Interior design is so much more than selecting pretty things for a particular room. Designers must strategically think about the environment’s blend of aesthetic, organization and empty space.
What is Interior Design? Its Meaning + Objectives
Interior design is a profession in which designers combine creative and technical skills to decorate an interior space. The spaces can be either residential or commercial, and the designs are aimed to predict the users’ needs and appeal to their emotions.
Interior designers conduct research based on the client’s project goals, adhere to codes and regulations, formulate preliminary design and concepts and sketches and collaborate with other design professionals, among other tasks.
Today’s interior designers must have a specific set of skills and a well-rounded education in order to be successful in the field. He or she is familiar with architecture, lighting design, decorative arts, graphic design and other related disciplines.
What are the Key Interior Design Styles? Historic + Modern
Like most art forms, interior design is defined by a variety of styles, including art deco, mid-century modern and industrial. Choosing the right interior design style for your home or commercial space depends on your personal space.
Do you prefer clean, simple lines and classic design, or do you gravitate toward bold patterns and rich textures? Let’s take a look at some of the most prominent styles of interior design below.
Art Deco Interior Design Style: Geometric Glamour
Art Deco, also known as deco, began in the 1920s and is defined by the use of bold geometric patterns, intricate details and rich color. It is a luxurious style that was popular throughout the ‘20s, ‘30s and ‘40s and evokes a sense of elegance and grandeur.
As the Art Nouveau style began to fall out of fashion during World War I, the more streamlined aesthetic of Art Deco became the new trend in an increasingly industrialized world and modern society.
The Art Deco movement began in France in the 1920s, and the United States incorporated the style as it was introduced through traveling art expos and world fairs in the 1920s and ‘30s.
Some key characteristics of the Art Deco style include:
- Clean, streamlined shapes
- Geometric designs
- Expensive man-made and natural materials
- Bright and bold colors
- Glamorous yet functional design
Examples of Art Deco style can be found throughout the United States today in places such as New York, Missouri, Florida, Ohio and Texas.
Mid-Century Modern Design Style: Form Follows Function
Mid-century modern refers to the middle of the 20th century, roughly the ‘40s through the ‘60s, in which people desired an aesthetic that differed from popular styles from the previous century.
Mid-century modern style was America’s take on Bauhaus style, which is named after a German design school that preached “form follows function.”
Some key characteristics of mid-century modern style include:
- Organic and geometric shapes
- A focus on functionality
- Minimal ornamentation
- The juxtaposition of different and often contrasting materials
During this period, the United States experienced a population boom and an economic boom, resulting in new, modern homes being built in the suburbs.
Families wanted modern, minimal decor to fill their homes and focused on functionality over ornate designs. The focus of mid-century modern design is to create spaces that feel futuristic yet comfortable and stylish. Palm Springs, California; Phoenix, Arizona; Washington, D.C.; Denver, Colorado; and Austin, Texas, feature many great examples of this design style.
Modern Design Style: Less Is More
Modern design style is often confused with contemporary design style, but modern refers to a style that gained popularity at the turn of the 20th century. Modern design is simple, functional and neutral, unlike contemporary design, which often uses a range of colors.
Some key characteristics of modern design style include:
- Monochromatic color schemes
- Low, horizontal furnishings
- Natural materials such as wood, leather and metals
- Reflective surfaces like mirrors, chrome and glass
Just as its predecessor mid-century modern, form follows function, meaning everything in a modern space serves a practical purpose. Modern spaces do not include any excess objects or clutter.
Contemporary Design Style: A Minimalist’s Paradise
As previously mentioned, contemporary design style is often confused with modern design style. However, contemporary design style differs in that it reflects present-day design trends, which change over time.
Currently, contemporary design consists of neutral colors, minimalism and curved lines, much like modern design style. Contemporary sometimes also implements characteristics of Art Deco, traditional and futuristic design.
Some key characteristics of contemporary design style include:
- A mixture of both straight and elegantly curved lines
- Ample sources of light
- A neutral color palette with the occasional pop of color
- Lots of varying textures
Whereas modern design is often considered to be cold, contemporary design aims to be warm and welcoming, with a focus on space rather than on objects.
Scandinavian Design Style: Clean Yet Cozy
Scandinavia refers to three Northern European countries: Denmark, Norway and Sweden. While it is named for these three countries, it was also popular in Iceland, Finland and Greenland.
Scandinavian style became popular in the mid-20th century as a result of a change in social views after World War II. A focus on beauty being accessible to everyone, not just the wealthy, is a main facet of Scandinavian design. The new design approach emerged and combined beauty, functionality and simplicity.
Some key characteristics of Scandinavian design style include:
- White walls
- Elements of nature, including wood, stone and plants
- Neutral color palette with occasional pops of color
This design style is especially popular today among Millennials, who tend to take the “less is more” approach to design. Scandinavian design aims to be intimate, cozy and inviting, the concept of “hygge” in Danish.
