10 Interior Design Styles You Should Know
Your home should be a sanctuary; a place where you feel completely at ease. It should reflect your personality and taste while also taking into account your functionality requirements. Fortunately, when it comes to interior design, there are many styles to choose from that allow you to find a balance between form and function to suit your lifestyle.
Here, we’ll take a look at different interior design styles, from those steeped in centuries of tradition to those that subvert rules and deal in whimsy. No matter your aesthetic, there is an interior design style befitting you.
The traditional interior design style is ornate, pulling inspiration from European homes of the 18th and 19th centuries. From crown molding on the ceiling to damask upholstery on the sofa, the traditional style abounds with sumptuous elements in restrained color palettes.
Furniture in traditional interior design often features carved wood details. Rich fabrics like velvets and silks in stripes, tartan, and brocade are incorporated in furniture and window treatments. Details like fringe on throw pillows or tassels on drapery add texture to these rooms.
Incorporating pieces that hearken back to an earlier time—a grandfather clock, a curio cabinet—brings this classic interior design style to life. Demand for this style, made popular by interior designers in the 1980s, is on the rise. But its latest iteration is devoid of stuffy accents like ruffles and bows. In their stead, we see a more sleek, modern revival of the style, what Architectural Digest dubs “neo-traditionalism.”
Modern interior design refers to the style of a specific period: the early part of the 20th century. The design style has its roots in the Industrial Revolution, and as such, the core elements of the modern interior design style are a reflection of urban life. Furniture with clean lines, crafted from glass, metal, and other man-wrought parts populate the modern interior design aesthetic.
For a point of reference in the art world, think of visionaries like Piet Mondrian and Wassily Kandinsky. Their canvases celebrate the chaos, noise, and exuberance of metropolitan life.
Like those painters’ works, modern interior design shies away from patterns. Instead, it embraces blocks of color, often with a focus on primary hues. Walls in modern rooms remain neutral, while color is introduced through furniture or artwork. One need look no further than Le Corbusier’s architectural projects and furniture designs to see the crossover between the world of modern art and modern interior design.
3. Mid-Century Modern
Immediately following the modern era, mid-century modern interior design was born in post-World War II America. Inspired by the Bauhaus movement—notably, through Kandinsky’s contributions to the Bauhaus—the mid-century modern style builds further on elements introduced in modern interior design.
Low-slung furniture with clean lines remain, but mid-century modern design is characterized by the introduction of non-traditional materials such as Lucite. Touches of brass and a rich color palette, including ochres, mustards, and teals, define the style.
For a fascinating glimpse at recreating an authentic mid-century modern look, this interview with set decorator Claudette Didul walks readers through the conception of Don Draper’s iconic Upper East Side apartment, which debuted in the fifth season of Mad Men.
Unlike modern interior design, which refers to a specific time period in the 20th century, contemporary style interior design refers to today’s aesthetic.
Contemporary interior design features a restrained color palette and shun furniture or wallpaper with bold patterns. Bright white is a popular choice for wall color; neutrals such as tans and grays dominate. Bold color is introduced in small doses, often through a bright accent chair or painting.
The spaces embrace sleek, long lines, whether with dramatic floor-to-ceiling curtains or sprawling sofas that draw your eye across the length of the room. Elements like stone, metal, glass, and warm wood add dimension to these spaces.
Born from the Japanese tradition, minimalist interior design is sleek, uncluttered, and restrained. Metal and stone are prominent influences in the minimalist design, whether in the form of a concrete countertop or sandstone-hued rug. There is nothing superfluous in this design style. You will find no knick-knacks on a bookshelf nor beds piled high with throw pillows.
Because of its pared-down look, incorporating smart storage elements into a minimalist space is crucial. Furniture such as bed frames or coffee tables often plays double-duty, acting as hidden drawers and cabinets for everyday objects.
Coastal interior design should reflect the care-free beach life that inspires the look. The coastal style is unfussy and breezy, with easy-to-care-for fabrics like linen and cotton populating the space. Rattan, bamboo, or other natural wooden elements also abound. A tasteful nod to the nautical is common, with a lamp base made from rigging or a striped chair that evokes a sailing flag pattern.
The color palette draws on the blues, tans, and pearls of the seaside landscape. By keeping walls a sandy taupe or early morning sky gray, the space feels bright. Incorporating ocean blues or seagrass greens in furniture or an accent wall adds drama and depth.
Modern rustic interior design evokes life in the woods. Texture has a vital role to play in a rustic room. It may be introduced in the heavy woven blanket on the sofa, the well-worn leather armchair, the reclaimed wood coffee table, or the jute rug on the floor. These spaces feel lived-in and cozy.
The rustic color palette incorporates natural elements but need not be subdued. Sumptuous forest greens, terra cotta reds, or midnight blues fit nicely into a rustic scheme.
This slideshow from Elle Decor demonstrates that there are many ways to achieve a modern rustic design, from monochrome white rooms to fully wood-paneled spaces.
The farmhouse interior design style, as the name implies, suggests a homestead feel. The spaces embrace a natural color palette, with pops of color inspired by a pastoral lifestyle. Neutral walls are accented with sage greens and butter yellows.
Wood elements also figure prominently into farmhouse design, whether that’s an accent wall featuring shiplap, wide-plank oak floors, or sliding farm doors in the entryway.
Fabrics in gingham, toile, and stripes are classic farmhouse design elements. These spaces also incorporate well-loved items with a nod to life on the farm—pieces like worn metal pitchers, woven baskets, and framed pressed flowers.
To understand eclectic interior design, picture an artist’s flat in Greenwich Village or Montmartre. Eclectic spaces are not concerned with matching or sticking to just one style. They are a reflection of the whims of the people who live in the space. When it comes to eclectic design, almost anything goes.
These rooms are often filled with color and texture. They incorporate elements from different periods and usually have a highly personal feel. You may find a traditional-style sofa next to a glass coffee table, with artwork from a friend’s collection hanging on the walls.
While the space references different eras, there is a harmony created through elements like color, texture, and pattern. These spaces may feel a bit chaotic at first glance. However, a second look will reveal a careful attention to detail and creating unity in the room.
Transitional spaces also mix elements from various design styles, but unlike eclectic spaces, transitional rooms are more subdued. Transitional interior design is a fit for those who feel that traditional design is too stuffy, while modern rooms feel too stark or distant.
Unlike the eclectic style, which embraces bright hues and is overflowing with color and texture, transitional spaces opt for more neutral color palettes and furniture with cleaner, sleeker lines.
In a transitional space, you might find crown molding and a Louis XVI chair next to an alcove featuring Lucite sconces, with a cream shag rug adorning the floor. Like with eclectic design, these elements speak to starkly different times, but there is a cohesion introduced through calming colors and a lack of excess ornaments.
Finding Your Interior Design Style
This guide represents a primer on just ten interior design styles of the many that exist. Understanding the core elements of popular interior design styles allows you to develop a shared language with anyone helping you plan a new space, perhaps either your spouse or an interior designer. In identifying the elements of each style that fit your individual aesthetic, you can create a home you love.