and fit right in.

Preppy is a Lifestyle

The preppy lifestyle is not just about fashion (although Nantucket red chinos, Top-Siders without socks, and Polo shirts with upturned collars were certainly de rigueur); it’s about a lifestyle. It has the patina of old money and country club tradition, but with a more colorful and casual exuberance. It’s definitely not about age, because much of the clothing works for generations and certainly some Boston Brahmin preps keep their clothes for that long! True preppy style derives more from the windblown feeling that you’ve just pulled your skiff in, after a bracing morning on the water, than a white dinner jacket evening at the club.

Modern Prep

I asked Scot Meacham Wood, of SMW Design, a Southern boy currently living in San Francisco, his take on modern prep. Known for his great collection of plaid blazers, Wood is the embodiment of casual preppy chic. When asked about preppy fashion, Wood says it’s all about cut and fit: "This current preppy movement is much more body conscious than the one I remember from the 80s. This current trend is also a bit more 'weathered.' The clothing has a sense of history. Many people find the tattered oxford shirts and patch-covered jeans to be a pastiche. Luckily for me, I still have all the oxford shirts from my college years - so the tatters are legitimate." 

Wood points to menswear designer Michael Bastian as doing a great modern preppy look. "He has, in the last few years, completely re-imagined the modern preppy male. Beautiful, classic clothing, but with a fit that is much more body aware than the baggy khakis and loose sweaters that we wore in the 80s." 

Home Interiors

When it comes to home interiors, Wood also notes the breezy Lily Pulitzer fabric collection for Lee Jofa, commenting that he is particularly taken with the great patterns, amazing colors and "sheer happiness" of the line. "It certainly represents a style that is considered to be 'classic' American."

Mixed in with the bubbliness of the Lily Pulitzer line is the iconic Ralph Lauren Home collection. Ralph Lauren is the embodiment of the self-made man to whom an archetypal American, casual prep style came naturally, belying his Bronx upbringing. Scott Meacham Wood, who earlier in his career worked as a stylist for Ralph Lauren Home in California, enjoys the mixing of lighter and brighter fabrics with classic leathers and linens. This juxtaposition of materials, both old and new, imbues a sense of history. A layering of art and accessories adds to the overall traditional, yet still casual, feel. 

5 Must-Haves for a Preppy Home

In the wrong hands, preppy style becomes a cliché, almost a uniform. Red trousers: check; Top-Siders: check; sailboats: check, check. But these things only scratch the surface. Decking your home in sailboat motifs and brown leather furniture (the interiors version of the uniform) doesn’t truly capture the breezy essence of the preppy lifestyle. In addition to Ralph Lauren and Lily Pulitzer lines mentioned above, here is a list of 5 must-have items that capture the essence of the preppy home.

  1. Breezy bedding from Pine Cone Hill.

  2. The pineapple, a traditional sign of welcome. A pineapple knocker on your front door says welcome right away!

  3. The Lighthouse Denim and White striped rug by Dash and Albert Rug Company. It feels fresh, like a snapping sail or a classic button down shirt.

  4. Pottery Barn’s Chesterfield leather sofa, all about tradition and comfort. The leather will develop a well-worn distressed look over time, fitting right in the style.

  5. Brightly lacquered Chinese Chippendale chairs. Classic design style meets pretty exuberance.

Furnishings should be sturdy and comfortable, hold up to lots of use and sandy feet, and become even more comfortable over time. Nothing should be too modern, too dark or too neon. It’s a careful yet casual mixing of ingredients, of things you love and find comfortable, that really captures the essence of a preppy lifestyle. 

Linda Merrill is a Networx writer.

Updated August 28, 2018.

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