There are various interior design styles and ideas for every taste. Here we will discuss and describe the most popular ones found in North America and in the rest of the world as well.
Sometimes the most daunting task within the design process is figuring out how to precisely articulate your style preferences to those involved with the project.
This is especially true concerning communication between client and designer, but also applies to things as simple as trips to the hardware store.
Ultimately, the more accurately you can describe your vision, the more likely it is that your vision will become a reality.
One of the best ways to get acquainted with the vocabulary to describe your style is to learn about the interior design styles that already exist. This article will not only explain the basic elements of each popular design style, but also give some key words to describe the specific style.
There are so many options in design, the more specific you are the better. That said, the first step should be educating yourself on the language of design and its principles.
This will make your entire project go more smoothly, whether you’re a DIYer, designer, or a design client. Keep reading to learn the language of your own personal style!
Table Of Contents
1) Modern Interior Design
Modern design is a fairly broad style, including any space with clean lines and simple color palette. Employing a sense of simplicity in all areas of the space, modern design often utilizes sleek furnishings and avoids the use of distracting decor, creating a more tranquil feel within a space.
Within the category of modern design, you can find a few sub-categorial styles:
Minimalist design takes “modern” a step further, consolidating the decorative elements even more. The nature of this style of design is simplistic and clean. In minimalist design, one should expect to find a complete lack of clutter and unnecessary decor, which can be attributed to the focus on function and ample storage.
Contemporary design, while undeniably similar to minimalist as of right now, is technically different. This is because contemporary technically means “here and now”. Therefore, contemporary design is always changing based on what trends are popular. However, most times this is based around modern or minimalist design elements.
Descriptive words for the modern design style: Simple, Clean, and Sleek.
Scandinavian design is also similar to modern/minimalist design. However, the elements within this style are quite a bit more specific. For example, this style employs clean lines in most cases, but also includes interesting variations in the lines at times, using herringbone patterns or zig-zags sparingly.
This style also utilizes simple materials, paying homage to simplicity by way of unfinished wood, all-white color palettes, and more. As for furnishings, scandinavian design often includes pressed woods, and brightly colored plastics. Sometimes metal is used, but also sparingly.
Descriptive words for Scandinavian design style: Fluid, Natural, and Organic.
The bohemian style is representative of a traveler or nomad. When done correctly, it should appear as if each decorative item in the space came from another culture or region of the world.
Using this as a guide, try to aim for colorful or vibrant decor as you are designing. This style can vary greatly in the specifics, but one thing you can count on is for the space to have some asymmetry, and for things to be mismatched throughout the space.
In addition to mismatching decor, bohemian style also utilizes a great variety of textiles and a carefree feel. It isn’t uncommon to see floor pillows, canopies, and a wide variety of artwork in bohemian spaces. Layered textures are also an important component. Often described as a careful mess, this style resembles adventure.
Descriptive words for Bohemian design style: Nomadic, Tribal, “Boho”, and Avant-garde
4) Mid-Century Modern
Mid-century modern is a very consistently popular style, as it mixes modern and retro elements in a classically aesthetic way.
The furniture is often low to the floor, giving the space a natural and relaxed feel. The use of texture is varying by using stone, wood, fabric, and sometimes even fur.
One tell-tale feature of mid-century modern design is the “Sunburst” decor, which often comes in the form of a small mirror, and is usually located on the centerpiece wall.
In mid-century modern design, one can often expect to see jewel toned colors like eggplant purple, avocado green, mustard yellow, etc. These colors are meant to contrast and add a “funky” feel to the otherwise modern structure of the space. The contrast between these two factions within the style is what makes mid-century modern design so appealing.
Descriptive words for the Mid-Century Modern design style: Retro, Funky, and Fresh.
5) Art Deco
Art deco utilizes geometric shapes, diamond tier wall patterns, curved furniture, and integration of pastels with lavished fabrics.
This style overall is certainly reminiscent of the 1920’s surge of artistic exploration in interiors and exteriors alike. Art deco’s origins lie within the painting styles presented in the early 20th century, and this space certainly represents that. As realism was represented in artwork, art deco flourished in its wake.
A great example of art deco design is the set and era The Great Gatsby takes place in. This book/movie takes place during the 1920’s, and represents the lavish side of the art-deco movement origin.
Descriptive words for the Art Deco design Style: Geometric and 1920’s
Industrial design utilizes elements like distressed brick walls, exposed metal framework, concrete floors, and tall ceilings.
Often times, industrial design is employed in spaces that are…well…industrial. Old factory buildings with towering ceilings, lofts, and even old equipment which can be repurposed as artwork or functional pieces in the space.
Colors are muted and simple without a lot of saturated hues. Interesting textures like leather, rustic surfaces, and knotted wood left natural are also common in industrial spaces. Add interesting wall decor, and take advantage of tall ceilings with this style to take it to the next level.
Descriptive words for Industrial design style: Rustic and Mature.
7) Arts & Crafts
Using a lot of “truthful” materials like wood, stone, class, ceramic, and fabric, arts and crafts design represents what most would consider traditional style.
A well-designed arts and crafts space will employ traits of both craftsman style and the bungalow style design. When working in arts and crafts style design, it is important to keep things simple, and display the origin of the materials so they can be appreciated as they are.
Descriptive words for Arts and Crafts style design: Shaker, Craftsman, and Traditional.
8) Shabby Chic
The Shabby Chic design style could be otherwise described as flea market antique or rustic cottage style. This style uses mostly pastel color palettes, lace, distressed painted furnishings and decor.
Usually the painted elements in shabby chic style are a milky white, or ivory. Patterns are often subtle florals. With a romantic feel, shabby chic typically gives a feeling of femininity and ornate luxury. Try adding a bold, but muted color to your design’s palette for a more contemporary twist.
Descriptive words for Shabby Chic design style: Soft, Opulent, Romantic and Antique.
Coastal design, whether you’re in the tropics, on the beach, or inland, is essentially executed the same way. This style is meant to make you feel as if you’re near the beach, or accentuate the fact that you already are.
That being said, this style often incorporates a relaxed but clean feeling by way of simple color schemes, light translucent fabrics, and tranquil decor.
Coastal style usually uses objects found on the beach as decorative objects, and even incorporates them into furnishings sometimes. Utilizing a lot of natural light, breezy translucent window coverings, and organic/woven textiles.
Descriptive words for Coastal design style: Breezy, Airy, and Relaxed.
Popular for its combination of elements from both contemporary and traditional, this design style is a happy medium for the masses.
This could mean a number of things, based on what you want to see in your space. Typically it means mixing modern structural elements with traditional decor elements. Try adding contemporary materials like metal, glass, and finished wood with plush and traditional textiles and decor to create a transitional texture.
As for the style’s color palette, most times it remains mostly neutral, with light use of color in the small decorative items/textiles.
Descriptive words for Transitional design style: Neutral and Combined.
Similar to transitional style, farmhouse design combines a lot of contemporary elements with rustic/traditional elements. The difference here is mostly, where the traditional elements are concerned, the decor is even further on the rustic side.
Depending on which side of the transitional spectrum you’d like to be, you can adjust the amount of rustic decor you use, and how spaced out it is within the space. In addition, you can change how consistent the rustic elements are.
For example, if all your rustic elements are the same color of rustic wood, it can make for a much more modern version of this style. The alternative is also true in the sense that you can vary your rustic elements, and use more concentrated amounts of it to create a more rustic version.
Descriptive words for Farmhouse design style: Rustic, French, Country
12) Traditional Interior Design
While the word “traditional” spurs a variety of images, the classic definition requires mention of 18th and 19th century European influences.
Timeless and elegant, this decorating style relies upon symmetry and harmony and best describes homes filled with antiques, rich, dark wood trim (e.g., cherry, maple, mahogany and walnut) and deep red, brown and green fabrics.
Neutral walls are noticeable in traditional interior design because they showcase plaids, paisley, florals, damasks and stripes featured on fabrics, drapes and wallpaper.
Homeowners can choose from accents that suggest Queen Anne or Chippendale styling and if those pieces include touches of gold or silver, the mood is set for those who love this elegant, traditional look.
13) French Country Interior Design
The first thing design experts at “House Beautiful” magazine say about French Country design is that it’s not to be confused with “French farmhouse.”
Subtle differences are easy to spot. Inspired by rural France and especially the area around Provence, French Country can be a contradiction.
It’s elegant and ornate but charming. Over-the-top but still relaxed, this interior style relies upon blues and whites, checks, stripes and toile patterns.
Interior decorator Ariel Richardson describes French Country as: “refined elegance that is humbled by bringing in aspects of nature such as weathered and white washed wood, and neutral color palettes. It’s also playful,” she adds, referring to botanical themes in art, fabric, wallpaper and accessories. French Country environments tend to include wood-beamed ceilings and planked wood floor to create a lofty but casual vibe.
14) Rustic Interior Design
If you spot exposed wood ceiling beams and trendy barn doors hanging from thick metal brackets, there’s a good chance you’ve arrived at a room decorated in the rustic style.
Raw, natural elements like planked wood walls, expansive amounts of glass to let the outside in and a fireplace makes the perfect addition. Rustic interiors rely upon white walls that stand in contrast to dark wood architectural features.
Furnishings are earthy, too. Oversized wood dining tables. Stone countertops that look like they were just plucked from quarries.
Unpainted stressed woods add flavor and textiles–especially burlap, canvas, wool and linen–add charm. Yes, patterns are used, but they’re likely to include cowhide, buffalo plaids and mattress ticking. Homeowners favoring this style crave interiors that emulate lodges found in U.S. national parks.
15) Mediterranean Interior Design
This exotic look isn’t for everyone, but if your idea of heaven matches interiors found in homes along the Mediterranean Sea coast, you can make this happen.
