What is interior design?
Interior design is defined as, “the art or process of designing the interior decoration of a room or building.” While a “process” may include a set of rules or stringent guidelines, the concept of “art” is much more fluid and subjective. Consequently, perceptions of design style can be confusing without a common frame of reference. If a client cannot clearly articulate his or her vision for decorating a residential or commercial space, it presents a great challenge for an interior designer.
Purpose of this home decorating styles glossary
This glossary was created for a number of reasons: Inform – Serve as a comprehensive repository of style definitions; Inspire – Help clients visualize how various rooms and styles can be blended to create a personalized decor theme; Empower – Make it easier for designers and clients to effectively communicate ideas.
What are the most popular interior design styles?
We started with 100 of the most popular interior design styles and we’ve recently added five more to the list. The guide will continue to grow over time and we welcome suggestions. Each style is explained through a topline description, identification of specific features, examples of signature furniture and lighting pieces, and a photo depicting certain aspects of the home decor style. Feel free to use this list of common design styles as a starting point for your decorating project, and let us know how we can improve it. This resource, like style itself, is always evolving.
Much like expressionist abstract art, abstract home design focuses on unique architectural elements, such as asymmetrical doorways and home furnishings. It’s similar to modern or contemporary design in that it utilizes clean lines, though abstract style also incorporates chaotic aspects to offer a fresh and unique perspective. This type of interior design lends itself to bold colors, such as yellows, blues and oranges. Black is used as a contrasting element to create a striking statement. Tables, chairs and sofas have clean lines, but much like the entirety of the abstract style, these furniture pieces are asymmetrical. Lighting also features simple lines and borrows from a modern aesthetic. You might see a geometric diamond-shaped pendant that casts abstract lighting throughout the interior.
African interior design is inspired by nature and utilizes natural shapes, textures and finishes. This exotic style celebrates the imperfections of hardwoods, reeds and stone in its minimalist handmade furnishings. The palette is typically full of rich warm colors like burgundy, burnt orange and deep brown earth tones with textured soft beige, cream or white painted walls. Floors are often sandstone, terracotta or stained concrete with sisal or jute rugs. Much of African furniture is made from ebony, mahogany or cedar woods, or rattan with patterned ikat fabric, kuba cloth or leather upholstery. Chair seats and backs may also be made from braided grasses. Animal hides like zebra or cheetah are often used to highlight the importance of wildlife in African culture. Triplolina Chairs (a.k.a. butterfly chairs) with decorative mudcloth slings are signature pieces of seating in this aesthetic. Accents include handwoven baskets, bolga fans, carved wooden bowls and ritual masks, stone artifacts and soft-shaped poufs.
This early American style combines characteristics from traditional and rustic home design, while incorporating historically inspired elements. The aesthetic draws on styles and trends from the 1600s to the 1800s, and often contains subdued muted colors, and vintage finishes like oil-rubbed bronze. Fabrics and wallpaper feature a toile design, which was popular during the colonial era. Furniture is handmade and inspired by the early American frontier. Each table and chair goes through a custom-made process in which intricate carvings and design elements like flourishes are imprinted. Woods typically used to construct furniture include maple, elm, hickory and cherry. Brass knobs and handles are added to cabinets, drawers and armoires for an added touch of sophistication. Handcrafted brass and copper lanterns, chandeliers and wall sconces give an old-world feel to American Colonial interiors.
Just like the lifestyle of the Amish people, this home design aesthetic is modest and simple with an emphasis on functionality. Similar to mission and Shaker, Amish furniture relies on the woodworking of craftsmen to build kitchen cabinetry and other utilitarian home features. Homes are often filled with neutral tones, such as grays, blacks, whites and browns. Wood furnishings are used throughout the home, offering a warm contrast to the subdued color palette. Amish furniture is recognizable thanks to unique arched crown molding and overlay doors and drawers. Tables, chairs, sofas and armoires typically feature flared base legs and are made of solid wood like cherry and oak. Gaslight fixtures are popular in Amish homes. Authentic materials such as iron, copper and tin are used to craft pendants and wall sconces.
Arabian home design exudes luxury and elegance by combining lush materials, bold colors like turquoise, and ornate patterns. Mixing and matching various textures and materials such as metal light fixtures, velvet couches, wood tables and glass decor, produces a charming and enticing effect in sitting rooms or bedrooms. Mosaic patterns are frequently implemented into area rugs, curtains and wallpaper to create a decorative appearance. Neutrals are the base of Arabian interiors, and ornate colors like gold, silver, turquoise, pink and bronze add personality and whimsy to the space. Set the mood with hanging metallic pendants engraved with an intricate pattern to cast a beautiful pattern onto the walls. Chairs and sofas are upholstered with luxurious materials like silk and velvet. Wood pieces like tables and cabinets are intricately detailed to provide a regal appearance.
Inspired by French art and design from the 1920s, art deco (short for arts decoratifs) is characterized by sleek, metallic finishes like stainless steel, glass and chrome. Unlike vintage style, which highlights floral patterns, rugs and linens feature graphic prints such as zigzags, sunbursts, animal prints and geometric shapes. Furniture and wall art throughout an art deco-inspired home are defined by jagged, pointed edges. Pieces are also larger – generously sized chairs, armoires, dressers and couches are all typical of the 1920s. Light fixtures are just as structured as the decor and furniture. They’re typically made of sleek, shiny materials like polished bronze, chrome or steel. Bold geometric patterns are frequently printed on wall sconces, ceiling mounts and lamps. Other angular designs like chevrons and zigzags adorn light fixtures. Great examples of Art Deco architecture can be found in the historic district in Miami Beach, Florida where this whimsical style is embraced by many small hotels built in the mid-1920s to early 1940s [Curtis 1982]. Prominent Art Deco designers include Le Corbusier, Eileen Gray, Rene Lalique, Emile-Jacques Ruhlmann and A.M. Cassandre.
This mid-century style combines modernity with idealistic minimalism. Unlike angular art deco, art moderne (a.k.a. streamline moderne) designs are tapered, rounded and have a more horizontal emphasis. Frequently, they are adorned with parallel “flow” or “speed” lines [Cogdell 2010]. Art Moderne homes feature an all-white color palette and rely on smooth surfaces with little decorative detailing. Doorways, windows and other architectural elements come with curved corners. Raw, natural textures such as metal, terra cotta tile, concrete and glass are all mixed and matched throughout the home as well. The key to art moderne is simplicity – decorative patterns are scarce. Instead, solid neutrals really help to make a strong statement. Furniture is stripped down and typically emulates a sense of motion with pieces like tiered tables. Chairs and sofas also have rounded edges and use contrasting material colors like black and white. Surfaces are glossy to give the furniture a modern feel. Floor and table lamps are popular light fixtures in the art moderne style. These lamps commonly feature frosted glass and shades are circular and also made of glass. Prominent Art Moderne designers include Raymond Loewy, Paul Frankl, Norman Bel Geddes and Gilbert Rohde
The art nouveau home design style is similar to art deco in that it features decorative detailing combined with contemporary characteristics. However, this aesthetic is defined by flowing lines, rather than strict, geometric shapes. Door and window frames, along with furniture all have elegant curved edges which vary from subtle undulations to exaggerated fantastical contours. Its symbols and motifs are abstracted from organic vegetation and “a repertoire of biomorphic forms; much of its imagery is directly or obliquely feminine” [Banham 1997]. Other common elements of art nouveau design include floral patterns, stained glass windows, oriental rugs and wrought iron light fixtures and staircase railings. Lighting is typically made up of hand-blown glass or semi-precious stones and incorporates natural elements like vines, birds, branches and florals. Prominent Art Nouveau Designers include Hector Guimard, Louis Comfort Tiffany, Louis Majorelle and Carlo Bugatti.
Warm colors, rugged textures and rustic finishes are all included in artisan home design. Materials and finishes are all high quality and embraced for their craftsmanship and detail. Rich wood cabinets, oil-rubbed bronze faucets and hammered surfaces all play a role in creating an artisan home. Rugs and fabrics feature floral and colorfully abstract patterns, similar to what you might find in a traditional style home. Furniture can be characterized by fine workmanship that isn’t overly ornate, and typically reflects the identity or ethnicity of the maker. The same idea goes for light fixtures, which are entirely unique. Artisan homes can feature anything from handcrafted pendant chandeliers to a table lamp with a blown glass vase. Since the entire process is done with painstaking care by hand, each piece of furniture of lighting is a near one-of-a-kind.
Arts & Crafts
Arts & Crafts home design borrows interior elements from a number of different styles, including art nouveau and artisan. This design movement arose in response to the mass-production of global industrialization. It celebrated the nobility of the traditional craftsman, who imbued each piece with uniqueness and humanity absent in mechanized production. In contrast to historical revival styles, furniture in the Arts & Crafts aesthetic tend to embrace a more stern, straightforward form [Rodel 2003]. Handcrafted furniture, rich wood trim made of oak or mahogany, along with stained glass and ceramic backsplash tile are all items that make up this interior motif. Imbued with naturalism, this style has a color palette that is typically earth-inspired and include dusty oranges, browns, taupes and sage greens. Another key to Arts & Crafts style is built-in elements. Kitchen cabinets, bookcases, shelving, benches and light fixtures are typically built into the walls in an effort to blend well with the architecture and create unity throughout the home. Lighting is usually made up of warm tones like hammered copper or bronze. Prominent Arts & Crafts designers include William Morris, Gustav Stickley, Charles Robert Ashbee and Richard Barry Parker.
A subset of contemporary style, Asian interiors focus on clean, sleek lines and striking shapes – and often give off a peaceful, serene feel. In Asian-style homes, you’ll notice a reference to nature, with rooms containing pebble backsplashes, decorative greenery and stone sinks. There’s also an emphasis on natural design elements like wood and concrete tile. Because Asian-inspired homes focus on cleanliness and serenity, multi-purpose furniture is often used to disguise storage, which makes it an effective style for small spaces. Ottomans and benches that open up to reveal space for organization are common in Asian households. Sofas and chairs are adorned with silk pillows in a variety of colors and patterns. Light fixtures are equally as sleek and practical as furniture. Table lamps complete with intricate patterns are the perfect accessory for any room in the home.
Baroque home design is associated with opulence, grandeur and luxury. Intricately designed furniture, gilded accessories and sleek materials such as marble and granite are characteristic of this European-influenced style. Architecture, decor and furniture are all symmetrical and depictions of shells and garland are frequently used throughout the home. Irregular curves, elaborate scrolls, oversized moldings and twisted columns can be found on pieces such as sofas, dining chairs, tables and cabinets to create a sense of motion. Decorative marriage chests called cassini also incorporated many of these organic details. Candles and lanterns are frequently used light fixtures with this home style. Iron lanterns line the walls of hallways and candles flicker on wood, brass and pewter stands.
