What’s your home decorating style? If someone asked you that question right now, would you be able to answer it with confidence and ease? Or would you feel uncertain and find yourself saying, “I really don’t know?” If so, it’s nothing to feel embarrassed about.
Many of us don’t have a clear sense of what our decorating style is, or if we do, aren’t able to clearly identify it. Sometimes we have a sense of what we like. For example: “Oh, it’s sort of modern and minimal,” or “it’s eclectic and globally inspired.” Often that’s all a conversation needs, but having a good sense of some key interior design styles can not only help you identify and communicate your personal tastes to others, it can also help you seek out more of what you like and what will inspire you. Of course, sometimes the lines between different styles blur as they evolve. But if you’re struggling to tell the basic difference between minimalist and mid-century, this guide is for you.
Let’s explore a few of the main interior design styles and help you identify the one (or several) that you identify with most along the way.
Let’s start with one of the most common and well-known design styles. If you like classic art pieces, antique elements, symmetry and proportion, then this is the style for you. The traditional style relies on classic furniture pieces like those with dark wood paneling or built-in cabinetry, as well as formal, symmetrical arrangements and rich color schemes. It’s a look that is rooted in traditional shapes and forms, in particular those from 18th and 19th-century England and France. Most traditional homes have a very neutral color palette with accents brought in with artwork or floral arrangements. Fabrics are rich and often detailed, such as velvet, silk, and damask. The focus is on matching furniture sets, consistency, and symmetry, so this might not be your style if you like to have the freedom to mix and match.
Modern Style (or Mid-Century Modern Decor)
Do you prefer less ornamentation and clutter? Intentional asymmetry? How about clean lines, geometric patterns, open floor plans, and materials like chrome or glass for a streamlined, sleek look? In that case modern design might be for you.
It’s important to note that ‘modern’ and contemporary aren’t the same thing. Modern interior design came on the radar in the early to mid-20th century. It has a clean 1950s and 1960s feel with a touch of Scandinavian aesthetic and uses simple lines and organic shapes. With modern interiors, décor is kept minimal. Furnishings are functional as well as beautiful, with sleek surfaces in materials like chrome and glass. Modern homes tend to have minimal accessories and instead use art as the main décor focus. It’s common to see bold, colorful accents in art and furniture, emphasized by their placement in a mostly neutral space.
Contemporary Home Decor
Perhaps because of the name, contemporary is often confused for modern. There are similarities between the two, such as open floor plans and spaces, straight lines, and metal and glass pieces. However, where they differ is that contemporary style is more fluid and incorporates current trends and styles, so it’s always evolving to embody the present moment. If you like to create a fusion of styles from different time periods by adding a contemporary flair, then this is a good style for you.
Typical contemporary furniture shows exposed legs and clean lines to give a light and airy feel. It’s common to see materials like metal and glass used because of their light-reflecting properties. In addition, neutral color palettes are the most common for contemporary design, with textured fabrics to create interest and luxury.
Eclectic Interior Design
The name says it all – eclectic style is for the free-spirited person. This is an intentional approach to décor that’s all about variety and contrasts. That also means there’s a lot of freedom to play with different trends and styles, curating a cohesive mix that might appear random but actually works together to create an attractive and lively space. Pieces are carefully placed to create balance, even though that placement may look organic. It’s a beautiful juxtaposition of old and new, neutral and colorful, refined and rough. If that sounds like a look you’ll love, then eclectic is a fun way to go. It can take a bit of practice and a good eye to create the right balance with an eclectic style, so having a motif or theme within a room or space helps to bring the style together.
Under the umbrella of eclectic style, there are offshoots like Bohemian or Flea Market/Second-Hand, or a more Global-Inspired style. It may be worth exploring these to see if they’re relevant to you (as well as the pieces you already own and love).
Besides the styles above, there is Shabby Chic, a style which plays with vintage furniture that’s often distressed (for that hand-me-down look), floral patterns and textiles, and has a rustic, French Country look that’s very feminine. Some people mistakenly see shabby chic as ‘granny décor’, but instead it’s a fusion of vintage and rustic décor that has a timeless, lived-in appeal.
For people who follow the philosophy, ‘less is better’, there’s Minimal style. This look tends to be contemporary with an emphasis on lots of open spaces, neutral colors, and simple, functional furniture and décor where everything serves a purpose.
Other Home Decor & Interior Design Styles to Consider
If you love the beach and an easy-breezy vibe, there’s Coastal or Beach style. Southwestern is another option if you favor warm colors that evoke the American desert and décor that’s Spanish and Mexican-inspired. Or how about Rustic, Farmhouse or American Colonial, for those who want to bring elements of history, nature, and the warmth of the hearth and earthy materials?
As you can see, there are many different interior décor styles, many of which borrow elements from each other. The best way to find the one you love is to spend some time exploring examples of each and finding out what you gravitate towards. Then take a look around your home and see if one of these styles describes your space. Or maybe you want to take your home in a new direction, with a new style?
The Happiness Rule of Home Decor
Remember, when it comes to how you decorate your home, there really aren’t any rules except one very important one, the ‘happiness rule’: decorate your home in a way that makes you happy. Now that’s a design style we can all get behind!