The Ultimate Guide to Interior Design Styles

There are so many different interior design styles to choose from it can all get a bit overwhelming. Hopefully, you’ll find this guide useful – it is still a work in progress and will be added to over the coming weeks. I’ve tried to explain each one as best I can in layman’s terms and it should help you wade through the world of Interior design.

For all you TLDRer’s out there I’ve summarised the main points of each design type in italics.


1. Modern/Mid-Century Modern

I know what you’re probably thinking of when I say ‘Modern Design’ – little robot vacuum cleaners whizzing around, clean design, white interiors, am I right? Even though we do still use a lot of the design aspects in 21st century homes, you need to be thinking more Mad Men’s Don Draper’s apartment rather than the Kardashian’s mansions. The Modern design movement started in the early 20th century as an opposition to the opulent Victorian interiors and grew with the Modern Art movement of the time. It used inspiration from Art Deco and Bauhaus, and it also took a lot of aspects of Scandinavian design at the time, such as the simple and functional furniture.

Modern design focuses on strong, clean lines, minimalism, warm and neutral colours, geometric shapes, natural materials and open floor plans. 

Examples (mid-century modern):


2. Contemporary

Contemporary design is what you may have thought Modern design actually is. I know it seems weird to name a static design style ‘modern’ and then have to use a different word for designs that are actually modern to today’s standards but things are what they are. The word contemporary by definition means “living or occurring at the same time” and that’s exactly what this design style encompasses. Contemporary design is ever-changing and uses the most current design trends which makes this one particularly hard to define. As the trend of maximalism and eclectic design is becoming more popular the following principles may not apply in a few years or even months.

Contemporary design focuses on open spaces, softer furnishings, neutral base colours with bright accent colours, minimal clutter, natural light, plant life and bare floors. 



3. Minimalist

Minimalism is all the rage right now, it feels like everyone and their mother has read Marie Kondo’s book and have taken to the minimalist lifestyle. Now, this isn’t my personal favourite, I do believe a home should be filled with personality not the bare minimum but it does have its place.

True minimalism means open spaces, low furniture, hard surfaces, sharp lines, light colours and zero clutter. Although this has relaxed slightly as the movement has become more popular, the style is evolving to be more livable with brighter colours being incorporated and less-strict rules to adhere to.

Minimalism focuses on clean lines, minimal clutter, neutral and pastel colours, natural light, functional furniture and calming atmosphere.



4. Industrial

Industrial style takes its inspiration from the fact that a lot of old factories and industrial spaces have been converted into living spaces. It’s about embracing the buildings natural raw materials instead of trying to hide them and ends up with a kind of warehouse type look with the furniture creating the flow of rooms through the space.

Industrial style focuses on raw materials, exposed walls/pipes/beams, neutral metal-like colours, open plan, wooden/metal surfaces and stark lines. 



5. Scandinavian

Like modern design, the traditional Scandinavian style started in the early 20th century and focuses on minimalism, simplicity and functionality. Due to being one of the darkest populated areas of the world, the Scandinavians cherish natural light, using huge unobstructive windows in their designs, to let the light flood in. You’ll also see a lot of light colours, shiny surfaces and lots of candles to help the room stay bright. Of course as we all know from Ikea they also love using simple, elegant furniture which helps open up the space.

Scandinavian style focuses on clean lines, simplicity, functionality, natural materials, light colours, natural light, hidden storage and candles to bring a cosy feel to the room. 



6. Traditional

Traditional style principles reject the changes of the Modern design movement of the 20th century and sticks to the more extravagant fixtures you’d see in Victorian homes and even takes some inspiration from as far back as Ancient Greece. When you think of a Traditional style room you should be picturing typical ‘posh’, English-country hotels or The White House with floral upholstery, tassels and chandeliers.

Traditional style focuses on soft furnishings, jewel tones, heavy tiered curtains, wall panels, exposed furniture legs, mouldings, fireplace mantels, French doors, dark furniture, chandeliers, sconces, fringe, tassels and carpets.



7. Transitional

Transitional style is sort of a merge between contemporary and traditional designs to create a balanced, warm space. It uses a neutral colour palette with shades of beige, taupe, cream and brown to create a calming atmosphere whilst using more traditional style furniture to bring a softness and elegance to the room. Dark wood is often used but materials such as granite and marble can also be utilised.

Transitional style focus on neutral colours, natural materials, soft furnishings, modernised traditional furniture, elaborate light fittings, dark wood, neutral floors and minimalism. 



8. French Country

One of the most important elements in French Country design is the use of natural materials; you will see a lot of exposed wooden beams, roughly stained walls, hand-carved furniture and rustic flooring made of stone, clay or brick. The kitchen will be home to the large low-gloss, wooden dining table and traditional range cooker with beautifully carved armoires’ being a staple piece for storage.

French country-style focuses on natural materials, traditional furniture, earthy colours,



9. Eclectic

The eclectic style has been gaining in popularity recently as an alternative to minimalism. The basic principle of this style is bringing lots of different textures, styles, colours and time periods together without really following any rules! Your eclectic style room should pack a visual punch and ooze personality but can become quickly overwhelming if you do not bring everything together with some kind of common thread.

Eclectic style focuses on bold patterns, strong colours, mixed textures, up-cycling, re-using, and uses a mixture of modern and traditional furniture



10. Bohemian

Bohemian style can be seen as a similar style to eclectic but there is some nuanced differences. This style is all about capturing the care-free and artistic nature of the owner’s lifestyle, punctuated by the excessive use of soft materials with purples and reds used a lot. You can easily spot a bohemian style room as they are usually filled to the brim with knickknacks carved from woods and distressed metals, draped fabrics and rug-covered floors. It would be hard to spot a bare space in these rooms with a more is more ethos, most pieces you will find are from the owners travels and help the room tell a story of their experiences.

Bohemian style focuses on maximalism, middle eastern and tribal furniture, soft materials, vibrant colours, layered textiles, natural accents, ambient lighting and a cluttered look.



11. Rustic

Rustic design places emphasis on rugged, natural beauty – it uses a range of natural textures, earthy colours and handcrafted furniture. The effect you get is a naturally warm feeling space with a slightly muted eclectic look.

Rustic style focuses on natural materials, handmade furniture, distressed items, exposed beams, hard flooring and an earthy colour palette to give a well-loved and lived-in feel.


12. Shabby Chic

Shabby chic decor is easy for me to describe as it’s what I grew up surrounded by! The main identifier is vintage furniture with distressed wood covered in worn chalky white paint. Typically this is paired with a pastel colour scheme with white embroidered or lacy fabrics to create a soft, opulent feel.

Shabby chic style focuses on distressed, white furniture, pastel colours, luxury fabrics, lace and lots of natural light.



13. Nautical/Coastal

Coastal and nautical styles can easily be identified by their white or sand coloured base with blue used as the accent colour. Typically you’d see obviously sea-themed decor with distressed wood primarily used but it has evolved to be more contemporary in recent times. This style uses lots of natural materials, glass and flowing white curtains to create a relaxing environment.

Nautical style traditionally focuses on white & blue colour scheme, sea-themed accessories such as shells, rope, anchors and uses a lot of natural materials.



14. Japanese

Coming soon!

15. Traditional European

Coming soon!

16. Hollywood Glam

Coming soon!

17. Art Nouveau:

Coming soon!

18. Art Deco

Coming soon!

19. English Country

Coming soon!

20. Gothic

Coming soon!

21. Moroccan

Coming soon!

Let me know what your favourite style is in the comments!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *