Have you ever looked at a beautifully-designed room and thought “I love that. What is the design style called?“. There are lots of terms used in interior design so we thought we’d share a helpful guide to break down home design styles.
Understanding the names of the home design styles you love will help you in your search for home decor elements. Knowing the name of the style will help you describe what you’re looking for to others, search for furniture within that style, and to find inspiration online.
Interior Designer, Natalie Myers, breaks down lots of popular interior design styles and provides a quick description of each style and where it originated.
Design Styles Defined
Art Deco: The Style
Le Corbusier gave Art Deco its name after the International Exhibition of Modern Decorative and Industrial Arts in 1925, when more than 16 million visitors thronged to Paris to feast their eyes on delicate, streamlined and geometric designs that celebrated all things urban and modern. The oh-so-sleek style’s characteristic look-at-me finishes and city-chic takes on classical and exotic themes were a worldwide phenomenon in the Jazz Age.
Arts and Crafts: The Style
The Arts and Crafts movement (which enjoyed its first round of popularity here in America between 1910 and 1925) focused on the simplicity of form — no extraneous decoration to distract from the workmanship, thank you very much. “Truth in Materials” was all-important to Arts and Crafts designers, who often made use of local sources. (Architecturally speaking, “Arts and Crafts” can refer to Craftsman style, work by Frank Lloyd Wright and the bungalow style popularized in the early 20th century by Greene and Greene.)
Bohemian: The Style
As embodied by influencer/ Jungalow blogger / boho-chic expert Justina Blakeney, bohemian style revels in bold (and plentiful) layers of color, pattern and texture. It’s a gradual, free-spirited accumulation that builds up to an exclamation point (or 12) through rattan furniture, woven wall hangings, lush plants and vintage-inspired throws and pillows. Accordingly, it boasts a collected look, with furniture and decor acquired over time from thrift stores, antique shops and world travels.
California Chic: The Style
California chic is boho’s younger cousin who moved from Los Angeles to Joshua Tree and has gone (almost) all out on the aesthetics of the high desert. There’s an element of more traditional southwestern style (and of eclectic So Cal beach cities) in this newest form of Golden State casual living, but its palette is primarily pale blushes, weathered leather and organic neutrals.
Coastal: The Style
Inspired by the ocean (naturally), coastal style evokes a light and breezy feel by way of airy fabrics for window treatments and emphasis on nautical or beach-themed accessories like lighthouses and seashells. Think of the classic Ralph Lauren-inspired palette of navy and white with gold accents as the most buttoned-up version of this look, and rough-and-tumble, slipcovered beach cottages as the version in comfy flip-flops, if you will.
Contemporary: The Style
Contemporary (which is not synonymous with modern, but we’ll get to that later) design frequently features clean, sleek lines and swaths of solid colors — predominantly muted neutrals or bold punches of brightness. Furniture in contemporary interiors tends to keep a low profile, and its often-metal frames and straight legs emphasize basic shapes and forms. Graphic elements in artwork or as accents are its crowning glories.
Eclectic: The Style
This catch-all style borrows liberally from all over the place (literally and figuratively), and its imaginative appeal lies in unexpected contrasts and the element of surprise (“who knew those pieces would make each other look even better?”) Don’t conflate eclectic style with throwing anything and everything together, mind you: the key here is to use building blocks of design (color, pattern, texture, composition) to make spaces look cohesive.
Mediterranean: The Style
Mediterranean interiors draw inspiration from coastal regions of Spain, Greece and Italy; they owe their palettes and spirit to the sea itself, the rustic villages you might find on its shores and the estates and palazzos that overlook them. Traditional Mediterranean furniture features ornately turned legs and feet; its hardware, in turn, is heavy and often burnished. Rough-hewn surfaces like raw stone walls and exposed beams rub shoulders with velvets, linens and florid patterns.
Midcentury Modern: The Style
Midcentury modern style made its first splash in the ‘50s and ‘60s, when Palm Springs was the weekend-home destination of choice for Los Angeles entertainment pros and Scandinavian designers and architects were spreading the gospel of simplicity, functionality and natural shapes in popular culture. Autumnal oranges, yellows, olive greens and chocolate browns make frequent appearances, as do barely-there glass walls. In 2020, you can find the latest generation of the look from designers like Jonathan Adler.
Modern: The Style
A clean, streamlined furniture and architecture style that dates back to the ‘30s, modern decor is rooted in the minimal, true use of materials and absence of decoration. It’s characterized by a neutral color palette, polished surfaces, strong geometric shapes and asymmetry.
Traditional: The Style
Eighteenth-century English, 19th-century neoclassic, French country and British Colonial revival furnishings come together in traditional interiors, where classic styling and symmetry reign supreme. A restrained traditional palette typically features mid-tone colors; fabric patterns and wall treatments can range from simple solids, stripes and plaids to florals and chinoiserie.
Transitional: The Style
Per its name, the transitional look — which dates back to the 1950s — bridges traditional and contemporary design. It strikes a balance between historic pieces and furnishings with updated silhouettes and materials (Rome to chrome, as it were.) Past meets present without conflict in color schemes that are often neutral; luxury and comfort are the orders of the day.
Read more on HGTV.com for ways to incorporate these design styles (and more) into your home.