Much like modern design, German-born Bauhaus style puts an emphasis on simplicity that is evoked through clean, sharp lines. Functionality, a key element of this interior motif, was incorporated in concert with an appreciation of biological science. This ecological design was a unification of art and science, with satisfying human needs as the focal point. For example, light fixtures are chosen based on their style as well as how they satisfy the function of a room (i.e. under-cabinet lighting for prep work in the kitchen). You’ll see a lot of simple, built-in light fixtures to continue with the sleekness of a room. On the whole, Bauhaus furniture is incredibly flexible in its ability to adapt to the individual, their unique environment and needs. Many furnishings and lighting can be collapsed, folded or adjusted to the specialized requirements of each situation [Droste 2002]. Bauhaus designs are understated and feature smooth lines with a mix of organic materials such as leather, glass and laminated wood. Prominent Bauhaus designers include Walter Gropius, Marcel Breuer, Wilhelm Wagenfeld and Herbert Bayer.
Beach house style evokes a light, airy feel, just like the vibe you would get while sitting with your toes buried in the sand. Color palettes are typically drawn from lively coastal hues found in nature, such as sky blue, beige and crisp white. Bright, sunny shades like coral and turquoise can also be incorporated to give the space personality. Natural materials such as weathered wood and sea glass are commonly found in beach decor. To keep with the airy ambiance, furniture is commonly made up of wicker or distressed wood. Chairs and sofas are upholstered with lightweight materials such as cotton or linen. Light fixtures come with nautical flair – table lamps, for instance, might feature a repurposed buoy or some jute rope as their base. Rustic lanterns made of copper or iron may also be used as wall sconces.
Bohemian-style homes are equipped with a laid-back atmosphere and place an emphasis on nature, intricate patterns and bright colors like purples, reds and pinks. In fact, all of these elements are frequently combined to create an eclectic and unique aesthetic. Boho chic is all about mixing interesting colors, trinkets, fabrics and various types of furniture without any intention of matching or adhering to a specific style, much like the nomadic vagabonds who inspired it. You might see a contemporary couch featuring striped upholstery alongside a vintage velvet ottoman and a bright-colored statement chair. It’s the mix of different types of furniture that make Bohemian interiors so versatile. Light fixtures are just as unique as the furniture. Intricately detailed pendants, chandeliers dripping with crystals and table lamps complete with fringe are fixtures common for Bohemian homes.
The most recognized Brazilian furniture design occurred during the 1900s. Unlike the cold structural formality of the Mid-Century Modern and Bauhaus movements of the time, however, Brazilian pieces are infused with warmth, imperfection and a relaxed familiarity. Tables, chairs and casegoods are crafted from natural materials native to the country. Robust woods like jacaranda, peroba and imbuia, along with bamboo, cane and rich leather are frequently used. Floors may be concrete or constructed of stripped wood that is stained, varnished or whitewashed. Brazilian seating often has a broad low profile, thick wooden frame and includes ample cushions. The Mole Chair (a.k.a. Poltrona Moleca) by Sergio Rodrigues is one of the most popular pieces from Brazil as is the scooped Paulistano Armchair of Paulo Mendes da Rocha. The eye-catching 3-Legged Chair of Joaquim Tenreiro is a bit more formal, but still reflects the simple elegance of Brazilian design. This aesthetic contrasts white with vibrant fabric colors and warm browns of indigenous materials. Accents include terracotta pots, handwoven baskets, natural wood-framed mirrors and chiffon curtains. Nature is embraced by Brazilian interior design and can be found in botanical patterns such as leaves and flowers, and in the liberal use of potted trees and plants throughout.
Inspired by the decor prevalent during the colonization of Africa, Asia and the West Indies, British Colonial interiors feature lightweight cotton fabric on drapes, curtains and bedding. The most common color palette includes a mix of whites, beiges and browns to produce a subdued and subtle look. Flowers and plants are consistently used throughout the home to provide a fresh feel. Furniture is made up of materials like wicker, ebony, teak and mahogany. Leather travel trunks with brass latches and rivets were popular items during the heyday of this era. Tables, chairs, cabinets and sofas are usually constructed with dark-colored wood to create a rich, sophisticated ambiance. The deep-colored furniture provides a lovely contrast to the neutral-toned walls. Bell jar lanterns and lighted ceiling fans are popular fixtures to illuminate British Colonial homes. British Colonial decor has a certain casual elegance that makes it a popular choice of interior designers and decorators.
Carolean style, otherwise referred to as restoration style, is similar to Baroque-influenced houses. Brass is the hardware of choice for cabinet pulls, faucets and door knobs. Furniture is delicately carved and features elegant woodwork inspired by floral and fruit motifs as well as baluster-style legs. Walnut is the type of wood most commonly used to construct chairs, tables, cabinets and so forth. A decorative covering of fine wood known as veneer is applied to furniture to add character. Carolean lighting boasts a mix of modern and Old World characteristics thanks to simple silhouettes and detailed finishes. Table lamps feature shades made of silk or velvet, and they’re adorned with tapestries and fringe. This style was en vogue in England during the reign of Charles II.
Chinese style borrows motifs from Asian and Zen home design, such as a focus on nature and simplicity. Interiors are filled with bright splashes of gold, red, brown and black. Feng Shui is important, as the arrangement of furniture and decor is said to offer positive energy to the household. Cabinets, armoires and chairs have detailed engravings and paintings of dragons, mountains, clouds, birds and flowers. Furniture also comes with a thick lacquer finish for a glossy appearance. Initially, this process was incredibly expensive and large fully lacquered furnishings were reserved for only imperial members of the Song dynasty. By the 19th century it had become more affordable, but was typically used on smaller pieces or decorative sections of larger furniture. Mother of pearl was an especially popular inlay material for lacquered Chinese designs. Paper lanterns are hung from the ceiling to contribute color, texture and, of course, light to the home. Ornate pendants and chandeliers can also be found in Chinese interiors.
The Chippendale interior design style emerged in 1754 when Thomas Chippendale published the furniture catalog “The Gentleman and Cabinet Maker’s Director.” Chippendale furniture features influences from Gothic and Rococo furnishings and Chinese architectural elements such as roofs and window patterns [Yingquan, Lei & Qi 2013ref]. The back legs of furniture flow upward to form intricately detailed backrests of chairs. Other characteristics of Chippendale furniture include tapered legs, club feet and lacy patterns. Furnishings are typically made of mahogany, a material which is easily carved and stands up to everyday wear and tear. Stools and chairs are upholstered with fine fabrics like velvet or silk. Chippendale style interiors are filled with neutral tones like browns, creamy whites and grays. Metallics such as gold, silver and bronze are also used throughout the home. Chandeliers are a common light fixture used to create a sense of sophistication.
Coastal style gives off a relaxed, subdued and carefree vibe. Beach-inspired elements such as sand dollars, sea glass and driftwood are used as decor throughout the home. A crisp white color palette is common in coastal style, with occasional splashes of blues, greens, aquas and corals. Light is a central element in coastal interior design, therefore, homes feature plenty of glass doors, skylights and windows. Coastal furniture typically comes with a lived-in, by-the-sea feel, so you’ll often see painted wood chairs and tables with a distressed finish or a natural woven wicker chair. Light fixtures also use natural elements to keep up the beachy ambiance. Chandeliers made up of cascading petals of sea glass or hanging wooden pendants that feature a worn away finish are both appropriate for a coastal home.
Commonwealth or Cromwellian home design focuses on the basics – furniture comes with severe, straight lines with no intricate carvings or embellishments. Commonwealth shares similar characteristics to Bauhaus style in that it concentrates on function rather than style and decor. Instead of velvet or silk upholstery, leather is used for its sleek and simple feel. The thick strips of cowhide leather were stretched across the uprights and seat rails and fastened by brass head nails. The low backs of seating were never stuffed, as this was considered far too luxurious for this prim and proper English style. Rather, classic open slat chair backs were used for their understated look. The only Light fixtures also feature very basic shapes with little detailing, like smooth geometrically shaped hanging pendants or simple track lighting that blends in with the walls.
Contemporary style is often interchanged with modern design – however, there are a few differences. Unlike its modern counterpart, contemporary style borrows from various time periods, creating an eclectic environment. For instance, sleek, simple furniture and art can be combined with detailed molding around walls and windows. Contemporary style also takes a note from minimal home design, as layouts are open and airy with no clutter in sight. Furnishings have sharp, 90-degree angles and are upholstered with simple fabrics such as wool, cotton and linen that have no ornamentation or patterns. Instead, sofas, chairs and stools are covered in neutral colors like black, white and tan. No fringe, skirts, trim or tassels can be found on contemporary furniture, as all legs are exposed. Light fixtures are made up of sleek materials like glass, ceramic, polished nickel or stainless steel.
This home-style reflects pride in the United Kingdom, so the British flag (a.k.a. Union Jack) is frequently used as design inspiration. This 1960s pop culture-inspired style was at its height in the 1990s and reinforced by popular bands of the time like Oasis, Elastica and the Spice Girls. Various shades of red, white and blue are often used subtly throughout the home. For instance, a warm brick fireplace, cream-colored walls and blue-toned sofas bring the Cool Britannia color palette to life in a subdued manner. Quirky accessories and statement art offer a splash of personality to this British-inspired style. Scatter cushions are commonly used as a way to bring color onto neutral-toned furnishings. The pillows could feature bold red, white and blue patterns or solid colors. Leather sofas and chairs are a frequently seen feature in this style home. Vintage accents are also used, such as distressed wood tables and cabinets.
Cottage style can be described as cozy and comforting. Much like coastal design, cottage interiors evoke a light and airy feel. Instead of heavy drapes, lightweight fabrics such as lace and cotton are used. Weathered woods, distressed paints and a color palette of whites and creams come together to create a warm and welcoming informal home. Vintage fixtures and accessories such as chandeliers, farmhouse sinks and ornate rugs are used to produce a charming farmhouse aesthetic. Furnishings are comfortable and casual. Chairs and sofas can be dressed in lively pastel hues that reflect the sea and sky. Woven rugs sit underneath the furniture to keep with the relaxed nature of the home. Beaded board and wood planks add character to walls, ceilings and floors. Natural light is accentuated to illuminate the home, while fixtures such as vintage chandeliers and weathered pendants provide additional light.
Country home design shares similar characteristics to that of cottage style. It uses muted colors and vintage accessories throughout the home. Flea markets and antique shops offer inspiration for furniture and decor pieces. Fabrics on drapes, curtains and bedding often feature floral patterns, gingham, large checks or stripes to bring personality to the otherwise understated color palette. Furnishings are constructed of warm woods such as pine and oak, and feature clean lines with little ornamentation. Wooden tables, chairs, cabinets and dressers typically have a worn painted finish. Metal accents are brought forth using light fixtures such as bronze wall sconces or copper lanterns. Milk painted mason jars in soft pastel colors are often used as decorative containers on open shelves.
Danish style draws influences from modern and contemporary homes. Clean and simple lines and an emphasis on sleek materials help to define this simplistic Nordic aesthetic. Bright colors are introduced through patterned pillows, upholstery and fabrics. Monochromatic neutral tones like stark whites, grays and beiges are used throughout the rest of the home to contrast with the bold-colored accessories. All Danish furniture has clean lines with no details to keep the focus on function rather than style. Chairs and tables are usually the focal points of a room, as there are few other decorative pieces. Danish style interiors are cool, crisp and never cluttered. Lamps with clean white shades and sleek bases are placed throughout the home to illuminate the monochromatic color palette.
Directoire interior design emerged at the end of the 18th century and combines characteristics from both Greek and Roman styles. Furniture of Directoire style is sleek and elegant with a sophisticated feel. It was a direct result of the French Revolution, as there were fewer aristocratic buyers for the costly decorative furnishings in the style of Louis XVI. Joiners and cabinet-makers scaled-down furniture and eliminated much of the parquetry and marquetry prevalent in the earlier design period to appeal to a more proletarian clientele [Miller 2005]. Rather than having engraved emblems of aristocracy and royalty, Directoire furniture features decorations of griffins and Greek caryatids (carvings of draped female figures). The most common piece of furniture is the daybed, which is inspired by the Grecian-style couch. The ends of the bed are delicately rolled over and equal in height. The Neoclassical seating often incorporates curved backs and outward curving legs reminiscent of Greek klismos chairs. Light fixtures definitely have an antique feel to them, as table lamps, wall sconces and chandeliers never fall short when it comes to ornate detailing. This style was seen in France at the end of the 1700s, before the advent of consular and empire design periods.
Dutch Renaissance homes place importance on symmetry and proportion, similar to art nouveau-inspired spaces. Architectural home elements feature elegant, curved lines and colors that are muted to put an emphasis on furniture and decor. Deep, dark tones are used with cool tints of white and placed throughout interiors. Armoires, sideboards, wardrobes and chairs are carved with scrolls and trees, which are two common Dutch motifs. The demand for more artistic furniture coincided with the growth of the banking and merchant class across Europe. Dutch Renaissance style is more organic than its Italian counterpart, which tends to be more neoclassic. It features large beds and dining tables made from heavy oak with bulbous or spiral legs. Stone countertops and wrought iron light fixtures are two elements commonly seen throughout Dutch Renaissance style. Lamp shades and pendants may also be adorned with patterns of swirls, leaves and stems known as arabesque.
Eclectic home design embraces numerous styles such as modern, vintage and bohemian. A variety of materials and textures are also mixed and matched – you might see a leather sofa combined with a plush rug, a weathered wood table, wrought iron pendants and chrome wall decor. Unlike minimalist styles, eclectic interiors are often filled with various knick-knacks, like vintage dinnerware, modern sculptures, flower vases, etc. Mastering an eclectic home is all about drawing on a number of different textures, colors and styles for a unique environment filled with personality. Despite the variety, this style is not chaotic or haphazard. There are cohesive motifs and themes that tie the disparate pieces together. A common thread such as a recurring neutral tone or shape is often used to subtly connect the varied pieces and create a sense of belonging.
Egyptian homes use rich color to produce a truly opulent atmosphere. Metallic golds and vibrant blues, oranges and yellows are combined with neutrals for a perfect balance of bold and subtle. Walls are often painted various shades of yellows and soft browns to create a warm ambiance and reminder of the sand that’s prevalent in the deserts of Egypt. This light neutral palette provides an understated backdrop for the contrasting boldness of the vivid upholstery and accents. Linens are typically crafted out of silk and Egyptian cotton – these fabrics are solidly colored and usually void of any ornate patterns. Furniture pieces are largely geometric in shape, but feature detailed ornamentation on the corners and edges. Flat surfaces are often adorned with geometric reliefs, colored enamel or gilded inlays. Egyptian-inspired art, such as gold metallic sculptures, papyrus scrolls and hieroglyphics are also used to decorate the home. Greenery is also used sparingly throughout the home for a splash of color.
Walking into an English Elizabethan-styled home, you’ll immediately notice plenty of natural wood structures, like ceiling beams, tables and chairs, along with rich colors and ornate detailing. You’ll often find this beautiful detailing on the ceilings, which are frequently adorned with geometric wood panels and tile featuring diamond patterns. Decorative stonework, tapestries, murals and floral patterns dress up the walls, while moulded plaster ceilings provide additional visual intrigue above. Black and white checkered floors crafted in marble were a favorite of the times and the timeless look is still pervasive today. Transom and oriel windows are also signature architectural elements of an Elizabethan home. These often-overlooked design features offer not only a subtle grace and elegance but help fill the interior with light and create an airy feeling. Furniture usually consists of large, bulky pieces defined by ornate carvings and bulbous legs. Wainscot chairs with turned front legs and sectioned squared back legs with embroidered upholstery were prevalent during this movement.
Empire style represents the second phase of Neoclassicism that began in the early 19th century in Napoleonic France and later appeared in the U.S. It’s closely tied to the German Biedermeier style and the American Federal architectural movement. It marked a return to the ostentatious splendor of imperial Rome after the minimalist austerity of the earlier Directoire period. Columns transitioned from the plain Doric to the ornate Corinthian style. This opulence is mirrored in detailed ebony carvings, richly veneered mahogany and intricate gilded bronze (ormolu) accents and sculptures. There is symmetry in the ornamentation of the Empire aesthetic, which frequently includes eagles, stars, chariots, winged chimeras, laurels and acanthus leaves. Egyptian iconography such as sphinxes, pyramids, obelisks and scarabs also adorn engravings and decorative inlays. Oversized chests and cabinetry often feature animal paw feet, glass pulls and gilt brass furniture mounts. Seating tends to be wide with low backs and curving lines. Fiddle backs, restrained cabriole legs and rich brocade upholstery are common in Empire style. Cabinetmakers Duncan Phyfe and Charles-Honore Lannuier are among the notable figures from this era of furniture design in America. Paneled walls with contrasting light tones, deep colors and golden accents add to the elegance of this look. Each room in a home typically has its own color palette (e.g. Red Room in the Whitehouse). Molding and doorways often incorporate the iconic egg and dart pattern.
English interiors evoke a classic, traditional feel. Floral-patterned floor-length drapes made from chintz or damask hang around the windows, and furniture such as bed frames, chairs and tables have a glossy wood finish with ornate detailing. Four-poster beds are a common feature of English interiors, as they evoke a timeless, traditional aesthetic. Needlepoint footstools, throw pillows and chair cushions bring a cozy ambiance to the interior. Color palettes are warm and inviting – you’ll often see a combination of pale pinks, creamy whites, light greens and subdued burgundy. There is an understated formality to English style interiors, whether it’s a stately manor, townhouse or brick house at the end of the lane. Studies or small libraries feature floor-to-ceiling bookcases and often include a Chesterfield sofa. These long couches come in plush fabrics or rich leather and are recognized by their deeply tufted upholstery and rolled arms that are the same height as the back.
English country homes have a focus on warmth, coziness and charm. Beautifully carved wooden furniture and skirted beds, couches and chairs frequent the interiors of these abodes. Deep seating upholstered in patterned fabric is commonly used. Floral, plaid and striped patterns are frequently used on linens and fabrics, as well as wallpaper and ottomans. The English country style features a rich color palette of pinks, greens, blues and reds to bring forth the welcoming feel of a rural cottage. Chintz curtains and swagged pelmets may even match decorative wallpaper patterns. Painted furnishings are often adorned with stenciled accents. Antique accessories are used to add a touch of vintage flair and potted plants are placed liberally throughout the house on windowsills and mantels.
European interior design features a charming mix of traditional and contemporary styles. It’s difficult to pin down this aesthetic since it can draw upon influences from many countries and time periods across the continent. In traditionally styled homes, you’ll typically see more ornate curves and lines on everything from chairs and couches to tables and sinks. Urban townhouses and apartments tend to have smaller bathrooms and kitchens that maximize the utility of vertical spaces. Scrolled and floral patterns are also more prevalent in older settings. Modern environments tend to rely on the principle that less is more. Cabinets, have smooth, flat surfaces with little to no hardware and are often inspired by the minimalism of Scandinavian designs. Contemporary European color schemes tend to be subdued and understated, focusing on neutrals. Instead, the attention is put on natural materials such as wood, stone and granite.
This interior design style places an emphasis on travel and exploring and is in many ways an offshoot of British Colonial design. Desks and seating are often collapsible for easy transportation in the mode of campaign furniture used by the British military during this era. The ability to be broken down and moved on a moment’s notice is also seen in modular storage units adorned with leather handles and brass rivets. Maps and charts are frequently used as decorating tools with vintage globes dressing up coffee tables and framed maps hanging on the walls. Exploration-themed interiors also come with an Old World, vintage flair. Antique items like old suitcases, trunks and worldly trinkets can be used as accents. A vintage travel trunk inspired by the Belle Epoque age adds a lot of character to a home. Postcards are another feature of this worldly aesthetic – they can be framed or grouped together in a collage for a unique wall gallery or placed under glass in display tables.
Farmhouse interiors share similar characteristics to cottage homes. A combination of whites is used on everything from furniture to linens, and the ambiance is warmed up using weathered woods and rustic finishes like oil-rubbed bronze and copper. Wood countertops, open shelving, farmhouse sinks and brick accent walls characterize the design. Tables are often classic vintage farm tables and made up of high-quality woods like maple or oak. Fabrics like bedding and drapes feature charming patterns like historical and pastoral scenes. Mason jars are used for storing kitchen and bathroom essentials because they offer a charming, rustic feel to the interior.
In Finnish homes, you’ll see a touch of modernist flair. Windows are large and boxy, helping the room appear spacious and bright. Soapstone fireplaces are another common Finnish feature that adds unique personality and charm to the interior of the home. You’ll also frequently see wood-paneled walls and sleek wood flooring – both of which warm up the ambiance. Furniture is uniquely formed into lightweight open shapes that offer a modern vibe of simplicity. Bed frames and tables can be made up of tubular steel – a material that’s often seen in contemporary and minimalist home design. Prominent Finnish designers include Alvar Aalto and Eliel Saarinen.
Flemish interior design borrows components from Dutch Renaissance homes. The aesthetic is simple and uncluttered, yet it retains a quiet luxurious mood. Traditional furnishings are characterized by the Flemish foot, which is a leg ending to an “S” or “C” shape and is ornately carved. Furniture is typically heavy and dark and often has detailed upholstery. More modern Flemish homes make use of oversized seating and slipcovers to maintain a leisure-like feel. Color is rarely used, and interiors look somewhat stripped down, similar to a rustic home. Distressed unfinished wood and exposed brick can be seen throughout the interiors. Flemish-style glass is used on shower doors, glass-paneled cabinets and windows. This glass features a wavelike pattern on both sides, providing a slightly distorted view. Prominent Flemish designers include Axel Vervoordt.
French interiors are elegant, sophisticated, refined and ornate. The affluent style relies on soft and subtle shades, like beige and off-white. Typically, the same color is used throughout the space to create a coordinated and balanced interior. Decorative ceiling moldings and wall reliefs provide a rich texture to French residences. Lustrous materials like gold, silver and bronze are frequently used on wall decor, faucets, light fixtures and cabinet hardware. Wrought iron chandeliers with crystal swags add upscale appeal. French furniture has an antique, heirloom feel to it, and pieces like couches and chairs feature dark glossy wood covered with engraved ornate detailing. The legs of tables and chairs are typically curved – creating a feminine profile. Light colored natural cotton, cheesecloth and linen is often used on the upholstery to reinforce neutral color palettes and add to the vintage feeling.
This laid back style is primarily influenced by the country home in Southern France. French Provincial design is all about creating symmetry and balance in the home. This style can suit both formal and laid-back design tastes, as it combines both elegant and country elements. These homes are generally built out of brick, stone or stucco, and those materials are often found inside the dwellings as well on accent walls and furniture. The more casual French Provincial homes use a color palette of subtle blues, yellows, pinks and whites for a mixture of glamour and whimsy. French Provincial interiors feature French doors, as well as arched windows and entryways adding to the stately elegance of the style. While similar to simple Hamptons style, French Provincial provides subtle ornate details.
Just like French Provincial design, Georgian interiors place a strong emphasis on harmony and symmetry. Kitchen and dining room wooden chairs feature elaborately carved legs and feet, as well as ornate carvings on the back splats. Moldings are equally as intricate – even ceilings have detailed patterns. Color schemes are often light and subdued, combining sky blues, soft greys and dusty pinks. Fireplaces are the focal point of the living room, and they feature decorated screens that are painted to match the space. Also found in the living room are grand chandeliers made of metal, wood or glass. Pendants made of silver or brass line the walls to offer more light. This popular 1700s New England look later evolved into the Federal and Adam styles of the early nineteenth century.
This design style from the middle ages is an offshoot of Romanesque architecture. Gothic interiors come with a dramatic, medieval castle-like feel. Perhaps the most defining element of Gothic style is the pointed arches – you’ll see doors, entryways and windows in this iconic shape. Rib-vaulted ceilings and flying buttresses create a striking interior space. The box chair is another common piece found in Gothic interiors. These chairs have paneled sides and storage underneath the seat. Contrary to popular belief, Gothic style isn’t all about embracing black. In fact, many interiors feature rich, dark purples, reds, greens and blues. These colors are used sparingly, however, like on accent walls, appliances and backsplashes. They may also be used in stained glass or rose windows.
Greek interiors share similar characteristics to Egyptian homes. In more luxurious residences, certain elements like faucets and light fixtures are gilded. The iconic Greek key pattern (a.k.a. meander pattern) can be seen throughout the home on everything from tile and curtains to rugs, pillows, linens and wallpaper. Greek decor boasts a subtle Mediterranean feel, thanks to the use of warm beiges and deep blues. Think of the plainspoken yet picturesque homes that adorn the ocean cliffs of the island of Santorini. Ceilings are typically high with whitewashed textured plaster walls. Furniture is usually made from cast iron, wood and wrought-iron. Designs tend to feature simple lines and soft curves that exude a tranquil vibe. Legs of chairs and tables curve to the outside, giving them a graceful tailored appearance.
The holistic Danish design style Hygge (pronounced “hoo-gah”) relies on all five senses to create an inviting and cozy environment that evokes feelings of well-being and togetherness. This Norwegian term originated centuries ago in response to harsh winters and long periods of darkness to lift spirits by creating a welcoming ambiance emphasizing the simple pleasures in life. Hygge incorporates minimalism, neutral palettes and warm lighting to allow a space to breathe and convey an inviting, soothing vibe. Finely crafted furniture has clean lines and uses natural materials like wood and leather with soft textile accents like cashmere or sheepskin-lined fluffy blankets and throw pillows. Subdued muted earth tones and soft creams are used for upholstery, walls and area rugs. Natural sunlight and the warm glow of candles and a roaring fireplace are preferred over artificial LED illumination. Splashes of color from a few potted plants or select pieces of artwork help to prevent the area from becoming lifeless and boring. Private areas for intimate conversations over a steaming cup of tea and reading nooks for curling up with a good book are frequently used in Hygge-style settings as they provide an opportunity to enjoy a quiet moment. This Scandinavian concept even utilizes scents like cinnamon, vanilla and ginger to imbue the space with a comforting and familiar sense.
Similar to Arabian design, Indian interiors boast exotic rich colors and textures. Imagine deep red walls combined with copper pillars and a red leather ottoman. Furniture is typically handcrafted and ornately carved using solid wood. Indian furniture is slightly rustic in appearance – you’ll usually see woods like ebony, rosewood and teak used for everything from dining room chairs to chests and coffee tables. Chairs and tables traditionally feature curved armrests and legs. Brightly painted cabinets are often embellished with decorative inlays of stone, metal, mirrors or ivory. Informal seating areas in Indian homes often incorporate footstools, diwans or even luxurious jhoola swings. Handspun natural fiber fabrics such as khadi are used to upholster dining chairs while rich silk and ikat highlight accent and centerpiece items. More rugged materials like jute cover ottomans and more utilitarian furnishings. Hand-woven and embroidered rugs and floor cushions are used liberally throughout Indian homes. Beautifully colored tapestries depicting flora, fauna and mandalas are used window treatments, pillows and throw blankets.
Industrial interiors give off a cool, modern vibe. The style blends new and repurposed items for a unique combination of modern and vintage. Industrial design is characterized by clean open spaces – every room from the kitchen to the basement contains high, spacious loft-like ceilings. Color palettes are kept cool and subdued – you’ll often see a mix of grays, blacks and whites complemented by pops of blues or greens. Metal is the most often used material in industrial design. It offers a rugged charm and can be used on anything from light fixtures and countertops to stairwells and faucets. Industrial chic decor has become the style of choice for many urban loft spaces that were formerly factories, schools or other old buildings with exposed brick and rafter ceilings.
Italian interiors are filled with natural hues like off-whites and beiges. Splashes of Mediterranean colors such as brilliant blues, rich greens, burnt oranges and gentle yellows also make an appearance. Natural light is emphasized in the home in order to show off the extensive color palette. Italian homes are characterized by a natural appearance – stone, slate and granite are used throughout the interior on countertops and accent walls. Terracotta tiles and ornately detailed mosaic tiles are used in backsplashes to bring an accent of bright color to the distinguished old world space. This style incorporates open spaces with over-sized windows that allow the outdoors to show through and is mirrored by assortments of potted greenery inside. Ornate wrought iron is frequently used on banisters, balconies and fencings.
Jacobean interiors can be described as luxurious, rich and ornate. Oak is the dominant material used on tables and chairs, and the wood is always intricately carved – table legs and banister posts are accentuated with deep carvings. Many items have decorative inlays, veneers or scrolled designs. Heraldry was also celebrated during this period with royal and family coats of arms often incorporated into furnishings. Pieces tend to be fairly bulky, but symmetrical and designed to be viewed from 360°. Furniture isn’t the only beautifully detailed element – plasterwork ceilings and grand marble fireplaces are also modifying elements of Jacobean interior design. Silver is a commonly used material, and it’s typically used to channel a marine motif. Silver sculptures of dolphins, mermaids and shells are interspersed throughout Jacobean design, which was an early Renaissance style during the reign of King James VI.
Japandi style is a fusion of Japanese wabi-sabi (finding beauty in imperfection) and Scandinavian hygge (creating a feeling of well-being and coziness) with a shared emphasis on intentional minimalism and nature. Spaces are free from clutter and populated with a well-curated selection of high-quality furnishings with functional purposes like a handcrafted solid wood dining table. There’s an emphasis on clean lines, craftsmanship and natural materials such as unfinished woods, bamboo and stone. While it incorporates the soft neutral palettes of Scandi design, Japandi also infuses spaces with contrasting darker tones (e.g. rich greens, deep browns, eggplant and terracotta) highlighted by Japanese style. Tatami mat flooring and rice paper shoji screens help to create the serene feel of this hybrid aesthetic. Large windows that connect the outdoors to indoor spaces and provide sunlight are often present. Bonsai trees and hanging plants, along with wooden bowls, rattan and wicker accents reinforce the integration of nature. Handmade artisanal items are frequently used and exemplify Japandi’s focus on sustainability.
Japanese interiors give off a serene, peaceful feel thanks to a simple design style. Much like minimalist design, Japanese interiors put a focus on uncluttered spaces, clean lines and balance. Sliding doors are often used to create a seamless transition from one room to the next. Natural wood and stone are heavily used throughout the home. Outdoor elements like rock gardens, fountains, ferns, bonsai and bamboo are also utilized. Furniture is large and usually square or rectangular and pieces like chairs and sofas sit low to the ground. Large glass doors provide inspiration and access to nature. Shojis are essential design elements in traditional Japanese homes. These sliding doors or room dividers have a lightweight wooden frame and are made from translucent washi paper that permits natural light to pass through.
Lake houses focus on relaxation and simplicity, which is exactly what the lake house home design style reflects. These interiors boast a casual, carefree atmosphere associated with lakeside living. Natural light is maximized with beautiful picture windows and skylights to show off breathtaking outdoor scenery. To keep the focus on nature, simple color palettes consisting of a blend of neutrals are used throughout the home. All-white color palettes are also common among the lake house style. Existing architectural elements like exposed wood ceiling beams and brick walls are embraced and shown off. As with cottage or coastal styles, elements found in nature are used for decorating – you might see greenery, animal prints, or driftwood throughout a lake house style home.
Machine Age interiors share similar characteristics to mid-century modern and industrial homes. However, the theme that pervades this design aesthetic is the imagery of the machine and its attributes: speed, power, efficiency, precision, reliability and impersonality. Organic motifs are replaced by mechanical iconography such as lightning bolts (i.e. electricity), radio waves and gears [Meikle 2010]. There is a focus on raw materials like metal and exposed wood, both of which help create cool, sleek and clean interiors. Texture is important in Machine Age design, as it adds character to the home. For instance, a room with brick walls, stone floors and stainless steel countertops would fit the Machine Age aesthetic. This decor style has a more vintage flair than industrial interiors do, therefore you’ll frequently see big statement pieces like old road signs, train station clocks and studio lamps. Color palettes are always neutral and usually contain a mix of grays, whites, blacks and browns as well as metallic such as metal, bronze, copper and nickel. Machine Age designs also take inspiration from streamlined aircraft and naval vessels and can be seen in iconic vintage films like Chaplin’s “Modern Times” and Fritz Lang’s “Metropolis.”
