If you watch HGTV or enjoy reading design blogs (like this one – Hi!) you may see a lot about design styles and discovering what your design style is. Every professional interior designer asks a new client this question, with the exception of designers who have very specific styles and incorporate their own style into every room they design. But if you don’t know what each design style is, it’s hard to discover your style! So today, I want to explain and define some of the more popular styles and how you can incorporate those looks into your home!
Popularized in the 1920s and 1930s, Art Deco is known for bold colors, geometric designs, and an introduction of mirrored furnishings, glass, and chrome. Art deco, as the name suggests, is more about opulent decoration over function with modern influence. Excitement over the World’s Fairs of this time, new technology, and aerodynamics swept the design world, so you see a lot of bullet shapes along with geometric designs.
For a good example of Art Deco, think of The Great Gatsby set designs!
Arts & Crafts
Arts & Crafts became popular around 1910 to 1925 and came into popularity as a backlash against fussy, excessive Victorian design. Arts & Crafts design was known for its simplicity and “truth to materials,” especially handcrafted wood that is lightly stained to show the grain and crafted in a way to show off the painstaking detail of the joinery and carving.
In addition to wood, Arts & Crafts design uses stone, ceramic and other natural materials, most often seen in warm, rich earth tones, including greens, browns, muted reds, and soft yellows.
Check out photos of the Gamble House in Pasadena for some Arts & Crafts inspiration!
Contemporary design is known for its clean, sleek lines, solids over prints, and minimal decoration. Contemporary is a backlash against traditional design (more about that in a moment), and finds the beauty in functionality. In this style, you’ll see more open spaces, neutral palettes with jarring pops of color, and statement art pieces, like one oversized painting or black and white photography. Minimalism and modern design both spring from Contemporary design.
If Contemporary style is your preference, get some ideas from the Museum of Modern Art to design your home!
If you’re in love with gingham, vintage floral prints and rustic wood, French Country is most likely your design style. French Country relies heavily on garden, farming, and primitive themes, whether it’s ceramic roosters, pretty vases of fresh-cut daffodils or paintings of sunflowers or poppies, or the colors itself. Dusty blues, pale, buttery yellows, soft lavender, and sage greens are all popular in French Country palettes.
It’s easy to get caught up in overly matching furniture, so instead, create contrast with different patterns in similar colors!
Borrowing from all design styles, eclectic design allows you to select elements from different styles and bring them together. The key to eclectic is “curating” the design, meaning intentionally and methodically choosing specific design elements to bring together. Even if it’s not one style, there has to be cohesion. So, while an eclectic design may pull Contemporary and Arts & Crafts, there will be a theme of shape, scale, or other foundation.
I will say that Eclectic Style is my personal design style – I absolutely LOVE blending old and new together to create a look that is wholly original and interesting without being distracting. I feel a blend of styles creates a warm and inviting space with plenty of depth!
Popular in the 1950s and 1960s, Mid-Century Modern is about clean, casual lines, incorporating the outdoors into indoor living, natural materials, and vibrant colors. Stone fireplaces, walls of windows, and wooden furnishings were major themes of the Mid-Century Modern. However, there were statement pieces like designer George Nelson’s Marshmallow Sofa or iconic clocks and geometric patterned wallpaper.
For a closer look at Mid-Century Modern or inspiration, consider later seasons of Mad Men.
Cottage or Shabby Chic
If you’re drawn to airy rooms with weathered, painted wood, and faded florals, your style is Cottage. While too much distressed or weathered furniture may make a room feel rundown, with Cottage style, there’s a careful blend of new and old to keep the room feeling bright and fresh. For example, sitting beside a repurposed side table with a chipped pitcher of flowers is a sofa with crisp, white linen slipcovers, or a weathered, white metal bed with gingham or floral pillows against cheerful, white beadboard on the walls.
Are you in love with curved wood table or chair legs, symmetry, paired furniture, and mid-tone, muted colors in shades of beige and blue? If so, you love Traditional style! Stemming from British Colonial era, Traditional style is…well, traditional.
Where Contemporary is clean, straight lines, metal, and glass, Traditional is rounded, rolled arms and curved, carved wood. Art and furnishings are often grouped in pairs and perfectly coordinated, while upholstery is simply patterned in a stripe, muted plaid, or tone-on-tone floral. Traditional homes often feature millwork or plasterwork, dark hardwood floors, and formal chandeliers and lighting.
Check out Biltmore Estate for truly Traditional design inspiration!
Do you love the Pottery Barn or Crate & Barrel websites? If you’re saying “YES!” you probably prefer Transitional design. Transitional is that perfect compromise between Traditional and Contemporary, and most home design that you see on television and in magazines features this style.
Transitional furniture tends to have cleaner lines and neutral palettes, but will incorporate a skirt around the sofa or mahogany trim. There’s more tone-on-tone design with layers of clean, neutral colors and more integrated texture than you’ll see in both Contemporary or Traditional design. Art and accessories tend to be more neutral and subdued, too, but it’s not as minimal as Contemporary design.
If you’re looking through several different styles and you can’t choose, well, that’s okay! Honestly, going 100 percent French Country or 100 percent Traditional looks great in a showroom but it doesn’t always look great in a home. If you’re struggling to create a look you love, consider a consultation with a professional designer so you can discover what works well together and create a look that you may have never thought about!
Also, please visit my Pinterest Page at Interior Design By Tiffany. See My Board “Design.” There I will have amazing inspirational images for each design style! Enjoy!