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Types of Interior Design Styles: How to Tell the Difference

Hi Friends,

Today we are talking about how to tell the difference between different popular styles of houses. This is important to know when talking to a designer, searching for products, or looking up inspiration.


Traditional design is inspired by 18th and 19th century England and France. It has a neutral color pallet with pops of color in art or flowers. Typically it focusses on classic styling and symmetry. Traditional interiors are also known to use tables and chairs made from a dark wood that is very detailed. You can expect a warm neutral pallet, embellished curtains, and gentle curves.


Transitional is good for the people who are in between traditional and contemporary. Transitional interiors mix contemporary and traditional design. In a transitional design, there are more clean, straight lines and usually solid color drapes. Great stores to look at for transitional furniture are Crate & Barrel and Pottery Barn.


Contemporary design is always changing. Contemporary is whatever is current and popular in the present moment. Contemporary design uses pieces from various time periods. Typical contemporary design uses exposed legs on furniture and clean lines.


Modern and contemporary are often used interchangeably in design when someone does not know what they are talking about. However, there is an important difference. Modern design refers to a specific time period. Modern interior design became popular in the early to mid 20th century. It is a mix of Scandinavian, mid-century modern, and post-modern design. In a modern interior, the furniture will have clean lines with smooth, sleek surfaces. Metal, chrome, and glass are favorites for modern designs.


Eclectic is often referred to as a catch-all, random design. However, it is more of a high-energy collection of specific pieces brought together. It tends to be quite a culture rich type of design. To pull off an eclectic design well, and make it look cohesive, one must strongly understand the building blocks of design (color, pattern, texture, composition).


The coastal regions of Spain, Greece, and Italy are what inspired Mediterranean design. In Mediterranean design, you can often find colors that echo the sea, as well as pops of terra cotta, yellow and lavender. Surfaces are often polished. Typically you can find velvets, linens, and textured walls.


Another one of my favorites. We can thank Provence in rural France for inspiring this casually elegant design. French country design often includes warmer colors, distressed woods, aged metals, and mixed patterns. The popular patterns used are stripes and florals.

Art Deco:

Art deco is for the lovers of ornate and jewel-like decor. This style was the epitome of chic in the 1920’s. It is defined by bold colors, geometric motifs, and sculptures. Think bold.


Coastal is not the same as Nautical. A coastal pays tribute to its natural environment. This is done through the color palette and the materials used for furniture and decor. A coastal home should always feel bright, breezy, and comfortable. It is common to find blue glass vases, striped wallpaper, or abstract paintings. This gets the coastal feeling across without being as obvious as using anchors and seashells scattered everywhere. Wicher and jute are two common materials used in coastal homes.


Mid-Century interiors were started during the 1950s and ’60s in post-war America. However, it seems to be a classic which stays relevant. Mid-Century homes have a breezy and seamless flow. They use pops of deep colors such as orange, yellow, green, and chocolate brown. The Eames lounger, the egg chair, and the wishbone chair are all examples of iconic Mid-Century furniture. The left photo includes an egg chair.


Common identifiers of farmhouse interior design are shiplap, barn doors, wide plank floors, sleek lighting. Farmhouse design is known for mixing metals, especially if they contrast. Raw wood elements in every room are pretty much a must.


Inspired by Japanese design, minimalist design is just as it sounds. Less is more in minimalist interiors. Minimalist designs are identified through clean lines, empty space, and simple finishes. You can often find furniture doubled as storage in these spaces since storage is important to hide clutter and it takes up less space than building separate storage spaces. Color palettes are neutral and airy and there is no excessive or flamboyant décor.


Industrial design is often seen in loft apartments and restaurants. Its key elements are exposed pipes, ductwork, and brick walls. Typically they also have large windows and neutral color palettes. The furniture is often made from rustic wood, metal, and leather.

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