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

One of the things my clients struggle with most is putting a name to their personal design style. Why does this matter? Having a clear vision of your personal style before beginning a project will result in a smoother process. 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 design style to bring you a comprehensive guide that includes details about furniture, patterns, colors, and where to shop to get the look you want. 


Traditional design is exactly that: the traditional, timeless designs of centuries past. Under the “Traditional” umbrella comes everything from Victorian to Edwardian to Colonial. While each of these individual styles has features that differentiate them from the others, there are a few aspects they all include. This includes grand architecture, large wooden furniture pieces, classic patterns like florals and stripes, rich drapery, and muted colors palettes.


Contemporary design refers to what is popular right now.  The current style of Contemporary began at the start of the 21st century and has continued to develop to today. Contemporary design can be spotted by clean lines, soft neutrals accented with soft colors, metallic accents, and natural wood furniture and flooring.

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 1940’s through the 1970’s) while using “modern” to mean designs that are popular right now.

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

Contemporary living room vs Mid-Century Modern living room

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 like avocado green. Popular materials included medium-toned woods, Lucite, plastic, and stainless steel. Mid-Century Modern is a timeless design style that has seen a huge rise in popularity in recent years, resulting in a Mid-Century Modern Revival movement.


Eclectic is the style that breaks all the rules. It is also the hardest to pull off. Eclectic design may seem haphazard but it is a carefully put together, well-thought-out blending of several design styles. It may mean a living room with traditional floral wallpaper, a mid-century modern seating group, a boho area rug, and soft contemporary accent colors. It all works together to form a cohesive space.


Transitional is a blending of traditional design elements with trendy touches. Furniture has softer lines than contemporary with slightly ornate decoration. Traditional floral patterns become oversized or done in contemporary colors. Transitional can also be a blend of masculine and feminine pieces.

Coastal & Nautical  

Coastal and Nautical styles are inspired by 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. Use restraint with decorating your coastal or nautical space. It’s easy to take these concept too literally and go overboard, taking the design from chic to cheesy.

Urban Industrial  

Urban Industrial design can be spotted in the endless amounts of exposed brick, concrete, and metal you’ll find in the space. It’s a gritty, masculine style perfect for city living. Worn leather seating 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.

Farmhouse Chic  

If you are a fan of Joanna Gaines, you are already 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 a country ruggedness through 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.

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


Rustic is a distinct style from Farmhouse Chic. Think mountain lodge rather 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 style (think of Farmhouse Chic as the softer, more feminine answer to Rustic).


Bold, jewel-tone colors and luxurious fabrics are the signature of Moroccan style. Along with beautifully intricate patterns in the architecture like horseshoe arches and gilded lanterns for lighting, 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 covering, along with taking a deeper look at the 10 styles above in my series Design Style Guides. Is there a particular style you want to learn more about? Comment here and I’ll cover it in a future post!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *