Design 101: A Quick Guide to the Most Popular Interior Design Styles

Today I’m bringing you a quick overview of some of the most popular styles in interior design right now.

One of the things my clients struggle with most is putting a name to their personal style. Why does this matter? Having a clear vision of your personal style before beginning a project will result in a smoother process and easier decision making. It’s easier to google “Farmhouse Chic kitchen” and get inspiration instantly rather than having to scroll through thousands of generic “kitchen inspiration” photos.

Every month I’ll be delving deeper into each and every design style to bring you a comprehensive guide including details about furniture, patterns, colors, and where to shop to get the look you want.

Traditional   Traditional design is exactly that: the traditional, timeless designs of the 18th and 19th centuries. Under the “Traditional” umbrella comes everything from Victorian to Edwardian to Colonial (each will be covered in future posts). Traditional is hard to generalize but usually centers around soft natural hues, floral or stripped patterns, and ornate, heavy furniture of medium to dark wood.

interior design style comparison contemporary living room versus mid century modern living room

Contemporary living room vs Mid-Century Modern living room

Contemporary   Contemporary design refers to what is popular right now.  The current style of Contemporary began in near the end of the 20th century and has continued to develop to today. Contemporary design can be spotted by clean lines, soft neutrals accented with bold, solid colors, plenty of polished stainless steel or chrome, and woods that are either dark such as an espresso finish or light such as maple or birch.

Contemporary is often used interchangeably with the word “modern,” however in the design world, they do refer to two distinct styles. In an effort to make things more clear, designers will usually say “Mid-Century Modern” in reference to the actual Modern style (encompassing styles from the 40s, 50s and 60s) while using “modern” to mean designs that are popular right now.

Modern or Mid-Century Modern   Mid-Century Modern was about bringing the outdoors in, resulting in open rooms with lots of windows. Influenced by Danish design, Mid-Century Modern featured low, simple-lined furnishings in muted hues of green, blue, or orange. Popular materials included darker woods, Lucite, plastic, and stainless steel. Mid-Century Modern is a timeless design styles and has recently seen a rise in popularity.

Eclectic   Eclectic is the style that “breaks all the rules.” It is also the hardest to pull off. Eclectic design is a carefully put together, well-thought-out mishmash of several design styles. It may mean a living room with traditional floral wallpaper, a mid-century modern seating group, a southwestern area rug, and bright contemporary accent colors – that somehow all manage to work together beautifully. Done poorly, eclectic can feel like walking into a Picasso. Done well, it will feel like your favorite, worn-out pair of jeans – it just fits.

Transitional   Transitional – my personal style – is a blending of traditional design elements with contemporary touches. Furniture has softer lines than contemporary with slightly ornate decoration. Traditional floral patterns become oversized or done in contemporary colors. Transitional takes the stuffy feeling out of traditional designs and adds a touch of elegance to contemporary styles

Coastal or Nautical   Coastal and Nautical styles are the easiest to implement. Inspiration comes from the sea – soft blues, bright white painted wood, rattan or woven rope accents, and beach motifs such as shells or anchors. The design is intended to create a feeling of a day at the beach. Blue and white stripes with gold accents is a classic example of nautical home décor, whereas coral and turquoise accents with bamboo shades can be found in coastal rooms. It’s easy to take these concept too literally and go overboard with seashells everywhere. Use restraint with doing up your coastal or nautical décor for an understated look.

Urban Industrial   Urban Industrial design can be spotted in the endless amounts of concrete and metal you’ll find in the space. But don’t be fooled, this design is anything but cold. Upholstered furnishings with clean lines and dark, warm woods are often incorporated to balance out the hard, cold surfaces. This style is most commonly used in lofts where the high ceilings and large windows help make the spaces feel open and inviting.

Interior design style comparison farmhouse chic kitchen versus rustic style living room

Farmhouse Chic kitchen compared to a Rustic living room

Farmhouse Chic   If you are a fan of Joanna Gaines, you are already more than familiar with Farmhouse Chic! She is the queen of this welcoming, warm-yet-rough style. Farmhouse Chic (the new take on country) is all about creating a cozy space with soft hues while adding that country ruggedness with distressed wood finishes. Whimsical touches are often added such as reclaimed sliding barn doors for a pantry or an old wagon wheel turned into the dining room chandelier.

Rustic   Rustic is a distinct style from the Farmhouse Chic. Think more mountain lodge than country barn. Rustic can be hardwood floors with a bear skin rug in front of a rough stone fireplace. Dark colors, classic plaids, and unfinished wood trim details are popular elements that make up this decidedly masculine design (think of Farmhouse Chic as the softer, more feminine answer to Rustic).

Moroccan   Bold, jewel-tone colors and luxurious fabrics are the signature of Moroccan style. Along with beautifully intricate patterns in the architecture, lighting, and accessories, this style is all about opulence. Floor pillows and stacked area rugs can be used in lieu of traditional seating. Creating a feeling of wealth is the goal of this exotic style.

There are countless more design styles out there that I will be delving into, along with taking a deeper look at the 10 styles above in my series Design Style Guides. Is there a style you want to learn more about? Let me know, and you can see it featured in a future post!

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