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The Ultimate Guide to Interior Design Styles

Everyone has their own individual interior design style. This is their own set of key principles that when added to a room create a stylish backdrop that makes them feel at home.

Your design ethos is more than just about creating a show home – it is about your life and all of the experiences that happen inside. From your children’s first steps to you creating a haven from the outside world, this is a place where you should feel safe. You should feel cocooned in familiarity, surrounded by beautiful things that add colour and enjoyment to life.

Using glossy magazines and websites as inspiration, you may try to emulate a certain look or style, but somehow the style you choose just doesn’t seem to happen. This might leave you asking why? What is it that you are doing wrong or not including? Are you adding too much or too little?

Wonder no more, because this comprehensive guide to several interior design styles covers everything you need to know, from suggested colour schemes to furniture choices, along with the occasional hint on how to add your own character into the style.

Scandinavian

Scandinavian

White walls, neutral colours, wood, clean lines and no clutter – these are the attributes of Scandinavian interior design style. With no bright or all-consuming colours, this style is popular because it looks ‘clean’. It is vibrant without compromising on a welcoming and comfortable atmosphere.

Opt for light woods (such as beech) and ditch the wall-to-wall carpets in favour of wooden floors. Choose natural materials (such as wool rugs) and make the best use of the natural light pouring in through your windows.

Consider carefully adding each piece to the scheme, and take pieces away, too. Keep ornamentation and accessories to a minimum, but the ones you do use should add style and statement to the space.

Keep furniture minimal and informal to the eye. If you need colour, choose a light, neutral palette such as barely-there grey or cream.

Angel chairs offer the perfect relaxed and information style when it comes to an armchair. Use the grey angel chair with a white woollen rug and a light beechwood side table to create the ideal Scandinavian styled living room.

Eclectic

Eclectic

The word eclectic means to fuse together different styles of something that normally wouldn’t mix. For example, an opera buff who also like punk, or a design style that mixes patterns from different eras.

Eclectic doesn’t mean ‘chaos’ or using everything and anything in a design. In this sense, this phrase is used to describe a mix of decors, textures, time periods, styles, trends and colours. There does need to be some reasoning behind it so that there is some sense of cohesion.

The above photo has a mix of styles and genres – the modern artwork clicks in place with the central light. The rustic door is a departure from the modern style, as are the country kitsch stools at the breakfast bar. The central dining table and its angular ‘70s styled dining chairs is different again. The neutral wall and floor colours pulls the room together and gives it the cohesion the eye needs; they are the blank canvas against which the rest of the items sit. There is no one thing that looks disjointed or out of place.

You can, of course, make the differences between items in the eclectic interior as profound and magnified as you like.

For example, in an ultra-modern decorated living room, you can introduce a note of yesteryear with a traditional wing-backed armchair, complete with floral fabric upholstery, or a traditional tartan pattern. In the dining room, use a large, old dining table with modern, plastic seating. Stick with similar colours that clash these so that the contrast is marked and vivid.

Rustic

Rustic

Many people opt for a rustic interior design style. It is similar to the farmhouse or country style. but with material left in a raw state:

  • Wide plank wooden flooring denotes a rustic interior
  • Uncover and use the large beams in a property to create the feeling
  • Use natural materials, such as wool and wood, and steer clear of anything overly processed or manufactured
  • Choose large pieces such as study looking sideboards and display cabinets
  • Choose neutral, chalky wall colours, steering clear of anything floral or chintzy
  • Make the fireplace large - the focal point of the living room

You can never have too much wood in the rustic feel, so consider panelling the walls so you can admire both its texture and ingrained patterns. For living room seating, choose leather or wool upholstered items, sticking with natural colours such as brown or black leather.

Industrial

Industrial

Industrial design has its roots in the loft living apartments of large, industrial warehouses, long since abandoned by commercial endeavours. With vast open living spaces, the loft was ideal for engaging and making use of the industrial elements that were ingrained in the fabric of the building.

If the industrial style attracts you, think exposed pipes, beams and ducts. Allow wood and metal to play together, such as the harmony between a metal cage and wooden shelving.

Colours should be warm and neutral, nothing too outlandish or bright that would have been out of place in the industrial hubbub of ports and warehouses.

Along with exposed brick walls, add hardwood flooring and keep soft furnishings utilitarian.

Think no fuss, simple structures that lend an uncluttered feel to the space.

Transitional

Transistional

The transitional style is a blend of the traditional and the contemporary, like the mainly traditional appeal of the living room above, but with the hint of the modern (the Perspex side table).

It is a design with polish. Thematerials and fabrics ooze a classic and elegant appeal. Lines are simple yet sophisticated, a mix of the linear and the rounded.