If “less is more” is the mantra of minimalism, then “more is more” is the rallying cry of maximalism. However, this celebration of excess is not completely chaotic for its own sake or as random as eclectic style. In its truest form, maximalist design layers furniture, décor, art and treasures that not only have visual intrigue but reflect one’s own personality. The assortment should be carefully curated over time and showcase one’s exotic travels and individual life experiences. In contrast to stark aesthetics like Scandinavian, maximalist interior design proudly displays vibrant colors, bold patterns and a variety of textures to engage the senses. Emerald, sapphire, fuchsia, turquoise, ruby red and violet are among the intense colors favored by this style. To maintain some semblance of harmony, though, it’s best to limit the palettes to two or three. Loud wallpaper is frequently employed to provide a backdrop of repetitive patterns of abstract shapes, florals and prints. But, the walls may still be adorned with framed photos and artwork of shapes and sizes. Plush velvet and velour upholstery or curtains add elegance, glamor and tactile appeal to maximalist settings. Gilded mirror frames and lacquered surfaces frequently appear. These spaces are also marked by eccentric pieces of interesting one-of-a-kind furniture or unique architectural focal points. Small curios, souvenirs and ornate accents are layered liberally.
Medieval interior design can be compared to gothic interiors, as they tend to have similar design elements like rich wood accents and decorative stone. Much like castles of the middle ages, Medieval interiors are rich in detail, boasting large, heavy and ornately carved wood benches, chairs and tables. The upholstery on window treatments, beds and sofas feature luxurious fabrics such as velvet, silk and damask. Medieval color palettes are just as bold as the detailing in the house. Dramatic reds, greens, golds and blues can be seen on everything from upholstery to rugs and other decorative items. Walls of this style are often adorned with rich tapestries hung from metal rods and lined with tassels. These decorative embroidered accents depict hero scenes and feature heraldic designs or coats of arms.
Much like Greek interiors, Mediterranean design is influenced by location. Touches of Spain, Greece and Italy can be found in Mediterranean homes, and these locations are brought to life through bright, bold colors influenced by the sea and sky, like turquoise, emerald and yellow. Decorative mosaic tile is often used on interior elements like floors, tabletops, bullnose-edged counters, mirrors and backsplashes to bring a charming rustic appeal to the home. Mediterranean furniture is built short and low to the ground. The feet on the furniture are turned and ornately detailed. The outdoors is always embraced, and many homes blur the line between inside and outside using picture windows and glass sliding doors. Red tiled rooftops, similar to Tuscan architecture, adorn many Mediterranean homes. Wrought iron banisters and balconies are also popular features.
In the 1980s, Italian designer Ettore Sottsass founded the Memphis Group as a post-modern reaction to the straight lines and structured functionalism of Mid-Century Modern and the minimalism of the 1970s. Memphis style is colorful and abstract with atypical shapes and asymmetry driven by form and not function. It’s meant to provoke an emotional response and this outrageous contemporary aesthetic was once described as a “shotgun wedding between Bauhaus and Fisher-Price.” It was inspired by Art Deco and pop art, as evidenced by the frequent use of black and white stripes, zigzags and bold contrasts in color. Plastic laminate, MDF and terrazzo materials are used in flooring or to construct multi-colored furnishings. Squiggles (a.k.a. bacterio print) are often incorporated on patterned surfaces. Some notable items in Memphis style include Sottsass’ Ashoka Lamp and Carlton Bookcase, and the open Panda Cabinets by Paola Navone. “Pee Wee’s Playhouse” infused Memphis style into the show’s set design to reinforce the vibrant and quirky tone.
Mexican-inspired homes deliver a similar feel to eclectic interiors. Numerous bold colors are used, such as bright pinks, greens, oranges, reds and yellows. Candlesticks, ceramic pots, ironware and hand-sewn rugs also bring personality into a Mexican home. The pottery often has intricate and colorful designs influenced by the flora and fauna found in Mexico. Chairs, tables and sofas boast an elegant look, with influences of Spanish colonial and Tuscan style. Mexican furniture can either come with a refined, stained dark wood or weathered wood for a more casual, rustic beauty. Prints and patterns like mosaic can be found on everything from tiles to pillows. Many Mexican kitchen backsplashes or bathroom feature traditional hand-painted Talavera tiles. This colorful tin-glazed majolica earthen pottery was popular in monasteries and churches in Mexico in the late 1600s and early 1700s.
Mid-century modern interiors can be seen throughout AMC’s hit TV show “Mad Men,” as the design era came to life during the 1940s-70s. Mid-century modern homes have a seamless flow from the inside to the outside thanks to sliding doors, picture windows, skylights and patios. Windows are often left bare to emphasize outdoor views. The furniture is entirely unique, featuring statement pieces like marshmallow sofas and egg chairs. Many pieces, such as the Noguchi table, are asymmetrical and feature amorphous components, which make them feel more like sculptures than pieces of furniture [Attfield 1997]. Elements like floors and ceiling beams are stripped down to their original form, while walls are dressed up with graphic wallpaper featuring bold geometric patterns. Prominent Mid-Century Modern designers include Frank Lloyd Wright, Charles and Ray Eames, Arne Jacobsen, Eero Saarinen, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Isamu Noguchi and Hans Wegner.
Minimalist homes are free of any clutter, only displaying items like couches, tables and light fixtures that are essential for functional living. Minimalist interiors have a focus on simplicity and effortless beauty. Character is brought forth not through detail, but through natural materials and essential items. Rooms are monochromatic, usually featuring subdued neutrals. Walls are kept simple with only one or two decorative pieces, like a canvas or a mirror. All surfaces, from the kitchen to the bathroom should be completely cleared off. Furniture features clean lines with very little detail, and they often double as storage, like ottomans that open up to reveal space. Architectural minimalism is influenced by Japanese Zen philosophy and the aesthetic principles of Ma and Wabi-sabi, which appreciate the value of empty space and absence of ornamentation.
Mission style interiors contain furniture inspired by the Arts and Crafts movement. Chairs, tables and desks have no detailing or decoration and are very simply constructed. Legs are straight and the backs of chairs feature a slat design. Furniture pieces are typically made up of solid wood – usually oak. Interior color palettes are monochromatic, and cream is a popular color in mission homes because of its simple backdrop that pairs well with wooden furniture. Wallpaper is also used sparingly – it contains patterns inspired by nature, like flowers and vines. This style is named for the furnishings that occupied Spanish missions in California during the colonial period and originated with a chair made by A.J. Forbes for the Swedenborgian Church in San Francisco.
Modern homes share similar characteristics with minimalist interiors. The focus is on simplicity, cleanliness and absence of decor or detailing. Furniture offers smooth, clean lines inspired by architecture from the 1930s. It’s this testament to the sensibilities of the Bauhaus movement and Scandinavian design principles that sets modern interior design apart from contemporary style. Color palettes are typically made up of neutral shades, such as whites, creams and beiges. However, unlike minimalist interiors, these homes contain splashes of bright colors like oranges, pinks and turquoise on items such as dinnerware, curtains and rugs. All electronics in modern interiors are streamlined, so living rooms contain built-in DVD players and kitchens have small flat-screen televisions. Plastic and plywood are frequently utilized in modern style furnishings.
Modernist style, otherwise known as international style, was inspired by 1920s minimalist architecture. It focuses on natural materials like steel, glass and reinforced concrete, which are used on floors, countertops and appliances because of their lack of detail and ornamentation. Geometric shapes are emphasized through the use of tables, chairs and desks. Fabrics like curtains and bed linens feature a balanced mix of solids and bold, graphic patterns. As for modernist color palettes, gray is a commonly used hue due to its versatility and its sophisticated, upscale look. Prominent Modernist designers include Le Corbusier and Arne Jacobsen.
Moroccan interiors can be compared to Bohemian and eclectic homes, as Moroccan home design combines a variety of colors and patterns to bring character to a space. The shades used in Moroccan homes, however, are mainly deep jewel tones like emeralds, royal blues and bold purples – vibrant reminders of the colorful flea markets of ancient Marrakech. Furniture is ornately carved with wooden accents and is upholstered with luxurious fabrics like silk and velvet. Fabrics feature colorful mosaic patterns and interiors are illuminated with intricately detailed metal lamps. Ceramic or terracotta floor and wall tiles are frequently used throughout the kitchen and dining room or in mosaics. Vibrantly colored rugs, ottomans, poufs and cushions add exotic but laid back opulence. The low seating and lounge tables are also hallmarks of Moroccan design. The relaxed feeling is augmented by plush cushions and the abundance of leafy green plants.
Nautical interiors are similar to beach house and coastal styles, but nautical homes typically contain a bit more color – namely reds and blues. Pillows, curtains, rugs, towels, etc. feature light and dark shades of red and blue, and the rest of the interior is filled with a palette of neutrals, like whites and beiges. Sea-themed items are used to bring personality into the home – you’ll see things like vintage life preservers, weathered wood oars, fishing floats, ship anchors, glass buoys and mariner pendant lights throughout nautical-inspired homes. Tripod floor lamps with coastguard spotlights are a more recent craze that reinforces this seafaring style. Small decorative accents such as mariner compasses and sextants are often prominently displayed on desks or shelves. Stripes are the most frequently used pattern on everything from wallpaper and pillows to rugs and towels. Scents like ocean breeze, salt, lime and coconut are brought forth using candles, diffusers and air fresheners.
Neoclassic homes evoke a timeless, elegant and historical aesthetic. This interior design motif shares certain characteristics to other home styles including Greek and Roman. Decorating pieces like vases, statues and paintings feature themes from Greek mythology and front porches have massive symmetrical columns inspired by Greek and Roman architecture. Walls are decorated with large vintage mirrors surrounded by ornate gilded frames. Stone or marble floors are commonplace in neoclassical homes. Interior colors are light and subtle and include pale blues, creams, grays, yellows and greens. Black and gold are used as bold contrasting hues. Furniture is simple and constructed out of dark wood. Persian rugs cover the floors and rich brocades, lush velvets, luxurious damask silks and cotton fabrics are used for curtains and bed linens.
Northwestern interiors combine both modern and traditional styles. There is an emphasis on natural light and outside views, so large wall-to-wall windows, sliding glass doors and skylights are found throughout the home. A palette of cream tones warm the interior, while sparingly used bold hues like bright oranges and reds bring personality into the space. A variety of materials are used throughout each room, such as concrete, wood and glass for a combination of old and new. Lines found on tables, chairs and sofas are simple and clean, while upholstery features a variety of textures and patterns. Northwestern kitchens usually have espresso or coffee stations with a built-in shelf for mugs, cups and saucers – it makes sense that Starbucks originated in the Pacific Northwest.
Old World interiors stem from a variety of European locations around the world, including Spain, Italy and France. It’s what you think of when imagining the inside of classic European manors or estates. Old World homes feature characteristics from a few different styles including medieval and Renaissance, and there’s an even a balance of traditional and rustic aesthetics. Navy, burgundy, forest green and cream are the most popular colors used in Old World homes for a relaxed yet regal effect. Woven tapestries and fabrics featuring floral or striped patterns are used to decorate interiors. Fringe, beaded trim and tassels are used to embellish everything from curtains to bedding. Weathered wood ceiling beams offer a rustic distressed contrast to the sophisticated dark-stained surfaces found on tables and chairs. Limestone, tile and tumbled marble floors covered in richly woven rugs provide additional textured accents to this style.
