More often than not, interior design decisions tend to be long lasting investments. Generally speaking, people can’t afford to redo their family room every year; it’s just not as practical as updating your wardrobe every season (although if you’re me, that’s not always the most affordable thing to do either, but I digress)! The point is, when it comes to designing interiors, you should always do your best to avoid investing in something that a year later you may find yourself asking, “what was I thinking?”
Like fashion, interior design always has popular trends that are enticing to jump on. Its a tricky thing, which often makes it difficult to determine if you are drawn to something because its in style, or if its actually true to your personal design taste. Possibly, its a little bit of both and don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with being drawn to things that are in style. The challenge with trendy in interior design though, is what happens when those things go out of style. It’s practical to replace a previously trendy blouse that is no longer in style with something new, but it is significantly less reasonable to completely gut your entire bathroom simply because you can’t stand the brass hardware from last season and recently decided you are no longer into mosaic tiles.
Now, if you are the kind of person who has the means to redo things on a regular basis, then what I’m saying here may not apply to you quite the same; but, if you are not one of those individuals, before you make any big design decisions, I encourage you to first understand the various styles of interior design out there and take the time to identify the one (or two, or three) that speak most to you. Maybe you lean towards a more traditional styles, or you are more of a minimalist at heart. Maybe you hate the Mid Century Modern revival that seems to be floating around everywhere today or maybe it’s the style you’ve always been drawn to at the end of the day. Whatever the case, I promise you will never go wrong when it comes to design, so long as you always stay true to yourself. Remember, if an interior doesn’t speak to you, it isn’t doing its job. Design should have meaning, remember?!
17 Interior Design Styles Worth Knowing
1. Art Deco
First introduced in the 1920’s, Art Deco is mostly known for its geometric patterns, bold curves, both polished & shiny finishes and overall reflective surfaces. A focus on layered lighting offers an atmospheric quality to these interior spaces making them appear to glow. Other Art Deco characteristics include silk fabrics, rhythmic motifs, glossy paints, and sleek textures, as well as chrome & brass fixtures.
2. Bohemian (Boho Chic) & Eclecticism
Bohemian and Eclecticism are two separate design styles; but I decided to group these two together because they share similar design mentalities. Have fun, break rules, and don’t be afraid to get messy!
Bohemian interiors are typically full of life. Bold colors, layered textiles, and ethnic patterns are just a few of the design elements commonly used in these types of spaces. In bohemian design, story telling through furniture and accessories is key. Basically, the more unique the better! To help add intrigue, essential to mastering this particular design style, it should never be too obvious where anything was purchased. Some categorize Bohemian interiors as having a more “messy” appearance, but I prefer to refer to it as well organized chaos.
Eclecticism is all about creativity, personality, imagination and elements of surprise! If you aren’t a rule breaker, this style is likely not for you. Eclecticism pulls from a variety of different time periods, meaning very little is off limits. The key to well done eclectic interiors comes down the finding the balance between old & new, color & texture, solids & patterns, among other things, to create an overall cohesive space that speaks to the personality and life experiences of the person who occupies it.
First, let me clarify that Contemporary interiors and Modern interiors are NOT the same thing. While these terms are often used interchangeably, they shouldn’t be because these two words define two very different types of design. Contemporary design is ever changing. It is, essentially, what is “trendy” or in style today. What Contemporary design looked like in the 1990’s, is not what Contemporary design looks like today, and a few years from now, Contemporary design will have changed its look again. Modern design, on the other hand, has specific characteristics that do not change.
4. Country Farmhouse
Country farmhouse is characterized as an old world, rustic style that is comfortable and inviting. It typically pulls from a neutral color palette, but is also known for its playful floral & toile patterns and occasional pops of color. Common characteristics of these interiors include distressed finishes & handmade furnishings that blend traditional and transitional styles, wooden beams, prominent fireplaces, copper & iron accents, glass & pottery vases and old world paintings.