  • In the living room draw attention to internal architectural features such as mouldings and fireplaces, using the clean-lines of furniture for minimal fuss and maximum impact. Keep colours neutral but warm, with the occasional dash of colour.
  • In the dining room use a modern dining table and upholstered dining chairs. Surround a modern table with traditional furniture, but keep the central hanging light ultra-modern. In fact, use the central light as the statement piece.
  • In the bedroom use a tufted, upholstered headboard in a grey fabric with modern bedside tables and sleek lamps.
  • In the kitchen keep the traditional looking cabinets, but offset these with modern lighting and modern, space-age looking gadgets.
  • In the bathroom use plenty of glass with a claw foot freestanding bath and fit it out with modern floor tiles, setting them out in a modern pattern, such as chevrons or use shaped or hexagonal tiles.

Of all the styles, this is probably the easiest to pull off, but add your own flair, such as a modern tub chair set against a modern traditionally styled sofa.

Vintage

Vintage

The vintage style is all about age and nostalgia, with a modern, fresh twist to bring it back up to date.

The modern Vintage look in the above living room combines the iconic Chesterfield sofa with ornate legs and castors with a hint of the modern in the shape of a fresh colour scheme. The fireplace doesn’t dominate the room, and the modern art and scarce but well-placed ornaments on the mantle add to the room’s overall feeling of calmness.

  • Nostalgia – Choose an era that means something to you. You don’t necessarily have to lived it – you may love the style of Victorian England or you may want to include key elements of the ‘80s. Transport yourself to this era and take key elements and components that instil a sense of nostalgia, a romantic remembrance of a time long gone. Look at the designs and styles, the shapes and colours of this era and incorporate in the design.
  • Age – adding a sense of age to the design is not just about finding antiques or similar in thrift or charity shops. You can use modern items that replicate age. For example, a winged-back traditional styled armchair was used in by-gone times, but you can opt for a modern design with classic upholstery.

Hollywood Glamour

Hollywood Glamour

How can one describe Hollywood glamour? Decadence. Jewels. Sparkle. Over the top exuberance. Ornate. Busy. Full. Gold, silver, brass, steel, anything that glitters and makes a statement.

For the Hollywood Glamour appeal think big.

No, think bigger.

For example, in the bathroom, choose the biggest bath you can fit, and opt for decadent taps or an ultra-modern waterfall tap that fills the bath with cascades of water.

In the living room, fill the sofa with deep pile cushions and opt for luxurious carpets and rugs underfoot. But colours are understated, richer tones like red teamed with cream, with the best Hollywood Glam colour scheme containing a lot of white, gold and silver. Anything that sparkles? Use it!

Minimalist

Minimalist

There are five key elements to minimalist interior design:

  1. Simplicity in form and function – There is no need, for example, for ‘extra’ dressings or accessories for the living room sofa. Choose furniture with clean lines and include one or two cushions at most. Throughout this design, the simplest designs work best.
  2. Uncomplicated walls and floors – Hardwood floors or carpet, the choice is yours, but choose the solution that offers the simplest finish. Don’t clad walls – instead leave large wall expanses open, uncluttered and with minimal detailing or artwork, if any at all.
  3. Light-filled spaces – In a minimalist design natural light should pour in.
  4. Simple detailing – With no clutter, fuss or overly decorative details - ditch the ornaments in favour of sculpture.
  5. Use materials well – Choose and use materials well. A minimalist design doesn’t mean using just leather for the sofa; upholstery, especially natural fabrics, work just as well.

Mid-Century Modern

Mid-Century

This style dates from the mid-20th century, and is characterised by the fast-moving changes after WWII. From discovering and refining plastic to bold use of colour (especially monochrome colour schemes) the mid-century modern style replaced drab with fab.

  • Use bright (but not neon) shades of colour – mustard yellow is a firm favourite, along with muddy greens and moody blues.
  • The right lighting is essential – opt for a statement central pendant light, with a shade that attracts attentions.
  • Plastic fantastic – use plastic objects in their own right, not necessarily to replace other materials.
  • Angular angles – furniture is simple and tailored, with angles and clean lines that set it apart.
  • Whimsical artwork – the artwork on your walls should have a touch of the bold and a dash of the whimsical. Think Dali, but without the detail.
  • Accessories add the colour – keep walls ‘clean’ in one colour with a contrasting feature wall. Add extra pops of colour with accessories from dashes of colour on furniture to bowls and sculptures.

Coastal

Coastal

The seaside is a place of nostalgia for many people, a reminder of holidays spent enjoying the sun and everything that the coast has to offer. The Coastal interior design scheme takes it cue from the sea and everything associated with it.

Be careful not to opt for ‘cute nautical’ themed items, as they can soon tip a room from coastal to a child-like seaside theme. Instead, bring out the coastal style with colour.

Think sand, light pastel blue, white and the odd dash of cream for warmth here and there. Look for inspiration in Hessian rope and the smooth feel of shells. For furniture, opt for light beech wood and keep the detailing informal and sparse.

