Don’t really know your contemporary from your modern, or your industrial from your urban? Well, we are here to clear the confusion and answer all your questions!
Interior design comes in a range of formats and formulas, sometimes utterly distinct and other times with only the subtlest of differences. Yet each presents its own flavor, finish and experience that render a space in unique chapters of inspiration, history and creative endeavor. Therefore knowing what sets an interior design style apart may be a lot handier than you might realize, ensuring you pick the perfect style for your space and ambitions, and helping you achieve visual perfection with a lot less hassle.
Most Popular Interior Design Styles Defined:
Modern architecture and design, including interiors, is a broad umbrella term for design styles united by a common intention – a celebration of material, technology and composition through authenticity, transparency and efficiency.
Inspired by the Modernist art movement that preceded it, the Modernist style, born at the dawn of the 20th century, reinvented our relationship with space and aesthetics to bring us closer in touch with it. A building was more than an inhabitable shell; it was now a machine for living in.
Modernist interiors are therefore often a complex overlay of functional programming, careful compositions and clearly articulated lines and geometry. The inherent materiality of a form is an integral part of the design language here, as is an emphasis on visual and functional simplicity.
#2 Mid-century modern
Mid-century modern living room design | Image credit: Maisons du Monde
Mid-Century Modern describes a style that gained momentum in the aftermath of the Second World War. With echoes of the Bauhaus and International movement, this arm of Modernist interior design is set apart by its vivid use of color, crisp lines, and interactive dialogues with nature and the outdoors.
The emphasis here is on strengthening interpersonal bonds; space was viewed as being more than just a functional container, and emerged as a canvas for the personal and social ideologies that drove humanity post WWII. Generous, open planned interiors with an emphasis on common, shared areas, broad interfaces between the home and its natural surround, and a functional and visual clarity integral to the Modernist style mark these spaces.
The color palette usually floats in hues of orange, yellow, green and brown, although deviations are not uncommon.
Suggested Mid-Century Modern Furniture Items
Minimalist living room design at the HD House | Image credit: YOMAdesign
Sparked by the Minimalist arts movement of the 1960s and 70s, and inspired by traditional Japanese design and Zen philosophy, Minimalist interiors express the driving concepts of Modernism in an almost puritanical palette.
Stripping things down to their bare basics, Minimalism offers us an aesthetic that relies on the efficiency of the design. Devoid of distractions or clutter, Minimalist interiors are streamlined to maximize on bold visual impacts and the underlying use of the space.
Elements and motifs are kept to a bare minimum, with concealed storage and careful detailing playing their due part. Colors are explored in hushed tones, with an accent or two taking center stage.
The repetition and movement of lines and a generous introduction of natural light keep these interiors light and dynamic.
#4 Scandinavian style
Scandinavian style living room | Image credit: Lundin (website in Swedish)
Like its other Modernist counterparts, Scandinavian design embodies a move towards simplicity, functionality and efficiency; it also however brings an emphasis on affordability to the palette.
Stirred by democratic design ideals, Scandinavian design strikes a careful balance between Minimalist efficiency and warm, personal invitations.
This style is characterized by organic materials, bare ornamentation and clean detailing. The color palette swims in black and white, with grays and blues or the occasional pop of color bring visual respite. Silhouettes and contours are more rounded and sinuous, which along with organic textures create a much cozier vibe in even the barest of layouts and arrangements.
Suggested Scandinavian Decor Items
#5 Industrial style
Image from the article: Industrial Style Kitchens by Marchi Group
Industrial interiors celebrate the Modernist eye for efficiency and functionality by transforming the working parts of a building into its primary aesthetic.
Beams, columns, pipes, ducts and flanges are brought to the fore to emphasize the ‘machine for living’, rendering these interiors in a largely masculine overtone. Unlike many other offshoots of the Modern movement, industrial interiors do not shy away from weight or roughness, embracing the worn, recycled and salvaged.
Often the style of choice in warehouse conversions and loft remodelings, Industrial interiors tend to stick to warm, neutral colors such as grays and browns with iron or steel, exposed concrete and unfinished brickwork complementing them perfectly. When choosing furniture and décor, vintage industrial designs complete the look.
Suggested Industrial Style Lighting
#6 Contemporary interior design
Contemporary living room at the Hillside House by Zack de Vito
The Contemporary style, by its very definition, is current and therefore is an ever evolving palette that echoes prevalent trends and tastes at any given time. As such it is tricky to characterize this style as a set of given ideas, intentions or traits; however, as a design style it diverges from the modernist aesthetic by a presenting a more balanced and rounded approach to interior design.
With the mid-century modern style being in favor at the moment, Contemporary interiors currently borrow heavily from it; however these elements, colors and lines are laid out in gentler compositions that make as much room for visual indulgence as functional efficiency. Neither cold nor too formal, these are warm, cozy spaces that are a lot more fluid and instinctive in their making.
#7 Urban interior design
Urban apartment by Studio AUTORI Designs
The emphasis of urban interiors lies on elements and designs that bring the gritty vibe of the urban context indoors. Not afraid to experiment with unusual materials and features, this style takes its pick of ideas to arrive at distinctive, and often bohemian, looks.
Leaning towards industrial sensibilities, the urban style elaborates on structural features, industrial components and exposed ducting, much like its mentor. However these elements are combined in clear open spaces, which float in light colors and clean finishes that add a touch of feminine elegance to the proceedings. In fact the urban interior usually comes with a hefty dose of artistic indulgence, often turning to the unexpected for answers.
Related: The Perfect Urban Apartment
#8 Traditional / Classic style
Traditional style living room by Brownhouse Design
Doused in the comforts and indulgences of classic European décor, the Traditional style turns to the past to create ideas for the future. The approach here can be true to source or a slight retake on classical suggestions, bringing time-tested elements, motifs and proportions to fit a modern lifestyle.
Traditional interiors are set apart by their silhouettes; winged back chairs, elaborate furniture pieces, claw footed tables, and other furniture and feature designs usually have their origins in 18th century English, Neoclassical, French Country or Colonial styles.
The backdrops are usually pale and simple, with rich colors, lines and profiles imbibing classical opulence into the space.
Delicately carved and lacquered dark wood furniture and architectural embellishments abound in this style.
See Silvana D’addazio’s Traditional home, presented in the video below by House&Home’s Editor-in-Chief Suzanne Dimma
#9 Transitional style
Transitional style living room | Image credit: Pinterest
This beautiful style is a delightful fusion of, and in this way, a surprising transition between two interior design trends with specific individuality – the classical traditional and the contemporary modern. These two might seem too far apart from each other, with the traditional style being considered somewhat ‘old fashioned’ and ‘heavy’, while the modern style somewhat ‘impersonal’ and ‘cold’. Yet, designers have discovered a smart way to take the best of these two ‘worlds’ and display it in a most pleasing manner.
Transitional style features solid furniture items of a larger size and robust structure, with curved lines and focus on comfort, typical for traditional interiors. The lack of too much ornamentation, the arrangement straight lines, and the clear restriction in number, though, celebrates the minimalist trends of the contemporary style. The result is stunning – lavish sophistication displayed with modest simplicity.
The color palette is predominantly neutral and monochromatic, featured on walls, ceilings, flooring, and upholstery. Colors range from deep taupe to warm tan or vanilla, adding cozy depth and balance. This neutral background offers, however, excellent options for introducing color accents in smaller elements.
#10 Art Deco interior design style
Art deco style living room by Moustroufis Architects
The bold and bombastic is expressed in elegant compositions through sheer balance and restraint in the Art Deco style. With its origins in the excitement and glamour of post war Europe and America, the style was born in the 1920s to offer a new aesthetic for a new time.
At its heart this style is a sensual exploration of order and symmetry, with the lines and geometry taking charge of the designs and compositions.
Angular patterns, layered designs and bold curves set off a play of form and aesthetics echoed in shiny chrome and brass fittings, glossy paint, lacquered wood, and an abundance of sprinkled glass and mirrored elements.
Art Deco interiors are also set apart by their lighting with its distinctive ambience achieved through layering of up and down lighters.
Related: Unbelievable Art Deco Penthouse
#11 Country style
Image from the article: We Love This Cozy Country Home in the Woods
Cozy is key when designing country styled interiors, as these spaces evoke the warm embrace of a timeless cottage. As such this style can root in different traditions (English, French, Tuscan or Scandinavian to name a few) and therefore can vary significantly in its outward vocabulary. However each of these palettes is united in their love and appreciation of the organic and the rustic.
Wood, pottery, and a host of organic materials populate these spaces, carved out in a typically intimate scale and character.
Warm muted colors and patterned fabrics are popular, as are papered or stenciled walls. There is a rich variety to this style, with an array of elements and features coming together to create warmth, fluidity and balance.
#12 Coastal interior design style
Coastal theme bedroom by Barclay Butera Interiors
Fresh, relaxed and excitingly versatile, just like the ocean that inspires it, the Coastal style takes organic inspiration into new dimensions. Instead of merely embellishing the interior with oceanic materials, motifs and elements, this style goes a step further and offers an aesthetic that is integrally sun kissed and nautical in tone.
