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Top 8 Interior Design Styles Defined: Which One Suits You Best?

The trends of interior design, just like those of clothing, come and go. The breeze of change turns the windmill of fashion in a steady and never-ending pattern. Time moves by. Economic conditions and modernization alter the shape of the design world. Slight variations and modern twists on styles ensure that the art of interior decorating is an amazing and constantly evolving study. It is truly fascinating.

Out of this maze of interior design, we have selected 8 individual styles which really make a statement. They are all uniquely appealing and engaging in their own right. Each style boasts features exclusive to its era. Some can absorb features from other styles, while others stay rigidly within the confines of their specific period.

There is no right or wrong design style. In fact, your chosen style is limited only by the extent of your own creativity. The infographic below is key to discovering which style suits you best, how to create that style and what features are important to achieve genuinely stunning results.

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Each style is beautiful. Each creates a definite ‘wow’ factor and a unique aesthetic appeal. But exactly what is it that shapes and defines each one?

Mid-century Modern

Mid-Century Modern Design Style Living Room

Photo by Cure Design Group

This is one style that is making an unmistakable comeback. Unfussy; minimal embellishments; sleek and seductive curves; bold geometric patterns and warm, natural colours. A step back into the period between 1945 and 1970. A time when Eames, Nelson and Jacobson hit the stage. It’s the era of the famous ‘Egg’ chair, of moulded plywood and the emergence a style that combined both sophistication and functionality.

The time of ‘Mid-century Modern’ was really one of the world’s first steps towards minimalism. The style does away with the unnecessary, and highlights clean, organic lines and appealing curves. Open space gives contrast and draws focus to the natural and beautifully sculptured shapes.

One of the classic, well-known icons of this style is the Eames lounger. Simple, yet timelessly elegant, furniture pieces such as these have starred in living rooms for decades and are still as popular as ever.

A vibrant and warm colour palate is typical of this style. Orange, yellow, green, browns or blues all help to create this dynamic atmosphere, and are often brought in subtly in the form of wallpapers, exposed brick walls or beautiful floor mats. Textures typically tend towards natural material such as timber, rattan, leather and steel, with adornment kept to a bare minimum.
Lighting is another unique hallmark of this style. Featuring large, sculptured pendants and bold floor and table lamps, lighting is definitely a feature, not just a necessity.

Traditional Design

View of a traditional living room with a bay window in the background. Horizontal format.

Reaching back to the 18th and 19th century, Traditional design combines elegance, beauty, luxury and sophistication. Claw-footed baths and furniture, ornately carved wooden cabinetry, arches, columns, winding staircases and marble countertops all blend to create a distinct air of grandeur and refinement.

This style has its roots in European tradition. Often incorporating family heirlooms and furniture pieces passed down through generations, it celebrates historical beauty but can be blended with modern conveniences, to result in old-world, yet practical living.

Traditional design largely focusses on rich, wooden tones such as rose wood, maple, mahogany and cherry. These surfaces are often highly engraved and lacquered to produce exquisite furniture pieces.

A well balanced colour palate is the secret to such aesthetically appealing design. Wall colours are generally kept plain and light, and, while upholstered furniture may also be light in colour, it often tends towards brown, reds or even blue. The result is a step back in time, a touch of royalty but with the practicality of today’s living.

Fabrics used are often rich and luxurious. Silk, cashmere and velvet are common, although some modern design artists are introducing more natural accents such as linen and cotton. Patterns are often symmetrical and include damask, paisleys and florals in such colours as red, gold, cream, black, blue and dark green.

Contemporary Design

Contemporary kitchen and open plan living room with garden aspect.

The simple rule of thumb for Contemporary design is ‘more of less.’

This form of interior decorating is very modern and perfect for small rooms, as it focusses on opening up any space possible. It does not tolerate frills, extra clutter or busy, flowery patterns, but craves sleek and clean silhouettes with minimal embellishment.

The textures used to create this effect gravitate towards stainless steel, painted and highly polished wood, glass and mirror. Such surfaces reflect light and make any space feel bigger. Exposed internal brickwork or other structural features can be used to add specific focus, however they are not strictly necessary.

Furniture is the most major contributing factor in Contemporary design. This style combines smooth, curved and minimal lines with functionality to produce furniture that is stunning, yet hugely practical. Textures typically include leather, plastic, wood or chrome and focus on bold colours such as black, white, silver or grey.

Colour and life is generally introduced into such design in the form of soft furnishings: rugs, pillows, boldly accented floor mats and décor items. A bright splash of orange, a touch of yellow or aqua, or a red throw. Wall art tends to be modern and abstract and is another way of subtly adding colour.

Allowing natural sunlight is also key. Bare windows with minimal furnishings. Blinds rather than curtains, and certainly no lacy sheers.

Contemporary design is modern and therefore constantly evolving. Because it focuses more on furniture than structural design, it is easy to update and very flexible.

Industrial Modern

Industrial Modern kitchen in a huge lof

Industrial Modern design spans a huge range of interior decorating ideas. From reclaiming industrial items and repurposing them for domestic use right through to turning industrial buildings into trendy apartment blocks, the scope of this style is huge. This form of design is relatively new and has gained widespread popularity due to its flexibility and comparatively low investment costs.

The specific key points of Industrial design are: open spaces, raw materials, focus on structural elements and clean, minimalistic lines. It highlights structural features such as exposed pipework, beams, brickwork and ducting, and blends them with reclaimed items such as industrial lighting, old signage, metal shelving and wooden benches. The result is a unique atmosphere which is harsh, yet strangely inviting.

Flooring is key. Popular surfaces include polished concrete, wood, rubber or tile, often with the addition of highly coloured mats for both warmth and sound control.

