Before you start on any home interior project, it’s important to sit down and figure out what your interior design style is. Keep in mind that many people’s styles do not fit neatly into a single category. Instead, they are a blend of several categories that best match the person’s personal style. And, your style is likely to evolve over time.
If you’re wondering “how do I find my interior design style?” check out our guide to find a style (or a mix of styles) that perfectly matches your personal taste.
Core Interior Design Styles
Let’s start with the three types of interior design styles. While there are hundreds if not thousands of substyles in interior design, you’ll see these three core styles again and again: traditional, transitional, and modern. These styles reflect different periods in semi-recent history but are considered classic and timeless by many interior designers and architects.
The traditional style began in Europe in the 18th and 19th centuries and highlights the styles of the upper class at that time. In this style, you’ll find matching furniture sets, a variety of luxurious textures, and plenty of attention to detail. Dark, monochromatic woods are most popular, but lighter woods are found in the traditional style as well.
Overall, the traditional style feels somewhat formal in comparison to most other interior design styles due to its ornate and detailed nature. It is a beloved style for its cohesive and carefully-chosen elements.
The transitional style borrows many aspects of traditional interior design, but also incorporates some modern elements. It finds common ground between simple and ornate and is loved by many for its mix and match approach.
In the transitional style, you’ll find a wide variety of wood tones, a focus on great key pieces and functional accessories (like rugs and pillows), and plenty of structure and symmetry. While there is still some formality to the transitional style, many of the textures and patterns are more accessible than what you’ll see in traditional design (e.g. cotton and linen instead of velvet and brocade).
The modern style is the least ornate of the three major interior design styles. While it can still include a variety of interesting and luxurious textures, it focuses on simple furniture, clean lines, and natural light. While it often features neutral color palettes, bold accents are also welcome.
Modern design also includes many substyles developed in the 20th century like Scandinavian design and mid-century modern. Because of the time period and the style, there is a strong emphasis on architecture and art, which is often used on the walls as a major design element.
What is Contemporary Interior Design?
Many people use the terms “modern” and “contemporary” interchangeably, but they are two very different terms. First and foremost, contemporary is not a static design style, but rather a melting pot of whatever is currently popular. It evolves as trends change but is generally a middle ground of what is in style at any current moment. This is why many people who love the contemporary aesthetic struggle to answer the question “what is my interior design style?”
In contemporary design, you’ll see elements from nearly every time period as they circle back into fashion. There is a cohesive mix of detailed and simple pieces and room for nearly anything in moderation. Overall, there is a focus on reflecting light, making the most of the space, and creating a calm, pleasant atmosphere.
Interior Design Substyles
In addition to the core interior design styles, there are plenty of substyles that can be more customized to your personal tastes. For example, you may have a traditional design style but love industrial pieces. Or maybe you love clean modern lines paired with eclectic accessories.
If you’re still struggling to answer the question “what is my interior design style?”, take a look at these substyles to find your perfect mix.
The farmhouse style is hands-down the most popular house aesthetic of the past decade. In a farmhouse home, you’ll find lots of neutral colors, distressed wood, and vintage accessories. The goal is a home that feels casual, comfortable, and lived in.
Within the farmhouse style, there are even more substyles, like modern farmhouse, colonial farmhouse, and more. As a whole, the style is about returning to a simpler way of life and creating a welcoming home where you can spend time with family.
Mid-century modern (commonly abbreviated as MCM) is exactly what it sounds like – a design that was considered modern during the mid 20th century. This striking style features sleek, functional pieces with unique architecture. You’ll also find neutral color palettes with pops of bright colors like yellow, orange, green, and blue.
Mid-century modern furniture is easily identified by its sleek lines with soft curves. It is usually finished with a warm-toned, medium brown stain. The architecture of a mid-century modern home is also striking, featuring large windows, clean lines, and unusual angles.
The industrial substyle was inspired largely by the industrial revolution at the turn of the 19th century. In this time period, functionality in craftsmanship wasn’t something to be hidden in walls or ceilings. It was something to be displayed. This is where we get the exposed plumbing, beams, and more in the industrial style. However, industrial design can also feel warm and inviting when paired with a dark, masculine color palette and simple but diverse materials like steel, glass, and leather.
Is There a “Right” Interior Design Style?
In addition to asking “what is my interior design style,” many homeowners come to us wondering if there is a “correct” or “best” style to choose. Here are some things to keep in mind when deciding on a style for your home.
The main factor for deciding the best style for your home is your own personal taste. Developing your personal tastes is a process, and can take some time and discussion especially if you are not the only one purchasing the home. Trust your gut and soon you’ll have created a home that feels “like you”.
In addition to understanding your own personal tastes, you’ll hopefully now have a better idea of the trends that come and go in interior design. While you’re welcome to decorate your house however you choose, we suggest sticking with a core design style (like transitional or modern) for major renovations. Accessories and knick-knacks are much easier to change out than cabinetry or bathroom finishes, so consider if you’ll like your design choices five or even ten years from now when your selected style is no longer on-trend.
Finally, you’ll want to consider how long you plan on living in your home. If you know your intention is to update your home and move within five years, keep renovations simple and timeless. Homebuyers can be turned off by strong design choices like bright wall colors or trendy finishes, so always keep the future of your home in mind.