Natural light in abundant proportions is of course paramount, playfully bouncing off the contrast of white and blue that set these interiors apart.
Aqua, teal, turquoise and these myriad shades of blue come alive in light, organic materials that are reminiscent of summer.
There is of course also the opportunity to go completely literal with the theme, using everything from seashells, ropes, nautical icons to driftwood for maximum aesthetic impact.
Suggested Coastal Decor Items
#13 Shabby chic style
Shabby-chic style bathroom by Schmidt Custom Homes
Arising in the 1980s, the Shabby chic style reinterpreted traditional British aesthetics to create soft, feminine visual statements.
Drawn out in markedly light and airy spaces, this style strikes a distinctive balance between the weathered look of an English cottage and the delicate indulgences of more classical influences. The result is an utterly romantic vibe with a penchant for the finer things in life.
Soft cotton and French linen is drawn out in fluid designs that explore the pastels to perfection.
The time worn is celebrated as a collection of vintage elements and features that bring the space alive; even new furniture is given a distressed look to soften the overall look, feel and tone of the interiors.
#14 Eclectic interior design style
Eclectic style by Myramar Dos
Surprising, unexpected and unafraid to break the rules, eclectic interiors personify individuality and freedom. With no guidelines or intentions per se to box it in, this style borrows freely from others, harmonizing a gamut of ideas and inspirations to suit the space and purpose at hand.
At its core thus the eclectic style comes with a lot of variation and layering, deftly using these to create an overall rhythm that animates the interior and saves it from being utterly overwhelming.
The style relies on core design sensibilities to make sense of the chaos that it dwells in, striking harmony through color, composition, balance and materiality.
Fabric and texture in particular play a prominent role in bringing variations and layers to the space and aesthetics, without compromising on its fluidity and coherence.
We are totally amazed by interior designer J. Michael Moore’s tiny eclectic apartment, which is a true masterpiece!
#15 Vintage style
Vintage living room | Image credit: MidwestLiving
Contrary to popular opinion, vintage style isn’t about recreating a flea market in your home; not everything old has vintage charm. Instead this style pays homage to the 1940s and 50s, where in the aftermath of WWII people mixed and matched, working with whatever was available, to rebuild their homes and create warm, loving spaces. It is this ‘mix and match’ aesthetic, largely brought alive through the time worn and tested, that sets vintage interiors apart.
As a thumb rule the movement of lines is key here; this could play out through a contrast of patterns and motifs or through a composition of profiles and silhouettes.
Colors are therefore usually in light and neutral tones, with vivid color used only for impact. In fact the décor in a vintage interior relies on this strategy to elevate the aesthetic and bring refined elegance to it.
Suggested Vintage Decor Items
#16 Asian / Zen interior design
Zen interior design by EKE interior (website in Vietnamese)
Bringing the core tenets of traditional Japanese philosophy to life, Zen interiors, just like their namesake, are about balance, harmony and consideration.
Unlike most other styles, Zen spaces are less occupied with making an impact and more concerned with introducing silence and stillness, inside and out, into your day.
Every line, form and surface is placed with careful thought and efficiency, with no tolerance for frills or flippancy.
The material palette is predominantly organic in character, with wood and natural fibers being the materials of choice. Existing in close proximity with nature, the Zen style engages closely with the elements, weaving them into its designs and aesthetic.
Colors are soft and natural in tone, with chromatic harmony and continuity balancing surfaces and spaces.
#17 Bohemian style
Bohemian interior design by Ellie Lillstrom
Bohemian style is associated with free-minded and free-spirited people who express their personal unconventional philosophy of living unconstrained by any norms of the contemporary society. Their outstanding individuality shows in the interiors of their homes, too.
So unique, exuberant and vivid these interiors gave birth to a very specific design style, known as ‘boho’ or ‘boho-chic’, a style that has gained immense popularity and has been embraced by many.
La Vie Bohème allows total freedom and strong individuality in expressing personal tastes. And just as those differ extremely, boho interiors are characterized by a unique and surprisingly stylish and cheerful ‘mish-mash’ of items, accessories and colors that, at first glance, have no coherence whatsoever, either in design features or color palettes.
The space is busy, both in number of items, as much as in shapes and forms. Furniture is an intriguing mix of old, even weathered items and more modern ones. Fabrics and accessories burst in flamboyant tones, prints, and patterns, creating a cheerful ambiance of the free-spirited style of life.