5. Hollywood Regency (Hollywood Glam)
Home of Hollywood Regency interiors is, you guessed it, Hollywood! More commonly refereed to as Hollywood Glam today, this interior style emerged in the 1930’s and was made popular by famous Hollywood elite. When it comes to this design style, its all about the glitz and the glamour. With Hollywood Regency, high end details are everything so expect to see lots of lacquered furnishings, embellished walls, dressed windows, bright colors and bold patterns here. The spaces are intended to elicit overall feelings of grandeur, but in order to achieve the right balance, careful consideration must be taken when selecting the right furnishings to ensure proper scale.
Rather than covering things up, Industrial interiors elect to let the rough edges of a built space remain visible. Polished concrete, steel beams, exposed brick walls, lofted ceilings, and distressed wood are just a few of the elements that characterize these spaces. Known for rough metal elements, free standing lamps, and embracing natural wear and tear, its important to understand that industrial interiors are not intended to be warm and fuzzy spaces. Rather, the rough and unfinished nature of these interiors inspires spaces that often feel a bit cold; suggesting a sense of maturity from an industrial past.
7. Mid Century Modern
Commonly grouped together with Modern design, Mid Century Modern interiors emerged post World War II in the 1940’s. The style was refined and remained popular through the 1960’s, and is a very Contemporary design popular today. Mid Century Design is characterized by open floor plans, that blurs the boundaries between the indoors and outdoors. Similar to Modern design, Mid Century is known for its clean lines, organic curves and basic geometric shapes. Common materials range from wood, plastic, stainless steel and even lucite, making it an easily recognizable style, particularly when it comes to furniture. Famous pieces representative of this time include the well-renowned Eames and Saarinen furnishings.
As mentioned before, Modern and Contemporary design are not one in the same. Modern interiors, unlike Contemporary ones, don’t change over time. Modern interiors are consistently recognized for being clean, zero frill interiors. Introduced in 1920’s-1950’s, common characteristics of modern interiors are clean lines, basic geometric shapes, neutral color palettes, and environmentally friendly materials. Similar to Minimalism, Modern design strays away from excessive ornamentation to offer an overall sleek, simple, and functional interior space.
Inspired by the Middle East, Moroccan design is known for its vibrant colors, ethnic patterns, colorful mosaics and heavy amounts of layering. Effective contrasting of textures is key to a truly well done Moroccan interior. Soft oriental rugs, carved wooden accents, luxurious pillow fabrics, exotic plants, terracotta floors, and textured walls all play a role in obtaining the balance necessary in these spaces, bringing the interior to life. Other common characteristics of Moroccan interiors include Moroccan lamps, floor pillows, kilims, soft decorative curtains, and fresh spices left out to stimulate the senses.
Nautical interiors, also commonly referred to as coastal or cottage interiors, are the epitome of “beach house” design. Commonly found in vacation homes near the water, Nautical interiors are full of spirit and evoke a light, breezy atmosphere that is inviting,, cozy, relaxing, and overall easy going. Inspired by the sand and ocean, Nautical interiors are known for having more neutral color palettes, accented by rich blues and beach-themed accessories. Navigational maps, anchors, sea shells, sailboats, and jute ropes are just a few of the fun decorative elements commonly incorporated in these breezy interiors.
Similar to Tuscan and Arts & Craft style interiors, Rustic interiors embrace an earthy color palette, making them well known for their natural beauty and ability to elicit feelings of warmth. These slightly rugged, eclectic spaces heavily focus on natural materials that, often times, appear distressed or even unfinished to the human eye. Smooth and polished these interiors are not. Commonly paired with handcrafted elements, folk art, and vintage/flea market finds, Rustic interiors are unique in their ability to contrast textures to create spaces that are perfectly cohesive and unrefined.
12. Scandinavian & Minimalism
While not one in the same, both Scandinavian Design and Minimalist Design stem from modern design and share similar characteristics so I decided to group these two together. Similar to that of modern design, both design styles represent a move towards simplicity and efficiency.
Scandinavian Design surfaced in the 1950’s from the five Nordic countries. It is characterized by a neutral color palette (predominately grays and blues) and introduces limited, playful accent colors for texture and warmth. Known for its sleek lines and particular balance of organic & engineered materials.
Minimalism Design emerged in the 1960’s and 1970’s from modern and traditional Japanese design. It is known for using natural light to fashion lively, airy interiors across a calming color palette. Minimalism calls for elements within a space to stand on their own, along with small accent colors that can act as focal points. Known for being zero clutter spaces with hidden storage elements incorporated across the design. The ultimate epitome of “less is more.”