Organic homes feature a relaxed uncluttered style brought forth by a neutral color palette, warm woods and natural shapes. Materials used throughout these naturalistic interiors are found outdoors and include local stone and timber. If artificial surfaces are used, textured patterns are implemented to produce a natural and earthy feel. The interior and exterior of organic homes blend together through the use of glass. Window frames are disguised to provide a clearer view of the outdoors and allow natural sunlight to illuminate the space. While the main color palette found in these homes consists largely of neutrals, bold splashes of color are used sparingly to wake up the interior. Live plants in earthen pots help to add authentic life and fresh air to the space as well.
Much like Greek and Roman interiors, Palladian homes rely on symmetry, balance and proportion. Palladian windows are recognized by their distinct shape – they feature a natural arch at the top, and the window curves in line with the roof of the home. The bottom window is surrounded by narrow rectangular panels on each side [Pile 2005]. The iconic arch can be found indoors as well in doorways. Whites and creams are used throughout the home, and Palladian blue, a greenish-blue soft hue, provides a subtle contrast against white. Clean, simple lines are shown off using tables, chairs sofas and wall decor. This style is named for the renowned Venetian architect Andrea Palladio, who is widely considered one of the most influential individuals in the history of architecture.
Parisian homes offer a mix of old and new for a unique, eclectic aesthetic. Traditional and modern elements are combined – for instance, flea market finds like a vintage clock or lamp might be paired with a clean, simple modern sofa. Parisian walls are kept white to maximize natural light, and colors used on furniture and decor are darker and richer to create a stark contrast. Texture upholstery is important and is frequently made from luxurious velvet or rich brocade. Rugs and chandeliers are two integral elements of Parisian interiors. Rugs are typically patterned and feature a bold color to contrast the white walls. Vintage chandeliers can be found anywhere from the kitchen to the bedroom and offer a touch of Parisian glamour. Authentic bathrooms may feature a freestanding claw-foot tub with a small accent table nearby.
In Pennsylvania Dutch interior design, you’ll see similarities to rustic, farmhouse-inspired homes. This folksy furniture is most commonly constructed out of woods such as maple, walnut, pine and fruitwoods. Pieces like tables, sofas and chairs tend to have straight, simple lines with little to no decoration. Instead, furniture boasts a sleek, glossy finish. Adorning the walls of Pennsylvania Dutch homes are paintings featuring fruit, animals, flowers or German script. Fresh flowers are also used to decorate and bring a splash of color into the home. A neutral color palette is used to emphasize the variety of textures found among the interior, like brick walls, stone floors and reclaimed wood tables. Its Germanic roots also influenced the development of Amish style utilitarian furnishings.
Plantation interiors contain a combination of Spanish and Colonial architectural elements made popular in the antebellum South. Common features include Greek Revival columns, arched windows, high ceilings, French doors and accents like medallions, keystones and onlays. The entrances of plantation homes are grand with balcony railings and winding, curved staircases. Interiors are light and bright with white and cream-colored fabrics. The neutral color palette is contrasted with dark-stained woods like mahogany or teak. Wood blinds or plantation shutters are found on windows alongside relaxed, breezy curtains. Parlor rooms are located near the front entrance of the home and are used for entertaining. A grand piano, card tables, sterling silver tea sets and tapestry footstools can be found throughout parlor rooms.
The post-modern movement took place during the 1960s, whereas the modern movement occurred during the 1920s and ’30s. While modern interiors focus on minimalism and lack of detail, post-modern homes embrace a more decorative style. Homes embrace a comfortable aesthetic to ease the mind, body and spirit, and it’s a neutral color palette that contributes to the relaxed atmosphere. Hardwood, tile and concrete floors are used instead of wall-to-wall carpet for their simplicity and easy maintenance. The coolness of materials such as chrome, glass and stainless steel is contrasted with colored rugs, velvet upholstered furniture and soft curtains made of silk or satin. Post-modern interiors are spacious, with bare windows and high ceilings. In contrast, furniture from this design period welcomes a more whimsical individualistic spirit inspired by popular culture. Two Milanese design groups greatly influence the direction of postmodern furniture – Studio Alchymia and the Memphis Group. The former was led by Alessandro Mendini, whose Proust Chair took an iconic Italian design and reimagined it with a variety of vibrant contemporary colors, patterns and finishes. The latter was headed by Ettore Sottsass who is known for his silver-plated Murmansk fruit bowl, which features a memorable zig-zag base.
Puritan home design style definitely falls under a more traditional category, but with a farmhouse twist. Tables and chairs are equipped with ornate wood carvings to put an emphasis on refined craftsmanship. Materials used on upholstered chairs, curtains and drapes are often lightweight cotton, which helps to soften up the interior. Kitchens offer an especially rustic feel, with wrought-iron stoves or brick fireplaces that produce a cozy and inviting atmosphere. Shaker cabinets are another common kitchen element, and they offer a classic and simple look. They feature flat paneled doors and are typically constructed out of durable woods such as hickory, maple or cherry. Colors throughout Puritan homes are subdued and consist mainly of neutrals. You’ll often see a blend of off-whites, browns and grays to produce a natural and calming ambiance.
The Queen Anne was a design style popular during the end of the 19th century, which carried into the 20th before the advent of shingle style. Queen Anne interiors boast a mixture of Victorian and Colonial style. Looking at the front of these homes, you’ll notice an asymmetrical design, plenty of large windows to let in natural light, and a wide, welcoming front porch. Interiors of Queen Anne homes are kept light and bright thanks to large windows, tall ceilings and a neutral color palette. Surfaces inside and outside of the home are anything but smooth and simple and feature detailing such as fish scale siding, spindlework and ornate carvings. Fixtures inside the home are just as detailed, with paneled wood cabinets and vintage faucets. One of the signature features of Queen Anne furniture is the cabriole leg. This design bows outward at the top and inward at the bottom, to create a stylish flaring S-curved support.
Regal homes come with a warm, opulent feel and plenty of luxurious decadent detailing, just like you would find in a royal palace interior. A variety of color palettes can be used, such as all-white, black and white or a mix of rich hues such as royal blue or emerald green. While you might find different colors in regal homes, you’ll always see a mix of metallics and lush fabrics that create an elegant, majestic and sophisticated ambiance throughout the interior. Metals such as gold, silver, bronze and copper can be used on anything from chandeliers and lamps to cabinet hardware and wall decor. The metallic hues complement any colors that are used. Chairs, bedding, window treatments and couches feature glamorous fabrics like silk and velvet. Large mirrors are placed on walls to help open up the space and make it appear grander.
Regence inspired interiors combine glamour and sophistication with French style. Unlike regency homes, color palettes are kept more subdued using a mixture of various neutrals like creams, grays and browns. Furniture features curved sides and legs to contribute to a delicate graceful ambiance. Decorative patterns are used on everything from fabrics to wood and include leaves, flowers or shells. These patterns are often mixed and matched throughout the home on upholstered chairs, walls and rugs. Elaborate motifs featuring dragons and other mythological creatures were often included. Chandeliers are commonly used light fixtures because they bring a bit of glamour into the interior of living rooms, bathrooms and bedrooms. Doorways and windows are typically arched, which can help soften up the look of a space.
Regency homes have a Hollywood glam about them, and interiors are all about the details. Chandeliers, for example, are adorned with crystals, while lampshades and pillows are embellished with fringe and cabinets are paneled with ornate glass detailing. The fabric on lampshades, drapes, curtains and bedding includes silk and velvet. Furniture never has a matte finish – instead, surfaces give off a glossy, bright and opulent look. Because regency-style homes are focused on entertaining, the living and dining rooms are arranged in a way that encourages guests to interact with one another. Therefore, couches and chairs are rarely faced toward a television. Furniture should fade into the background, so sofas, chair and chaises are typically low to the ground and modest in scale. Vibrant, rich colors are used throughout the home, like deep reds, bright yellows and dark purples to really contrast with the high gloss on furniture, light fixtures and wall decor.
Renaissance interior design emerged in Europe in the 15th and 16th centuries and is characterized by rich detailing, spacious rooms and elegant materials. Doors and windows feature rounded arches, and the frames around doors and windows are typically covered with marble. The furniture is equipped with just as much architectural detail, like pilasters, columns and cornices. Renaissance style architecture is marked by strict adherence to symmetry, proportion and balance. The first example of this style of architecture was Filippo Brunelleschi’s magnificent Basilica of San Lorenzo in Florence, Italy. The color palette in Renaissance style can be described as deep, dark and oftentimes gloomy, and contains purples, blues, blacks and greens. Kitchen cabinets are heavily decorated with windows and columns and contain many drawers and compartments. Tables are usually in a rectangular or octagonal shape and constructed out of ornate materials like granite and marble.
Retro home design contains nostalgic elements from vintage, eclectic and Bohemian styles. Perhaps its most defining quality is the use of bold patterns and colors that celebrate the levity of a post-war United States. Shades are usually bright and vibrant and can include a mix of oranges, reds, yellows, etc. Typically, only one or two of those colors are used throughout the home to avoid a chaotic, cluttered look. Patterns are always big and are used on everything from walls and rugs to chairs and sofas. Furniture features circular, curved lines and are constructed with wood or leather. Trinkets found at antique shops and flea markets are arranged on open shelving to add vintage flair and personality to the home. The 1950s and 1960s are the eras most often associated with this style. Interior designers like Dorothy Draper and David Hicks used psychedelic patterns with starkly contrasting colors to create memorable interiors in the U.S. and Europe. Colorful polypropylene upholstered seats are also frequently seen in retro environments with nostalgic pieces inspired by diners or vintage automobiles.
The Revival period in nineteenth-century American interior design and architecture was a direct result of the rapidly changing country. In reaction to growing urbanization, mechanization and demographic changes, many Americans pined for simpler times and romanticized the past. The result was a revival of many design styles from antiquity, which were thought to reflect the values of the homeowner and their family. Furniture, lighting and architectural elements drew inspiration from Greek, Gothic, Egyptian, Spanish and Rococo styles to name a few. Today, we see the Revivalist spirit in the detailing, materials and color palettes of rooms and signature pieces, in concert with more eclectic and modern design tastes. In some cases, it may simply take the form of iconic columns or subtle decorative moulding.
Rietveld interior design balances new and old by blending elements from the modern world with Arts and Crafts style. Chairs and tables feature very sharp, sleek lines to reflect a contemporary functionalist aesthetic. Architect Gerrit Rietveld designed the iconic Rietveld red and blue chair, which is considered a representation of the Dutch Modernist and Neoplasticism movements (though not of pure De Stijl inspiration) [Jensen 2007]. The seat of the chair is bright blue, while the back is red, and the ends of the arms are yellow, bringing splashes of primary colors into the home. His zig-zag chair is easily recognized, while the Shroder House remains the last true representation of De Stijl (Dutch for “the style”) architecture. Shades used on the walls are neutral and include whites, grays and blacks. Large picture windows put the focus on nature and the dramatic views of the outdoors. Rietveld light fixtures are sleek and understated, like simple white pendants and floor lamps with little to no ornamentation.