Modern Farmhouse Design Style: Rustic Chic
Classic farmhouse style is inspired by the early farm homes of American settlers, evoking a sense of nostalgia. It includes sturdy wood furnishings, antique accessories, porcelain apron sinks and classic fabric designs like floral and paisley patterns.
Modern farmhouse design takes the comfortable and functional aspects of classic farmhouse design and adds some modern touches to it.
Some key characteristics of modern farmhouse design style include:
- Neutral color palette
- Mix-and-match furnishings and textures
- Modern and industrial elements, like stainless steel and modern lighting fixtures
- Clean lines and modern accessories
Modern farmhouse design gained popularity in the 2010s in large part due to the HGTV show Fixer Upper, in which its stars, Chip and Joanna Gaines, showcased the style in their work. It is still a popular style throughout the United States today.
Bohemian Design Style: For the Free Spirit
Bohemian-style interior design began in the 19th century in Paris, France. It was inspired by the artists, nomads, writers and performers of the time, who valued creativity and nonconformity.
Bohemian style lacks any specific design rules and features a mixture of colors, textures and patterns to produce a unique and eclectic vibe.
Some key characteristics of bohemian design style include:
- Bold color and pattern choices
- Original artwork, handmade objects and souvenirs
- Relaxed, care-free mood; no such thing as “too much”
- Layers of textures and furnishings selected for comfort over style
Bohemian design reflects the dweller’s personality and interests through artwork, souvenirs and global influences from different cultures. It is vibrant and unique yet cozy and comfortable.
Mediterranean Design Style: Coastal Charm
Mediterranean design style originated from countries north of the Mediterranean, including Italy, Greece and Spain. Today, it is often called “Spanish modern” and can range from simple and functional to ornate and formal.
Some key characteristics of Mediterranean design style include:
- Mosaic elements
- Ceramic tiles
- Warm, sunny colors mixed with cool blues
- Textured walls
- Furnishings with natural finishes like wood and stone
This style lends itself well to kitchens, dining rooms, living rooms and even bedrooms, where the juxtaposition of warm, sunny colors and cool ocean blues evoke a sense of a Southern European vacation. Incorporating furnishings that would typically be found outdoors—such as wrought iron tables—into your indoor space creates an Old World coastal vibe found in Italy. Ceramic plates and arched doorways are also classic Mediterranean touches.
Industrial Design Style: Engage Your Creativity
Industrial design can be defined as a mix of old and new. It combines rustic elements with modern touches to create a visually appealing space. Lofted ceilings, exposed ductwork and brick and cement floors are mixed with a neutral color palette, layers of textures and industrial fixtures.
Some key characteristics of industrial design style include:
- A mix of old-world charm with modern aesthetics
- Lofted ceilings and open concepts
- Distressed wood furnishing mixed with metal accents
- Exposed brick and ductwork
- Neutral color palette
This style is inspired by the look of warehouses and factories, but it incorporates modern accents to create an organic, comfortable environment. Despite its simplicity in color palette and design, industrial spaces create a bold statement with unique decor and beautiful elements.
Traditional Design Style: Celebrating the Classics
Traditional design is inspired by 18th and 19th century European decor. It is timeless and evokes both comfort and elegance.
Some key characteristics of traditional design style include:
- Dark, rich colors
- European influence
- Regal furniture and elegant furnishings
- Ornate and architectural elements
In a space designed in the traditional style, colors like brown, red, green and jewel tones are often incorporated. Elegant patterns such as plaid, damasks and stripes are found on throw pillows, drapes and accent walls. Contrary to many minimalist design styles, traditional design features ornate furniture with clawfoot pieces, armchairs and fabrics like velvet, leather and silk.Traditional spaces often feature built-in shelving, wood paneling, crown molding and other architectural elements.
Other Design Styles: What You Might Have Missed
Many other design styles exist to suit a variety of trends and tastes. Here are just a few more styles to consider when designing your space.
This style refers to a design that is inspired by Britain’s colonial past in various parts of the world, including Africa, India and the Caribbean. It incorporates elements of eclectic prints, distinctive prints and artifacts collected from world travel and marries them with traditional decor. The contrast of light and dark tones is a key characteristic of British Colonial interior design.
Transitional refers to the blending of modern and traditional design elements in a space. It is a fresh take on traditional design elements, with a mix of clean, minimalist decor and elegant, traditional pieces. Transitional design is open to interpretation, but finding the right balance between modern and classic is the goal.
Zen interior design is less of a style and more of a feeling. It aims to bring peace and harmony to a space with the use of minimalist furnishings and neutral colors. Natural elements such as stone, wood and water features are also incorporated into Zen spaces. A splash of green in the form of an accent wall or a bamboo plant rounds out the look.
Now that you’re more familiar with many different types of interior design styles, you may be ready to implement your favorite style into your own space. Check your local Real Estate + Property under Businesses at the top of this page to get started!