As you can probably guess, the roots of Traditional design stem all the way back to 18th-century England. Its a classic type of design that stresses symmetry, strong silhouettes, elegance and order. A reflection of “traditional” European decor, Traditional design can include anything from wing-backed chairs to carved wall moldings. Common patterns include florals, damasks, and paisleys while common colors include rich shades of brown, blue and red. Known for its focal points of classic art and rich wooden furnishings, traditional design is no stranger to embellishments. Detail is key across Traditional interiors and, as such, is celebrated to this day for its fine woodwork and strong attention to detail.
I’m not going to lie, Transitional design is one of my favorite styles as it serves as a bridge between Traditional and Contemporary design. It is a great way to embrace the beautiful designs of the past in a contemporary light, making these interiors appear classic, but not dated. While I have been known to break the rules with this one, typical Transitional design embraces a more neutral, or tonal, color palette, and understated patterns that are just enough to give a room the texture and dimension it needs to come alive. Embracing an assortment of textures and using them right next to one another, Transitional design combines shiny chenille fabrics with rough natural textures like jute, giving rooms a relaxed and yet polished feel. My favorite part, Transitional design isn’t too girly or too manly. The mix of textures and careful selection of colors blends masculine and feminine design elements together to create one cohesive, gender neutral space.
A style most commonly used in “tropical” destinations around the world, Tropical interiors are known for their rough finishes and bold floral prints. No stranger to natural materials, finishes such as rattan, wicker, bamboo, sisal, seagrass and teak are commonly woven throughout these spaces. Floral blooms and oversize palm leaf patterns are another common trend across Tropical design; used for wall coverings, drapery, and other upholstered furnishings adding softness to these spaces and an overall “beachy” vibe.
Vintage design, closely related to Shabby Chic, is an antique design style, characterized by its aged appearance. Despite embracing weathered, painted furnishings and distressed finishes, Vintage spaces don’t appear to be dated or old fashioned. Rather, these versatile interiors are known for their lack of clutter and sense of brightness due to their light, pastel color palette. Common characteristics of Vintage interiors include slip-covered sofas, white washed furnishings, and small accessories and/or trinkets collected from flea markets that further reflects the personality of those occupying the space.
Stemming from Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese, and Taiwanese cultures, Zen interiors are known for their visual continuity and their ability to evoke feelings of calmness. The harmonious interiors commonly use natural materials, like bamboo, and incorporate plant life to ensure feelings of warmth and comfort. Similar to minimalism, these spaces offer simple, clear lines and limited ornamentation. Handpainted furnishings of animals or mythical creatures are the sole exception to this lack of ornamentation, used as a means of adding elements of detail and interest across these interiors.
My Design Style
I for one have never been keen on describing myself as a certain type of designer. I like to think that one of the many reasons I became a designer is because I can find beauty in just about anything. I think that each style of design has a place and a purpose, a home it belongs in. What style belongs in your home? Well, ultimately that’s a decision you are going to have to decide for yourself (and yes, it can be more than one)!
I don’t believe in pushing my own personal taste on my clients (or anyone for that matter). It is my job to create beautiful spaces that fit the wants and needs my clients. Every client brings something different to the table, and I believe that is something to be celebrated and honored. What style I prefer for my home is really irreverent. What matters is how I am able to bring their space (any space, of any design style), to life, in a way that speaks to them by presenting unique ideas they may have not previously considered and helping to steer them away from making any poor design decisions. That is why my clients hire me, that is my job; I’m simply a tool that allows my clients to bring their visions (or lack there of) to life! So, no, I’m not going limit myself by defining myself as a designer who prefers one style of design over another. The only true design style I have, is bringing rooms to life and making people happy!
The one thing you can count on is that trends will come and go. Its cyclical. Things you never imagined liking will one day be back in style. Maybe it will make you change your mind and see something differently, or maybe you will hate it just as much as you always have. Either way, there is no right or wrong when it comes to design as long as you always stay true to yourself. I know it sounds corny, but I promise, if you know what you like before hand, there’s less of a chance you’ll regret it later on!