Also known as rocaille, Rococo was a reaction the geometric formal style of the Louis XIV style that preceded it in France. Rococo interiors share a similar look to French style in that they’re light, elegant and airy. The color palette is predominantly made up of ivory, light pastels and golds. Mirrors are a common decorating tool used to enhance natural light and make spaces appear larger. Rococo furniture is defined by elaborate carvings handmade by craftsmen and owes much of its inspiration to its Baroque ancestry. Lines on tables, chairs and sofa are always curved and soft. Asymmetrical decorations are another big part of Rococo style, and they’re typically inspired by elements of nature such as conches, waves, corals and shells. Panels and ceramics are also influenced by chinoiserie and depict various aspects of Asian or Chinese life and architecture.
Romantic style embraces a soft, delicate and effortlessly beautiful feeling. Colors are usually subdued and muted and include shades like dusty pink, sky blue and creamy white. Metallic elements such as picture frames, candlesticks and vases offer a sparkling contrast to the low-key palette. Antique chandeliers with crystal droplets are hung in living rooms, dining rooms and bedrooms to provide a touch of glamour. Harsh lighting is a “no-no” in rooms with a romantic aesthetic, since setting the mood relies on diffused illumination that idealizes rather than completely reveals. Four poster beds and canopy beds with swags of diaphanous fabric have a fairytale-like feel and create a sense of intimacy. Lines on furniture are graceful and curvy to promote a romantic ambiance. Fabrics on curtains, linens and bedding are luxurious – velvet and silk are the two materials most commonly used.
Russian home style can be defined as snug, cozy and welcoming. It blends both classic and country interiors for the perfect mix of luxury and simplicity. These spaces are filled with meaningful pieces like handmade wall decorations and handcrafted furniture. Paneled cupboards may feature folk art or geometric symbols, while framed tapestries pay homage to traditional Russian craftsmanship. Colors used throughout Russian homes include inviting hues like mint greens, creamy whites, golden yellows and deep browns. Flowers are an oft-used decorating tool – floral patterns are found on curtains and pillows, floral paintings are hung on the walls, and blooms in vases add charm and brightness into the home. Parquet wooden floors or decorative ceramic tiled ones provide additional flavor.
This design style was born from the natural inspirations of the Romantic movement. Rustic homes are inspired by the simplicity and rugged beauty of nature. Furniture and fabrics are made up of materials found outdoors, like weathered wood, stone, concrete, hemp, wool and cotton. Interiors are filled with neutral colors to keep the attention on the stunning raw materials used to create floors, accent walls, tables and chairs. Walls are kept white or are covered in warm brick, stone or distressed reclaimed wood. Large windows are another common element of rustic home design, as they fill the space with natural light and help the home feel as close to the outdoors as possible. The Adirondack chair is one of the most popular pieces of furniture that is identified with this style.
Scandinavian interiors are somewhat similar to both Russian and rustic design styles. It can be defined by its simplicity, use of clean lines and earthy materials. Wall-to-wall carpets are rarely seen in Scandinavian homes – instead, hardwood floors are used in every room except the bathroom. The floors are always light in color, as is the rest of the home. Walls are typically either white or gray, and blue textiles are used on sofas, rugs and bedding to bring a splash of color into the home. Minimalist Scandinavian furniture and architecture feature clean and simple lines. Nordic fireplaces are typically the grand focal point of a room to warm the interior and offer a cozy contrast to the muted colors.
Shabby chic presents a balance of rustic and glamorous styles. Its name is credited to London designer Rachel Ashwell who was inspired by treasured “finds” she discovered at flea markets. Furniture of this style appears worn and distressed with painted layers. Fabrics on sofas, bedding and curtains are typically made of cotton and feature white or pastel colors to keep the room looking soft and delicate. Commonly used materials include weathered wood, wrought iron and wicker. Kitchen tables are constructed out of warm lumber and feature a textured area rug underneath. Tables are set with vintage teacups and linen napkins and vintage chandeliers light up the room. Overall, a beachy, airy ambiance can be found throughout shabby chic interiors. The wear-and-tear look is similar to French Country and Cottage style decor.
Shaker interior design embraces simplicity and practicality. Furniture constructed in Shaker style is always of high-quality woodwork and often handcrafted to last for years. Chairs, sofas and tables feature straight, tapered legs because of their lightweight nature. Tapered legs are aesthetically attractive, but can be easily lifted for convenience. Pieces like tables typically have plain wood pulls and rounded edges to avoid showiness. Neutral colors, like grays, light browns and off-whites are used throughout Shaker homes. Light fixtures are as simple as the furniture with very little detailing, minimal curves and very straight lines, much like contemporary lighting. Shaker cabinets are still among the most popular kitchen features in homes. These clean-lined built-in cabinets have a classic look that typically have a recessed center panel and no or sparse detailing.
The colors that make up Southwestern or Santa Fe style include Earth tones such as dusty orange, cactus green, beige and adobe red. Bright hues like turquoise and vibrant yellow are peppered in the muted colors for a splash of Southwestern personality. Texture is another important characteristic – leather and suede are most commonly used on upholstery, while knotty pine is popular for tables and chairs. Furniture is usually made of light-colored woods and upholstered with bright, rich geometric patterns. Light fixtures like lamps and sconces are crafted out of natural materials like wrought iron, stone or bronze. Terra cotta tiling is another exterior characteristic of Southwestern style homes. Accent rugs and bed covers are usually made from loosely woven wool or other natural fibers.
This retro-futuristic design style was inspired by the advent of space exploration in the late 1950s and 1960s. Space Age is often confused with the Atomic Age movement that preceded it and many pieces of furniture associated with Mid-Century Modern style actually belong in the Space Age category. Molded polypropylene plastic and fiberglass is used to create fluid organic shapes in white, black, vibrant colors or even transparent forms. Sculpted capsule-shaped chairs are signature items in Space Age design and Eero Aarnio’s Ball Chair, Bubble Chair and Egg Pod Chair are still icons today. Clean-lined foam upholstery and accents in bold orange, red, pink and yellow really pop against the white that is so prevalent in this style. Eero Saarinen’s Tulip tables and chairs are frequently used and were featured in “2001 A Space Odyssey” – the cinematic epitome of this aesthetic. Chromed metal frames with clear plastic or glass are often used for seating and tables too. Space Age also embraces a whimsical, light-hearted and ephemeral spirit. Boomerang-shaped tabletops, lava lamps and pop art all contribute to the fun and, at times, the psychedelic mood of this style, while UFO-shaped hanging fireplaces reinforce the iconography of the space race with the Soviet Union and provide uncommon visual appeal. The Googie architectural movement that corresponded with Space Age styling created many memorable structures such as the LAX airport and evoked images of the Jetsons. John Lautner’s flying saucer-like Chemosphere House in the Hollywood Hills and Charles Deaton’s elliptical Sculpted House in Denver both exemplify the public fascination with all things space and other-worldly at the time.
Spanish Renaissance combines the rich detailing of the Renaissance era with raw, Mediterranean influences of Spanish style. The furniture is intricately carved with geometric patterns and upholstered with bright, red or green leather and decorative metal accents like brass or metal nails. Chairs and tables are typically made of heavy woods such as walnut, cedar or oak. Light fixtures like wall sconces, chandeliers and lamps are typically adorned with wrought iron. Throw rugs and Spanish-style pottery are used as decorative accents. Windows, doorways and headboards feature arches to soften architectural elements like wooden chairs with straight backs. The architecture of this period was often adorned with low-relief metallic carvings that were influenced by the plateresque artistic movement.
Steampunk interior design mixes elegant interiors with industrial or machine style. It’s composed of materials such as leather, dark wood and metallic coppers and bronzes. Furniture typically has an industrial flair, as tables, chairs and sofas are constructed out of salvaged woods and metals in addition to leather upholstery. It’s common to see light bulbs bare without any decorative object like a shade around it with steampunk design. Old maps are a frequently used decorating tool and can be hung up as wall murals to add a vintage vibe to an interior. Exposed materials like pipes, concrete walls and weathered wood beams only add to the charm of steampunk interiors. Think of Steampunk as a blend between Victorian flamboyance, Gothic broodiness and the mechanization of the Industrial Age. Its origins can be traced back to the turn of the twentieth century, and is generally acknowledged to be inspired by the literary works of Jules Verne and H.G. Wells [Onion 2008]. The technology described and the depictions in “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” and “The Time Machine” are clearly the roots of steampunk as we now know it. It has become a favorite style of cinema, due to its rich juxtaposition of materials and textures. Just watch “The City of Lost Children,” “Wild Wild West” or “Hugo” to see Steampunk in action.
Swedish interiors boast a refined elegance and an uncluttered, classic style. Swedish homes borrow traits from modern and minimalist themes due to the stylistic focus on practicality and simplicity (despite the difficulty of assembling IKEA furniture). Walls are typically covered in a neutral hue like gray or off-white to give a light and airy feel to the room. Interiors can be accented with Earth tones like greens, browns and taupes, as Swedish style emphasizes the use of nature. Furniture in Swedish homes leans toward a traditional aesthetic – wooden chairs are adorned with curved backs and turned legs, while tables and dressers typically have a weathered look and are painted in white or gray. Sofas and chairs are upholstered with natural materials like linen, cotton, leather and suede. Light fixtures are neutral and contain very little detail to stick to a simple, minimalist look.
A traditional home will be filled with furniture from various period styles such as Tudor, Regence, Louis XV and Georgian. However, unlike eclectic interiors, traditionally styled homes have a much more distinct visual cohesiveness in color palette and materials. Tables, chairs and sofas are typically made from dark woods and are ornately detailed with carvings and curvatures. Windows are similarly designed with scalloped edges, fringe accents and luxurious drapes gathered together with tasseled cords. Fabrics feature a variety of different patterns including damask, florals, stripes and plaids. Colors are muted and subdued to create a calm ambiance throughout the home. Rooms are lit up with shimmering crystal chandeliers and silver candlesticks offering a warm flickering glow. Fresh or silk flowers in detailed vases and still-life oil paintings are often used as decorative accessories.
Transitional interior design blends a variety of different styles together to create a timeless look that’s all its own. Because there is a mix of both traditional and contemporary design, furniture can feature straight and sophisticated lines, or have rounded lines with ornate carvings. Pieces like chairs, tables and sofas balance both masculine and feminine attributes to create a welcoming ambiance. For the most part, however, furniture has much less ornamentation than what’s found in most traditional styles. Furniture is upholstered with graphic patterns and textured materials like creamy white cotton, smooth leather and corduroy. Lighting is sleek, much like couches, tables and chairs. Wall sconces, pendants and table lamps are equipped with straight lines with a modern feel. Colors are similar to traditional design – you’ll see dark browns, taupes, tans and creamy whites.