Furnishings chosen for these Greek, Italian and Spanish abodes are a mix of formal and functional. Look for short, ornate legs and feet beneath couches and chairs and a preponderance of dark woods that complement yellow, lavender, terracotta and blue textiles and art.
Apply layers of glaze and paint to achieve the stucco look found on walls along the coast or show a skilled house painter what you want and let him worry about replicating them.
If price is no object, lavish your home with patterned, mosaic tiles and fill rooms with architectural touches like carved, free-standing screens, bronze urns and filigree light fixtures that look as though you picked them up while visiting a souk.
16) Tropical Interior Design
People living near the equator furnish and decorate their homes in light colors so rooms look cool and inviting. Don’t hesitate to drape canopied beds with diaphanous fabrics or mosquito netting.
It’s a dramatic and practical touch if you leave your windows open. Teak furnishings are perfect, as are breezy upholstery fabrics awash in palm fronds, plumeria, frangipani, bougainvillea, hibiscus and banana leaves. One warning: too many patterns displayed together could look cluttered.
Cool terrazzo and cut-stone floors tie together a tropical theme and you can’t add too many Arica palms to your decorating scheme.
Fill shelves with woven baskets and hang watercolors featuring South Sea island art and books about far-away places. Install ceiling fans throughout the house.
A waterfall makes an idyllic architectural touch. They’re easy to find. Some are freestanding while others hang from the wall. Oh, and don’t forget the hammock on your patio.
17) Western/Southwestern Interior Design
For kids who never outgrew being cowboys and cowgirls, decorating a home that emulates the wild, wild west is easy to do and you don’t have to live in Phoenix or Dallas to pull this off.
Start by creating the illusion of adobe walls using textured mediums available at paint stores. Exposed wood ceiling beams add to the look and you wouldn’t be the first homeowner to substitute roughly-hewn shutters for window drapes.
Your color scheme can be as eclectic as you like. Include cobalt and turquoise blues, chili-pepper reds and sage greens and browns suggestive of desert landscapes. Need to ward off evil spirits? Paint a wall Taos blue!
Upholstery patterns should reflect Native American influences that pervade this area of the U.S. Primitively-styled wood, couches, chairs and benches add plenty of authentic touches and once you fill your space with Spanish folk art, pottery, woven blankets and Kachina dolls, you’ll feel right at home, no matter where your “ranch” house happens to be located.
18) Vintage Interior Design
Vintage décor revisits the past, so you pick the period of time you’re most nostalgic about. Decorators insist that rooms decorated in the official vintage style must emulate the furnishings, art and architectural style at a specified time between 30 and 60 years in the past.
Use low-key wall and furniture colors and seek out old or artificially-aged furnishings. Items adorned with cracks, chips and abrasions add to vintage charm rather than detracting from it.
Can you mix and match “eras” and still pull off a vintage decorating scheme? It’s possible. Your goal is to create a stylish, pulled-together environment that’s neither cluttered nor overwhelmed with too much kitsch.
Rely upon textures, metal decorative elements and low-key wallpaper patterns. Add potted plants, family photos in ornate frames, ceramic vases and flea market finds and enjoy stepping back in time every time you come home.
19) Urban Modern Interior Design
According to formally-trained interior designers, the urban modern interior design movement can be traced back to Japanese room style where only “vital furnishings” were on display and everything else was hidden to achieve a simple, clean and uncluttered vibe.
Timeless and neutral, urban modern furnishings have uncomplicated silhouettes and no ornate touches. This interior style requires lots of natural light.
This style is all about angular lines and geometric forms plus the incorporation of sleek cabinets throughout rooms that not only add architectural interest but help keep things tidy. Use brown, black, white and off-white plus touches of red to liven things up.
Can you add one dramatic focal point and still identify your room as urban modern? That’s the beauty of this style. Hang a panoramic mural that grabs attention on one wall and as long as everything else is sleek, modern and not fussy, you’re good to go.
20) Eclectic Interior Design
Do you use the phrase “anything goes” with regularity? You’re a candidate for a home that ranges from eclectic to downright quirky because it’s all about your signature style preferences.
Apartment Therapy editors describe this movement as one that mixes old with new, but it’s so much more than that. You enjoy carte blanche, and every element is within your control: textures, colors, time periods and trends. Forget coordinated, unifying themes. They’re out of place here and could make a room look chaotic.
You call all of the shots. If a plush, formal Victorian chair looks terrific next to a modern Lucite coffee table perched on wrought iron legs, match them up because you don’t want anything to look “coordinated.”
Stick a different style of chair at every place at your dining room table. Mix eras with confidence. And yes, you can hang your kid’s artwork next to your Woodstock poster since “anything goes.”
In conclusion, no matter what style you prefer, it is possible to implement it into your home. All you need to do is communicate your vision effectively for it to become a reality! Happy designing!
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