Interior Design Style 101

Posted by Chris Lu on

Do you know the difference between modern and transitional? Bohemian or shabby chic? What about farmhouse or rustic? We are going to do an educational course in interior design styles. After this, you will sound like an expert in knowing the difference between all the biggest design styles. It's worth mentioning that everyone's tastes are different and there are no set rules on how you want to decorate your house as long as you love it!


Luxurious and sumptuous best describes art deco. Short for “Arts Décoratifs,” the style was all the rage in the 1920s to 1930s—and placed a heavy emphasis on all things glamorous: Rich colors, metallics, and, sure, the occasional animal print. But while Art Deco doesn’t shy away from being extra, it’s commonly known for its bold, geometric shapes with sharp edges. So the next time you see a picture of the Chrysler Building—or even a cool sunburst mirror (they were huge back then)—you can thank Art Deco for making these timeless marvels.


While the word “bohemian” is often associated with an artful and unconventional person, the interior design style has recently become more mainstream. But when it comes to infusing a bohemian spirit in your own home, throw out the rule book and focus on creating a relaxing space that’s personal to you. Layer your bed with throw blankets from your local vintage shop. Take Grandma’s accent chair out of storage. Create a soulful shelfie with all the trinkets you purchased on your recent trip to Africa. It’s all about creating a chill space that’s packed with personality. Every bohemian space is bound to be different, but most of them generally focus on worn-in textiles as well as vintage furniture and accessories.


Coastal is all about blues, whites, and nautical motifs. It’s inspired by natural elements. It is fresh like the ocean. So while you may see a vase full of seashells, a driftwood coffee table, or a color palette of soothing blues, it doesn’t have to be as literal as you’d think.


Contemporary and modern are terms that are often used interchangeably but there is a difference. The contemporary design is defined by the current trend. Its style is ever-changing because it’s all about what’s in at the moment. For example, if black metal is trending, it’s likely going to be considered contemporary.  The contemporary style aims to create a fashionable space without being overdone.


At first glance, you might think that eclecticism is similar to bohemian. In reality, eclectic design is more associated with bringing two, very different designs together. Want to mix traditionalism with Scandinavian style? What about minimalism with farmhouse? Eclecticism offers a blank slate to make all your wildest design dreams come true.


No, farmhouse isn’t all chicken-themed decor and fruit basket paintings. While the farmhouse style certainly veers more into traditionalism, it’s really all about creating a warm, cozy space. Common characteristics include light, airy spaces, wooden accessories, and exposed beams, and cushy couches.


As the saying goes, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. When industrial design was born in the 1700s, it was a purely utilitarian style that would outfit the growing factories. It wasn’t until the ’60s and ’70s that people started to convert abandoned factories into lofts, restaurants, and hip hotels. While industrialism features pared-down materials like wood and brick, you can also expect to find sturdy iron and steel. To play off the masculine materials, many industrial homes feature a cooler, neutral color palette.


Think more is more? Well, you’re going to love maximalism. A far cry from modernism or Scandinavian style, maximalism dares design enthusiasts to be bold. Similar to bohemian, you have the autonomy to make your space as maximalist as you’d like. Start off slow with a controlled, symmetrical maximalist à la Wes Anderson or channel your inner Austin Powers by dialing up the patterns, colors, and textures.


Mid century modern is one of the most popular interior design styles. It has survived the test of time. Rising to prominence after World War II along with tract houses, mid-century modern style is a cool, pared-down alternative to the ornate pieces of yesteryear. It’s been over 50 years since the style first hit the design scene, and it’s showing no sign of losing its luster any time soon. In fact, its simple, boxy silhouette is almost more popular than ever before.


Minimalism technically isn’t an interior design style. It’s easy to associate it with a neutral color palette, airy layout, and scarce details, but the phrase simply represents making your home less filled. So technically, you could have a coastal or bohemian home that is also minimalist.


Rumor has it modernism and mid-century modernism aren’t as different as you’d think. While modernism came before minimalism and contemporary design, most of the pieces we consider modern—you know, simple shapes and muted hues—generally nod back to mid-century modern style.


So farmhouse and rustic are exactly the same, right? Think again. While the two styles share some similarities, many believe rustic is a little rougher around the edges. Here, you’re bound to see rugged, unfinished woods like alder and hickory as well as distressed chairs, fabrics, and other accessories. It’s like farmhouse style’s outdoorsy cousin.


Made popular in the 1950s by the three Scandinavian countries, Denmark, Norway, and Sweden, this style emphasizes a minimalist aesthetic, a clean color palette (perhaps with the occasional pop of color), and functionality above all else. Scandi is typically light hues like white, greys and blues. Light timbers like Oak are the trademark look of this style.


Interested in the bohemian aesthetic, but don’t want to go all out? Give shabby chic a try. By definition, the style hits on a lot of the same elements as bohemian (think prints and distressed materials) but is paired with more put-together pieces. Go ahead, embrace shabby chic by mixing grandma’s old quilt and a sleek, mid-century side table.


Traditionalism might be the matriarch of interior design. It's one of the oldest decorating styles. While the style draws a lot of inspiration from the past with rich colors, beautiful prints, and ornate details, there’s plenty of room to add some modern touches. Simultaneously elegant and cozy, traditional homes often integrate pieces from different eras and places (think baroque chairs with beautiful chinoiserie vases) in a clean, composed manner.

TRANSITIONAL Torn between modernism and traditionalism? Well, thanks to transitional style, it is the best of both worlds. It's classy and refined. It focuses on a minimalist aesthetic and a muted color palette of grays, tans, and off-whites, but celebrates texture. As for furniture, you can expect a mix of pieces with curved and straight lines.