Interior design styles come and go, but a few have been around for decades and don’t show signs of slowing. From sleek contemporary looks to maximalist designs with bold colors and eclectic patterns, each style has its own characteristics that help it stand out.
While decorating your house can be an exciting opportunity to express your personal style, it can also be intimidating. Maybe you have an idea in mind but don’t know how to define your ideal style. Or maybe you’re looking to redecorate an area in your home but are unsure how to complement your existing decor.
Luckily, we’ve gathered the most iconic interior design styles and simplified their key components to help you create a look you’ll love. Use these timeless aesthetics as inspiration for your next home decorating project.
When you hear “Scandinavian style,” your mind might go straight to the displays at IKEA, but this minimalistic aesthetic goes beyond white walls. To achieve this cozy Nordic look, play with natural light, warm woods, and muted colors. Opt for furniture and accessories that emphasize function over decoration. Hygge, a key element of Scandinavian design, is all about creating coziness (like you see in this Better Homes & Gardens Cozy Upholstered Swivel Chair, $279, Walmart). Incorporate plush area rugs and throw blankets for a warm spot to relax.
“It is a very beautiful aesthetic, but it can sometimes feel cold. I suggest using textural fabrics and layering in accessories to warm it up,” says Gideon Mendelson, founder and creative director at Mendelson Group. “Throws, pillows, trays, and accessories really go a long way.”
The modern farmhouse aesthetic isn’t just for those who live in the country. Pairing rustic decor with clean, contemporary design, the style took off in the mid-2010s, thanks largely to the launch of Fixer Upper, an HGTV series featuring Chip and Joanna Gaines, which prominently showcased the aesthetic.
Whether incorporating this style into your kitchen, bedroom, or living room, there are key components to nailing a modern farmhouse look. Incorporate clean lines, neutral colors, and raw materials for the perfect combination of this contemporary-meets-rustic charm. Work with what you’ve got and showcase natural materials to create modern farmhouse style. Draw attention to exposed beams, use reclaimed wood for shelving or a headboard, or display your firewood for all to see. And don’t forget the shiplap!
As the name implies, midcentury modern style came to life in the mid-20th century. Homeowners were looking for something hardworking that benefited the nuclear family unit, and the style was more about functionality and less about complicated designs and patterns. Well-known designers like Ray and Charles Eames, Eero Saarinen, and Harry Bertoia emerged from this era.
Midcentury modern has remained prominent throughout the decades in part because its retro characteristics provoke a sense of nostalgia while also maintaining a contemporary look. Midcentury modern elements include wood finishes and furnishings, geometric shapes, clean lines, and bold accent colors. Form follows function with this design style, and nods to nature are key.
Although you might not look out your window and see the never-ending lavender fields of Provence, the interior of your home can transport you to the beautiful French countryside. French-country style exudes casual, inviting elegance. This aesthetic brings historical charm to homes using a mix of muted tones, soft patterns, and vintage detailing inspired by the French countryside. While similar to farmhouse styles, French country takes a more feminine, sophisticated approach.
Furniture with weathered wood and chipped paint surfaces is key to a French country-inspired space. Balance rustic decor with a crystal chandelier or gilded mirror.
Inspired by the Industrial Revolution, this interior design style focuses on open floor plans, high ceilings, and bringing new life to preexisting components like exposed brick walls or concrete floors. Utilize materials like distressed leather for furniture and mixed metals for lighting, hardware, and accents. Showcase salvaged items such as gears and old machine parts to impart industrial style into an existing look. Turn to caged lights and Edison bulbs to bring the style together.
Traditional interior design is just that—a classic style that utilizes design aspects that have remained popular no matter the time period. Forget harsh lines and frigid cool colors; this style is aimed at making a room feel like home with timeless decor, symmetry, and functionality. Traditional decorating often uses darker woods, neutral colors, or delicately patterned wallpaper on the walls, and jewel tones for depth. Architectural features, like wainscoting, crown molding, turned legs, and paneled cabinetry, are also typical of traditional design.
“Many people use the terms modern and contemporary interchangeably. However, contemporary design is really what is happening in the design world at the current moment. On the other hand, modern design refers to design that took place from the early to mid-20th century,” says Mendelson. Contemporary style is defined by evolving modern trends and tends to be neutral, sleek, and minimal.
Elements contributing to contemporary style include open layouts, straight lines, glossy finishes, and plenty of breathing space with little ornamentation. The most popular colors for contemporary design are neutrals and shades of black and white. Adding a pop of color to your decor can make the look feel more inviting.
Bring the beach into your house no matter how far you live from the shore with a coastal design style. This seaside aesthetic imitates a slow-paced lifestyle with its light colors and textures. Include shades of blue and white (like this Better Homes & Gardens Oblong Boucle Decorative Pillow with Fringe, $16, Walmart) natural, textured fabrics like linen and cotton, and motifs of items you might find on the beach, like driftwood, seashells, and coral. A bit of patina is also encouraged; look for weathered wood, cerused surfaces, or chippy painted furniture.
More is more when it comes to maximalism. However, it can be easy to get carried away and add too much color or pattern to your space where it becomes overwhelming. Mendelson says to trust your decorator.
“Maximalist design really requires an experienced eye for it to be successful. Too much in a space can feel chaotic if it’s not done carefully,” he says. “There should be a balance of patterns and color so an understanding of scale and color theory is critical. When a client wants this look, we aim to create a scheme where things work well together but don’t compete.”
“Boho” is short for Bohemian and refers to a free-spirited, rule-breaking lifestyle. The aesthetic embraces rich colors, busy patterns, and diverse decor (such as this Better Homes & Gardens Woven Pendant Light, $79, Walmart). While there are no rules with boho-style decor, there are a few guidelines to help you get started.
Rich jewel tones, such as purples, greens, and reds, are a great way to add a little luxury. Then supplement with global-inspired accents, such as Moroccan rugs or macramé wall art, collected from travels. The goal of boho style is a relaxed, collected-over-time look with both glam and retro influences. Finish the space with botanicals that will breathe life into your new space.
If you’ve ever watched The Great Gatsby, you’ll recognize the high-fashion aesthetic that is Art Deco. The opulent Art Deco era lasted from the early 1920s to the late 1930s. It was a time of glamour, with interior design that featured geometric shapes, rich colors, flashy metallics, and luxurious finishes. To soften the style, Mendelson suggests using a neutral palette to keep the juxtaposition of bold patterns and fixtures fresh but less severe.