Infuse a bit of beachy flair into your home with tropical style, which combines influences from various locations like Hawaii and French Polynesia. Furniture can be made up of different natural materials like rattan, bamboo and wicker. Furnishings are upholstered with tropical prints featuring lattice patterns, flowers and big palm leaves. Light fixtures are also constructed out of natural materials, like woven pendant lights. To create a light and airy ambiance that you would find in tropical locations, color palettes are kept subdued, with pale peaches, greens, blues and neutrals. Lush green plants give a splash of brightness to the interior and play off of the lighter colors. Jute, sisal and other natural fiber rugs give Tropical interiors texture under foot. This relaxed soothing style works well in open air areas like porches and verandas.
This architectural style represents the last evolution of Medieval design. The low Tudor arch is a defining characteristic of this classic English period. Tudor homes typically have stone or stucco on their exterior with wooden front doors to recreate an English style. An iconic detail of Tudor design is the steep gable roof pitch to mimic a castle you might see in a medieval fairytale. Windows in the home are tall and narrow, guiding the eye up to the high ceilings equipped with heavy timber ceiling beams. Protruding bay or oriel windows are also commonly seen in Tudor houses. Bedrooms might feature impressive four-poster beds and heavy armoires. Kitchens are equipped with vintage detailing like wrought iron lighting, farmhouse sinks and cream-colored cabinets. In the living and dining rooms, heavy ornate wood furniture with a semi-glossy sheen and velvet throws sit atop stone or brick flooring.
Tuscan interior design is decorated with warm, earthy colors like golden yellows, rusty oranges, deep purples and olive greens, much like those you would find on a Tuscan hillside. Floors are packed with detail and contain either worn wood, terra-cotta tiles or a mosaic inlay. Antique detailed rugs add a cozy element to the floors. Windows are always left without detailed treatments so natural light can easily stream in and warm the interior. Tuscan style furniture borrows characteristics from Mediterranean design with richly stained wood and intricate hand-painted designs of natural elements such as flowers and fruits. Rooms are lit with hanging pendants, candles and wrought iron light fixtures. Walls are decorated with art featuring wine bottles, cheese, fruit and flowers, while ceilings feature exposed wooden beams.
Urban, or Soft Industrial, interiors share a similar sleekness to loft-like homes with a bit of rustic flair tossed in. Exposed brick and stone give walls character, and industrial pendant lighting made of steel, copper and wrought iron illuminate all of the vintage details throughout the home. Lighting is also an important element because it breaks up the deep dark hues that dress the floors, walls and furniture. Floor-to-ceiling windows, used to keep things light, are another classic characteristic of this city style. Furniture is made up of a mix of weathered and glossy woods to create a perfect balance of old world style and industrial style.
Venetian homes are equipped with a luxurious, enchanting ambiance. Many elements throughout Venetian interiors come with a gilded finish, including feet on furniture and chairs, mirrors, candle holders, picture frames, etc. Collections of smaller mirrors with ornate detailing are used as decorations and help the interior appear more spacious. Wall sconces are used to highlight the mirrors and reflect light. Furniture is adorned with wood detailing and typically upholstered with a patterned fabric such as florals or stripes. Venetian homes boast a rich color palette made up of creams, deep wine reds, golds and purples. These shades are illuminated by an arrangement of white candles and grand chandeliers. One of the more prominent features of Venetian architecture is the use of the pointed Gothic Lancet Arch in combination with Moorish decorative patterns and material influence.
Victorian interiors are big on order, ornamentation and timeless elegance. Homes from this period are typically divided into public and private spaces with the parlor being the primary room for entertaining guests. Furniture is constructed out of dark, glossy woods such as walnut, rosewood and mahogany. The backs, arms and feet of chairs and sofas come with elaborately carved floral designs. A Victorian-style dining room is complete with regal light fixtures like over-the-top chandeliers and often features a majestic and ornately decorated sideboard. Ceilings are equally as ornate, with gilded detailing around the trim. Color palettes are similar to Venetian-style homes and consist of teal, mustard yellow, lavender, walnut and rusty red. Victorian knick-knacks, paintings and textiles bring character to the interior.
Vintage refers to style from the 1940s and 50s, and comes with a nostalgic, comfortable ambiance. Eclectic flea market finds can be displayed on open shelving, in decorative bowls or on bookshelves to add visual interest and character to the home. Other accessories that bring a vintage style home to life include old gilded mirrors, heavy cornice moldings, brass and frosted glass lamps, stenciled walls and decorative tile borders. Bathrooms typically feature a cast iron or porcelain clawfoot tub for an old world feel. In the kitchen, various cookware and accessories like vintage toasters, coffee makers and mixers are left out on the countertops for added antique flair. In the living room, couches and chairs are upholstered with detailed pastoral or floral patterns. Delicate lace curtains in white or soft neutral tones provide a soft accent that reinforces the antique vibe.
Western interior design borrows characteristics from rustic Tuscan homes in that they feature a warm color palette and plenty of detailing. Kitchens, for instance, feature burnt orange terra cotta tiles and walls are decorated with paintings, prints, colorful murals and backsplashes of mosaic tile. Leather or hide chairs and couches are adorned with Navajo-inspired pillows and throws to add a splash of color and Western flair to your interior. Western homes feature a stand-out palette of golden yellows, rusty oranges and deep reds to reflect hues you might find in the painted desert. Accent lighting and ceramic pendants illuminate the rich color palette. Exposed ceiling beams are a common touch in Western homes as well, along with natural materials such as stone and granite. Large scale fireplaces and mantels are central elements in this style and are often constructed of roughly hewn stone.
William & Mary
William & Mary-inspired interiors feature grand-looking armchairs with high backs, curved lines, oriental lacquer work and ball feet. Highboy and lowboy chests are found in William & Mary bedrooms and living rooms and are just as detailed as the chairs and couches. These pieces are adorned with floral, oyster and seaweed veneering. To keep the focus on the detailed furniture, William & Mary color palettes are left neutral, with creams, taupes and browns. Floors are sleek, typically made up of glossy wood. Kitchen cabinetry is also constructed out of woods like acacia and olive, and are decorated with various inlays and veneers. The Periwig Chair is a signature design from this vintage aesthetic. The seat features an ornately carved crested backrest made from hardwood and may incorporate woven cane.
In Japanese, Zen refers to Buddhist meditation, so it’s no surprise that Zen-style interiors put an emphasis on tranquility, harmony and relaxation. To keep a subdued monastic atmosphere, Zen homes are filled with earthy colors like beige, gray and off-white. Instead, the interior features a variety of textures to bring character to the space, like wooden flooring, cotton sofas and plush rugs. Rugs typically match the color of the flooring to reinforce the peaceful serene aesthetic. Zen homes have floor-to-ceiling windows to bring as much natural light into rooms as possible. Accent lighting like bamboo sconces is used to illuminate artwork, mirrors or any other decor on the walls. Furniture is kept natural and simple and features clean lines without excess detail or ornamentation.
Incorporating different home decorating styles
Whether you’re an aspiring interior designer or just a home decor enthusiast, it always helps to venture out into the world. Inspiration comes from exploration and opening yourself up to new ideas. Review a few thought starters in our Styles section to get you going.
Interior design professional organizations
- ASID – American Society of Interior Designers
- IIDA – International Interior Design Association
- IDS – Interior Design Society
- CIDQ – Council for Interior Design Qualification
- CIDA – Council for Interior Design Accreditation
Frequently Asked Questions – Interior Design Styles
Interior design is a discipline that is both an art and a science. It requires an eye for aesthetics as well as a practical understanding of the structural and functional requirements of an indoor space. Interior designers are involved in the planning of the architecture of a room, including technical considerations such as door and window placement to ensure that the traffic flow, lighting, acoustics and effectiveness of the room are optimized. They are also responsible for establishing the color palette, furnishing and adorning the space with decorative items to reinforce a particular style or mood. Interior decorators, conversely, focus only on the aesthetics.
Rudimentary technical interior design from the 17th century through the early 19th century was done primarily by artisans or craftsmen working with architects. Interior decoration fell to homemakers or upholsterers who provided guidance on the artistic style of an indoor space. As the middle class grew, during the industrial revolution in the mid-late 19th century, interior design increased. Furniture companies began to offer interior design services to meet the growing demand for domestic expression and desire for a variety of furnishing styles. Amateur interior designers and publications emerged in the early 20th century. The profession became more established in the 1950s, after World War II when home spending increased. Colleges began offering courses in interior design, textbooks were written on the subject and organizations were founded to establish oversight of the profession.
Current interior design associations include:
- American Society of Interior Designers (ASID)
- International Interior Design Association (IIDA)
- Interior Design Society (IDS)
- Council for Interior Design Qualification (CIDQ)
- Council for Interior Design Accreditation (CIDA)
The actual term "steampunk" was coined in the late 1980s by author K.W. Jeter in a letter to Locus Magazine to describe fictional works penned by himself and select contemporaries. The science fiction sub-genre incorporates retro-futuristic inventions inspired by steam-powered machinery of the 19th century. The anachronistic technology blends industrial machinery with Victorian aesthetics and styles to create a distinctive creative look for fashion, engineering and architecture. Steampunk is heavily influenced by the literary works of Jules Verne and H.G. Wells who imagined amazing machines that utilized steam power.
The style celebrates the construction of machines or items even more than the purpose they serve. In steampunk, gears, gauges, pipes, rivets and seams are proudly displayed rather than hidden. The more elaborate the design to perform a basic function the better. This complex textured aesthetic has a cinematic quality that can be seen in movies such as Dune, Hugo, Wild Wild West and more.
Art Deco is a style of architecture, design and visual arts that first appeared in France before World War I and became the predominant design movement for the next two decades. Its name is a shorthand derivation of "Arts Decoratifs," from the Exposition Internationale des Arts Decoratifs et Industriels Modernes where the style was first exhibited in Paris in 1925. Art Deco was a pastiche of styles that came together in a unique aesthetic that held the future in high esteem and symbolized elegance, wealth and glamor. It was inspired, in part, by the increasing industrialization and mass-production in the world.
Art Deco incorporated the symmetry and repetition found in machine-made objects, as well as modern materials of the time (e.g. stainless steel and plastic). The style is characterized by the angular geometric shapes of Cubism, bold colors of Fauvism and exotic cultural motifs and rare materials from ancient Egypt, Asia and Africa. Consequently, Art Deco was the first truly international decorative style. It influenced the design of furniture, lighting, buildings, fashion and transportation. The Chrysler Building is an iconic example of Art Deco as are the posters of A.M. Cassandre. This glamorous style can be seen more recently in contemporary films such as The Great Gatsby.
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Individual photo credits are listed with the image coding.