Base colours tend to grey, black, silver or brown – all drab industrial tones. Extra colour must be introduced to soften such raw surroundings via wall art or soft furnishings such as cushions, mats or throws. Access to sunlight, where possible, is a natural softener and windows are generally adorned with minimal furnishings.

Classic Design

Interior design series classic and elegant living room

Classic Design is one deeply infused with history. Its roots reach back through time to draw on ideas and themes used in ancient Greek and Roman tradition. It is timeless, yet a step back in time.

The whole essence of classic design is balance, harmony and perfect control. A truly classic room has perfect symmetry: the positioning of furniture, wall art and décor is all immaculate. The style does not tolerate shortcuts, cheap imitation furniture or elements from any other style.

The whole room is set up to focus on one main object (maybe a magnificent table, a piece of beautiful wall art or a large, ornately carved bed) and all other furniture pieces are positioned to enhance this object. All other aspects must flow out from this centre and, while contributing to the whole atmosphere of grace and elegance, they must be secondary to this central feature.
Highly decorative cornices, wall panels and ceiling roses are all very common, and are sometimes painted in contrasting colours to highlight their beauty. Columns, arches and roman busts are standard features, all combining to create an air that is a glimpse into history.

Upholstery fabrics are often luxurious and can be used to soften the austerity of the atmosphere. Taffeta, silk and velvet are common, while linen and cotton may be introduced to some degree. Fabrics designs are focussed on symmetrical patterns, and tend to reflect natural tones such as terracotta, cream and brown.

Flooring materials rarely move outside the traditional elements used in ancient times – wooden, tile or slate floors being the most commonly used. Floor rugs, again with symmetrical designs, may be used to add warmth and sound control.

Southwestern Design

Rustic interior of western historic cabin including fireplace and log lamps

The Southwestern design takes its cue from the desserts of Mexico and Arizona and has largely Hispanic origins. It embraces the warm, earthy tones and raw textures of the dessert and is very versatile indeed.

The materials used in such a style are characterized by a rough, natural and somewhat unfinished feel. Terracotta tiles, wood, stone are all textures which are often used create this rustic effect. In short, the whole theme revolves around elements found in Mother Nature’s storehouse, so the opportunities are endless and the only limit is really your own creativity.

Colours are generally earthy too – brown, tan, yellow, muted reds, green and cream are all common choices. Then, as a contrast, a splash of blue like an oasis in the dessert. Bold geometric designs are popular in soft furnishings, brightly coloured floor rugs and traditional striped serapes hung on the walls. Upholstery fabrics tend towards leather, suede and woven fabrics, and furniture does not necessarily match, in fact it often unique furniture pieces create real icons.

Cast iron is commonly used in furniture, light fittings and décor items and adds authenticity to this style. Pottery vases with iron handles, tables with iron legs or a leather lounge suite with burnished metal embellishments.

Traditionally, terracotta flooring was used in these desert style homes, and this is still very common. Today, the style also embraces wooden floors and porcelain tiles and stone. Roughly cut tiles are commonly used on both wall and floor and genuinely go a long way to creating the organic feel this style craves.

Other distinctive features of this style include hand-painted tiles, Mexican-style earthenware and potted cactus plants.

Victorian Design

Victorian bedroom with large bed

This style, as its name suggests, was given birth to in the reign of Queen Victoria, from 1837 – 1901. It was the era when modernization in manufacture methods made mass production of design features accessible and affordable for a larger proportion of the population. It therefore gained widespread popularity and remains, even today, very well sought after.

Victorian design combined an elegant mix of styles from Europe, Paris in particular. It was the age of exquisitely carved cornice, half-height floral wallpaper, dado rails and opulent and well-appointed furniture.

Today, features of Victorian design include high ceilings, painted wooden panelling, exquisitely carved cornice and plasterwork, all of which add class and grandeur. Over the years, variations of the style have included features such as bay windows, ornate chimneys, stone arches, stained glass and arched windows, so today’s style is versatile and can tolerate a certain amount of more modern elements and conveniences.

Fabrics such as velvet, tapestry, linen and silk are commonly used in upholstery. Richly carved mahogany furniture gives striking contrast to light coloured fabrics and items such as lounges are often real feature pieces. Damask patterns are common in both upholstery and wallpapers, as are rich floral designs.

Farmhouse Design

Interior Of large Farmouse Kitchen

The Farmhouse design is a harmonious balance of simple elegance, grace and practical family living. It is extremely versatile and can tolerate features of many different styles, but the whole effect is a dip into time before life became complicated and technical.

From enamel mugs and plates to a sturdy, well-worn timber kitchen table, Farmhouse style revolves around an organic and realistic way of life. Rooms are generally spacious and ideal for entertaining large groups of family or friends and the whole atmosphere is one of ‘old-fashioned’ friendliness and warmth.

Traditionally, these residences were built of wood or stone and this tradition has largely carried over into today’s Farmhouse style. Floors are generally wooden, often knotted and stressed and with either a whitewashed or polished finish. Walls are generally of tongue-and-groove wood panelling or plain plaster with simple cornice and painted white or other light colours.

Furniture is generally a rich combination of family heirlooms and simple, comfortable and even homemade items. Wooden furniture is common, as is metal, or a pleasant mix of both. A Farmhouse can include many and varied furniture pieces; a reclaimed wooden church pew; old leather suitcases; elegant kitchen cabinetry or a retro refrigerator. The options are endless and often the prized items are the result of many hours spent searching antique shops or second-hand dealers. Built-in beds and cabinetry is also perfectly suited to this atmosphere and compliments a truly rustic and authentic style.

Upholstery fabrics may be anything from cotton or linen to simple gingham or floral designs. Floral wallpapers in pretty colours are also a welcome touch of elegance. Handmade patchwork quilts or other needlework items are prized furnishings and are often hung on walls as a focal point.

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