Finding an interior design style that works for you can transform your home from a living space into a personal sanctuary. It’s all about finding that sweet spot where comfort meets aesthetics in a way that is uniquely you. But with so many interior design styles, trends and furnishings available, you may be feeling overwhelmed just trying to navigate the options. In this guide, we’ll walk you through six timeless design styles and offer some tips to help you uncover which one (or ones) work best for you.
1. Mid-Century Modern
The mid-century modern (MCM) style defined American interiors during the 1950s-1960s, though it still remains one of the most popular styles today. MCM designs are known for their seamless integration of form and function. They are characterized by clean, simple lines and organic shapes, and are typically constructed from sturdy materials like wood, metal, plastic and glass. Iconic examples of MCM design include the Eames Lounge Chair and George Nelson’s Bubble Saucer Pendants, which capture the style’s commitment to comfort and functionality over unnecessary ornament. You can find examples of MCM design here.
2. Art Deco
The Art Deco style made a splash in the 1920s with its bold, glamorous and luxurious designs. It’s often associated with rich colors, geometric shapes and lavish ornamentation. Art Deco designs make use of materials and motifs like chrome, glass, shiny fabrics, mirrors, symmetry and elaborate decorative embellishments. For those who adore a sense of vintage glam and are unafraid of striking expressions in their space, Art Deco may be a fitting choice. To weave it into your home, incorporate trapezoidal shapes, strong symmetrical elements, metallic finishes in statement lighting and objects, vibrant colors and even animal prints. If you need more inspiration for an Art Deco interior, look here.
Minimalism is rooted in the notion that simplicity leads to clarity and serenity. Inspired by Japanese gardens and Scandinavian design, minimalism became a popular movement in the early 20th century as a rejection of the “frilly” and ornate designs of the Victorian era. In minimalist interiors, colors are usually subdued, with the overall palette focusing on neutral tones to create a tranquil space that feels both modern and timeless. Furnishings and decor are chosen with intention and often have multiple uses, in addition to being aesthetically pleasing. Minimalism is a great choice if you seek tranquility and order in your living space — and especially if you live in a small, cramped apartment or home. To embrace minimalism in your design choices, prioritize quality over quantity, select pieces that can serve multiple functions and stick to a cohesive, muted color scheme. Here are some examples of minimalist interiors.
The industrial design style may be considered “cold” by some, but its focus on capturing beauty in the unfinished and unrefined can often lead to striking, homey interiors. Industrial design celebrates minimalism, open floor plans, high ceilings, natural light and unconcealed structural elements. Rather than drywall or wallpaper, you’ll often find industrial homes boasting exposed brick, ductwork and beams. Materials like metal, wood and concrete are hallmarks of this design movement. If you’re interested in incorporating this style into your home, play with a neutral color scheme, concrete or metal objects, bare bulbs, repurposed materials, weathered wood, and vintage or antique objects. For added coziness, you can layer in natural textiles that add a small pop of color to your space. You can find more industrial design inspiration here.
Scandinavian design is beloved for its simplicity, minimalism and functionality. It has a strong focus on harmonizing natural materials like wood, wool and linen with modern forms and clean lines. Natural light and a sense of airiness play a big role in Scandinavian aesthetics, and with this comes a preference for pale-colored woods and light colors, especially white. If your aesthetic leans towards a clean, bright and cozy atmosphere, Scandinavian style might be your match. Implement it with functional furniture like bent plywood stools, lush plants, steel and copper accents and kitchenware, natural textiles, and understated designs, while ensuring that your home remains clutter-free and airy. Head here for more Scandinavian design examples.
Embodying both elegance and comfort, the traditional design style leans into classic details, sumptuous furnishings, and a rich color palette. Rooted in 18th- and 19th-century European sensibilities, it’s often characterized by layered textures and patterns, often showcasing dark, finished wood, intricate moldings, and grand details in even small accents and objects. Although it may take its cues from an older era, traditional design remains timeless due to its charm and sophistication. To bring a traditional aesthetic into your home, don’t be afraid to lean into maximalism, choose pieces with ornate, regal details (like carved wood, tufted upholstery, gold accents, clawfoot tubs and curved silhouettes), hunt for antiques or heirloom pieces, and arrange furniture in symmetrical patterns in your living space. For examples of traditional design, head here.
7. Putting It All Together: What Is Your Ideal Interior Design Style?
Now that we’ve covered six timeless design styles, you may still be wondering how to put everything together and start decorating your home. Here are some tips:
- What do you like and dislike about your current home or previous homes? Whether you just moved and are starting with a blank canvas, or looking to revamp your current home, knowing what you’ve liked and disliked about previous set-ups is one of the best ways to start finding your ideal design style. For example, you’ve learned that you don’t like open shelving because it gathers too much dust, or that you wish you’d gotten a fabric couch instead of a leather one.
- What colors are you drawn to? One of the key questions to ask yourself is whether you prefer more neutral, understated color palettes or bold, bright pops of color. Though your home may end up including some combination of both, knowing where you lean can help you narrow in on specific styles. Again, Art Deco and traditional designs often feature a lot of colors, while Scandinavian, minimalist and industrial designs are more muted. MCM falls somewhere in between.
- How do you want your home to feel? At the end of a long day, do you want to come back to a calm, peaceful home (i.e., minimalist or Scandinavian) or something uplifting and inspiring (such as Art Deco or traditional)? It may help to jot some adjectives down.
- What is your lifestyle like? This is where you think about your day-to-day — your hobbies and passions, whether you have pets whose claws may damage specific materials, whether you like to be alone in your space or to host large gatherings, and what brings you joy (i.e., if you love acquiring small trinkets or objects and filling your home with them, minimalism may not be for you).
While you’re thinking about these questions, Pinterest is a great way to spark your inspiration and develop a cohesive sense of your personal design style. If you don’t already have an account, create one and start a board for your home, or a specific room in your home. Then start pinning pictures of layouts, furniture pieces, colors, textures and styles that resonate with you. Think about the different components of an image that draw your attention. For example, you like the way someone painted a colorful pattern on their ceiling to balance out a bold statement rug on the floor, or the way someone included a few pieces of statement lighting to add interest to an otherwise minimal, understated living room.
At the end of the day, what makes your personal style you is the way it combines elements from many different interior design movements. Don’t be afraid to experiment and mix and match elements from styles that seem to “clash.” Go slow and take your time — find pieces that you love and add them into your home gradually. Remember that your style isn’t static, and you can expect it to evolve over time as your tastes and lifestyle change. There’s no shame in selling old items that no longer feel like you on Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace or even placing items temporarily in a self-storage unit to freshen up your space with new designs. The most important part is to have fun in the process and to stick to what brings you joy in your own home space.