How to Decorate Like Old Money Without Actually Spending Tons

a kick back kind of cottage martha’s vineyard retreat homeowners phoebe cole smith and mike smith living room
The Old Money Guide to DecoratingDANE TASHIMA

If you're one who stays up to speed on pop culture, you've no doubt heard of "stealth wealth," a fashion trend best exemplified by understatement. (Or, as the kids say on TikTok: "Money talks. Wealth whispers.") Also called "quiet luxury," it refers to the sartorial preferences typically associated with the old money set—in other words, a not-trying-too-hard, nothing-to-prove rotation of nubby neutrals and leather loafers as opposed to statement bags and showy logos.

This sudden sensation around stealth wealth got us thinking about the "old money" design equivalent—at least when it comes to their country houses—which we're officially coining as "Upper Crusty." The "Upper Crusty" look is less about minimalism and restraint than it is about helicopter-ing off to your family's cozy off-the-grid cabin—let's be honest, it's probably shingled and definitely in Maine—which is outfitted with creaky 100-year-old floors, chippy furniture, pieced quilts, rag rugs, and at least one straw hat hanging askew on the wall. It's a less polished, delightfully undone look that says "I came here to kick back and forget about where I fall in the succession line of my dad's media conglomerate."

Even better: Unlike Mongolian cashmere and a Celine handbag, the Upper Crusty look can be achieved by anyone, because it's all about embracing a spirit of "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" practicality. (It's the same reason Old Money tends to prefer a wood-paneled 1980s station wagon over a 2023 Range Rover.)

Here's how to embrace the look, regardless of your trust fund status.

Savor imperfection.

"People are so quick to replace anything slightly frayed or slightly worn, but resisting that urge is going to help you achieve this [layered-over-time] look," says designer (and Upper Crusty icon) Libby Cameron, whose casually collected family home in Maine, pictured below, is as lived-in and layered as it gets. Simply buy what you love and hang on to it, even if it's a bit worn or weathered. That's kinda the point.

a maine living room with a collected gallery wall
No level? No problem. The gallery walls of the Upper Crusty evolve over time and should have artwork that is a little off-kilter. James Merrell

Shop for the piece, not the room.

"I like to buy what I love and move things around," says Libby. "Furniture should be versatile—it doesn't have to feel like it was bought for a specific room. These homes have a spirit of spontaneity meets practicality, like 'I already had that table so I moved it over here.'"

collected maine living room with a green sofa and a giant vintage ship painting on the wall
Don’t you just want to binge-watch Succession from that sofa? James Merrell
a kick back kind of cottage martha’s vineyard retreat homeowners phoebe cole smith and mike smith living room
Another welcoming example of the Upper Crusty aesthetic from a home on Martha’s Vineyard designed by Phoebe Cole-Smith.DANE TASHIMA

Don't shy away from color.

While the internet-famous "Coastal Grandma" aesthetic largely centered on neutrals, the Upper Crusty look is far from subdued. You'll find plenty of painted floors and painted furniture in happy hues (reds and greens are particularly popular). The trick to keeping it consistently crusty: Choosing colors that feel as if they've faded over time (Paints and prints with warm and muddy undertones will help you get that look.)

charming country bedroom with wooden bed and light purple chintz wallpaper
Purple chintz, yellow bookshelves, and blue bedding? It all works as long as the hues feel as if they’ve faded a little over time, as is the case in this charming attic bedroom by Madcap Cottage.Max Kim-Bee
poster bed with blue bedding
Chippy painted furniture? Check. Faded blue bedding? Check. Straw hats? Check. This effortlessly collected bedroom is in keeping with the Upper Crusty aesthetic.Marta Xochilt Perez
porch with redpainted floor
Now *that* is a red floor.James Salomon

Mix materials—and eras.

Wicker, wood, rattan—anything goes. "Indoor furniture? Outdoor furniture? The lines are totally blurred," says Country Living Senior Homes & Style Editor Anna Logan. "You'll find a 70s rattan sofa alongside a 60s wicker chair and a 70s bamboo bookshelf, and that all adds to the 'acquired over time' feeling. The best examples of 'Upper Crusty' design are those spaces that you can't quite assign to any certain era. They feel stuck in time, but in the best, hardest-to-pinpoint way possible."

wood paneled living room with a white wicker sofa
Bamboo, linen, rattan, wicker—the gang’s all here and they’re ready for a gin and tonic. Gridley & Graves

Season (lightly) with salt.

Sea salt, to be specific. Although the Upper Crusty aesthetic works in a variety of spaces, it's most at home in an Atlantic-facing coastal cabin that comes across as quite modest until you look up its value on Zillow. (And, by the way, you just know it's one of the many family cabins on the compound.) But don't go overboard on the nautical knicknacks. This look is generally light on (but not necessarily absent of!) the lobster and lighthouse motifs, but beachcomber collectibles and faded seascapes and schooner paintings are completely fair (and frequented) game.

living room with an ivory slipcovered sofa and collected gallery wall
With its perfectly rumpled sofa, faded throw pillows, antique side table, and collected curiosities, this Long Island home is Upper Crusty at its finest.Tria Giovan

Embrace the rumple.

A sit-and-stay-awhile sofa is an essential in the homes of the Upper Crusty, and it should look like it's endured years of (VCR-enabled!) movie nights and late afternoon naps beside a Golden Retriever. Whether slipcovered or donned in a ticking stripe, it's typically layered with slightly flattened pillows that feel like they were just scored from an estate sale. (Bonus points if the fabric is by Sister Parish.)

a maine living room with white paneled walls and a slipcovered sofa
The living room of a shingled camp house in Camden, Maine, as seen in The Maine House. Maura McEvoy

Keep books within reach.

Every Upper Crusty house that tugs at our heartstrings has a healthy stockpile of summer reads tucked into seemingly every nook and cranny.

stairwell with green steps and a collection of books
Exposed architecture invites casual, impromptu book shelves.James Merrell

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