The coastal theme is all about informality and relaxation. Choose informal seating with crisp, clean cotton and other natural materials. Think rounded edges and soft corners, leaving angles and lines to other design schemes.

French Country

French Country

Whimsical, romantic and helplessly chic, this is a perfect design scheme for many, but how do you snag the French Country look for your home?

  • Warm, neutral colours evoke a relaxing atmosphere that underpins this beautiful interior design scheme. Stay away from bright colours, choosing earthy tones instead. In other words, use golden yellow instead of bright yellow, or understated pink rather than a bold, cerise shade.
  • Hand painted furniture is the second cornerstone of this romantic scheme. Create your own by sanding down wooden furniture and painting with a chalk-based furniture paint. Or if you leave the wood bare, choose oak or pine.
  • Printed, patterned fabrics work well in the French Country design scheme. From curtains to upholstered chairs, choose classic fabrics with effortless floral prints.

Fresh flowers are not a minor afterthought in this design scheme so make sure that your rooms are filled with the delicate fragrance of fresh flowers.

  • Curtains should be long, flowing and gathered. Steer clear of overly tailored blinds, opting instead for the more relaxed Roman blind style if you want a more solid window dressing.

Shabby Chic

Shabby Chic

This interior design style features furnishings chosen for their appearance of age and signs of wear and tear. New items can be used but are ‘distressed’ to give the appearance of age.

Light, romantic and delicate, there is something appealing and feminine about this design style that suits many rooms of the home, from the living room to the bedroom.

Use antiques if your budget will allow, or if you are buying ‘new’ items, sand them down and paint so that they have a slightly distressed or used appearance. Keep everything bright and light, using darker shades sparingly, if at all.

Shapes and form should be elegant and curved - leave the hard lines and angles to other schemes. Think plush and sumptuous, but not necessarily frilly. The traditional style of a wingback chair would work; why not add it to your Shabby Chic styled bedroom alongside an antique bedside table?

Contemporary

Contemporary

The Contemporary design scheme includes a range of styles typical of the latter half 20th Century. Soft, rounded lines are a stark contrast to the angles of the previous decade. Colour schemes were calm and neutral, but with bold elements to focus the eye.

  • Effortless light – Harness as much natural light as you can, keeping the interior colours light and bright, but add a pop of colour to focus attention in the room. Bright yellow or lime green tub chairs with their rounded, padded curves are perfect for the contemporary style.
  • Natural materials, inside and out – Exposed brick work, informal gardens and natural materials and fabrics for inside the home are all prevalent.
  • Casual livability – The pre-war years were confined by stuffy tradition. There were ‘best rooms’ in the house used only on Sundays, and the rest of the week was spent in one or two ‘working’ rooms such as the kitchen. This design scheme dispensed with this tradition and opened up all of the house to be used all of the time.
  • Dispense with traditions – Have a sofa in the kitchen or dining area or a reading ‘nook’ on the landing. Use your entire home freely, and use this style to enable this freedom.
  • Open floor plan – Remember the open plan penchant of the 70s? This is the design movement that gave rise to that trend. If you can, opt for an open plan footprint in your home; if not, make the interior as light, open and airy as possible.
  • Contemporary details – Replace wooden balusters with stainless steel wires or glass infills, or hang pendant lights lower than usual. Replace other features, such as the bedside table lamp. with a hanging pendant light – in other words, replace ‘normal’ details with something a little more exciting and enticing.

Traditional

Traditional

Elegance AND comfort. The traditional style of dressing and designing a home is one of the most popular. And it is easy to understand why:

  • Dark, rich colours – If white, cream and pastel colours strike you as noncommittal, than the traditional colour scheme is the one for you. Opt for dark, rich colours such as a sage green or a burnt orange wing-backed chair. Don’t soften the impact of colour – let it shine through in all of its glory.
  • Hardwood floors – Hardwood floors are a staple of the traditional style, complete with large rugs if you feel that a touch of carpeting will soften the look. Choose oversized rugs for maximum effect, so that furniture sits on the rug.
  • Regal furniture – This is about the smaller, ornate detail that sets your design apart from any other. Think claw-footed baths or living room furniture with brass hinges, ornate locks and extra details added by an artisan.
  • Regal furnishings – The same goes for furnishings, too. Add beading to cushions, a slight frill to curtain edges, detailing on the hem of the blinds - but don’t opt for too much frou-frou. Be classy in your choices.
  • Use the detail in the room – If you have a fireplace, make it stand out. If you have cornicing or other architectural features, make them stand out! This style isn’t necessarily about age or features, but about adding detail that adds character to a room.

In Summary

Of course, there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to designing your home. Over the years, your tastes will change. Interior design is not about upholding the principles of a certain style, but about emphasising key elements that work for you. Which of these styles will you choose for your home?