A lot of people ask me what my design style is, what are design styles, and what is the difference between contemporary and Modern. So one of my projects is to organize these styles for everyone and spell them out visually for easy reference. I’ve included a bit of interesting history where I could find it.
So this blog post covers my favorite and not-so-favorite design styles.
If you want to read full posts on only my favorite styles:
Below I talk about Mid-Century Modern, Postmodern, Contemporary, Traditional, Eclectic, Scandinavian, Tuscan, Hollywood Regency, and my favorite, Urban Industrial.
I would love to hear which styles resonate with you!
“The Mid-Century modern movement in the U.S. was an American reflection of the International and Bauhaus movements, including the works of Gropius, Florence Knoll, Le Corbusier and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe.”*
In my mind, Modern is one of the most iconic and easily identifiable, perhaps because I worked at 2 furniture companies that mass-produced Mid-Century Modern pieces, Herman Miller and Knoll. Both of these companies painstakingly adhered to the strict perfection of the design of the pieces, while producing them on a massive scales.
Read my full post on Mid-Century Modern.
This irksome (to me) style is the reaction to the low, flat, minimalist style of the Modernist period. This period kind of spits on the clean, smooth, minimal lines of Modern design and architecture. It spanned from 1976-1999. It is also a style that is quite whimsical – an adjective I identify with the least.
This design style is easily identifiable by the the kitschy, over-stuffed, swirls and curves prevalent in the late 80’s and early 90’s.
Just a sidebar about Postmodern – the Portland Building is heralded as a great example of Postmodern architecture, designed by Michael Graves. My mother worked in this building!
Contemporary is basically the current design trend. It’s not a time stamp on design like a design style like Mid-Century Modern or Rococo. It’s just a word to describe what it currently fashionable.
Traditional is exactly what the word implies, safe, sturdy, comfortable. There are lots of curves, carved dark woods, rich, thick fabrics, and darker colors. It comes from the 1700’s and 1800’s classic homes from Northern European countries. There are lots of plaids, velvets, and florals.
Check out my deep dive on Traditional style.
To me Eclectic is kind of a catch-all design style. I think of it as a style you claim when you don’t know a lot about formally defined styles, or you just don’t care about them. You like a piece and you make it work with other pieces that have tickled your fancy.
But be warned, this is one of the hardest styles to pull off. It’s a slippery slope where your style might just come across as having no style at all if pieces aren’t put together in a considered fashion.
This photo below shows a mix of Mid-Century Modern iconic pieces like a Le Corbusier Lounge knock-off (maybe it’s real?), with the iconic floorlamp behind it, and the tulip table. Then the couch is a pretty traditional slip-covered couch – could be Scandinavian, it could be Shabby Chic. It’s all mixed with the very traditional red wood table in the back. The red of the Bugatti frame and the table with the pop of pinkish red in the throw pillows brings the different styles together coupled with the stark white everything.
I love this Eclectic reading/sipping nook.
The Scandinavians did it right. They have such clean, white walls, simple furnishings, TONS of natural light, and gorgeous earthy finishes. Their playful pops of colors come in furniture pieces and accessories – always with clean, simple lines.
I always gravitate to this style in photos, but in reality, I can’t afford to put the color in my furnishings, so I put the color onto my walls. I can afford paint. So I never can quite capture this style in my home.
Read my whole post on Scandinavian design.
I am sorry, but this is one of my least favorite design styles. It actually really cracks me up, and I am just throwing it in here for s&#ts and giggles.
I started noticing interior design in high school and college – the 90’s – and after the more horrific Santa Fe style came the Faux Tuscan everything. Mom’s would paint a plain suburban wall with a Faux Tuscan window scene, like the one below. It ruined the style for me.
Tuscan is supposed to evoke the rich warm feelings of the earth and sun-baked pottery. There is a lot of wrought-iron, curvy, heavy furniture, and terracotta flooring.
It’s quite easy to overdo the Tuscan style. Those columns around the stove? Yikes.
This is a fun style with its roots spanning the golden era of movies from the 20’s through the 50’s. The sets were designed to make the actors look amazing, and how can they not with a mirror every two inches to check their look? They put furniture low and understated to make the characters look grander.
The names that keep coming up with Hollywood Regency style are William Haines and Dororthy Draper. Dororthy is an extremely inspiring figure, especially now that I am getting deeper into interior design. I will do a whole post on her when I talk about Baroque. I think her style is more Modern Baroque than Hollywood Regency, in my humble opinion. But I HAVE to mention her with Hollywood Regency, and she’s definitely worth a read. What a woman.
Check out my further explanation of Hollywood Regency.
Urban Industrial is the style I gravitate to, even though I live on 3 acres on a rural island. There’s not really an exciting history to this design style, but it stems from turning defunct factories into hip lofts.
There is a lot of exposed brick and duct work in this style. I have neither in my home, but I love the industriousness of steel everywhere, like in my stairs, for example.
And I would love to incorporate steel into our fireplace design, like this.
It’s the juxtaposition of hard, rough materials like brick and steel against textural rugs, and worn camel-colored leather couches that really do it for me with this style.
Check out my in depth post on urban industrialism.
So which style do you resonate with?