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You know you have great style, but figuring out which style is the right one for you can seem daunting. Never fear, we are here to help you get to know which decorating styles represent what vibe, and how to choose a style that’s going to make your house truly reflect your tastes. When it comes to decorating, there is an enormous number of interior styles to choose from. It’s always best to find your decorating style before you start a home renovation project.
You could always mix and play around with the most common and established decorating styles – such as American Colonial, Rustic, Art Deco, Country, etc. – although the term “eclectic” hasn’t exactly been in vogue lately. Many interior designers believe it is too vague to offer an idea of the final result when combining styles, and it insinuates that a strong style statement isn’t going to be achieved. Instead, designers and decoration enthusiasts have come up with a seemingly endless list of possible style combinations – and they often giving a precise name to each one, which could be confusing to many people.
The important thing is that you understand the characteristics of the most popular decorating styles, so you can sort out which ones might be yours. Keep in mind that you are won’t be sacrificing your own tastes, as you could (and should!) add your personal touch when you apply any style to your home.
Decorating Style Guide
Let’s start with the basics – a list of the most prevalent decorating styles and what might they look and feel like in your home. That way you can start narrowing down to the perfect style for you.
- American Colonial: Most noted for woodwork and trim used widely throughout the space.
- Rustic: The original “eclectic” look that heavily emphasizes nature. Main materials are wood, reclaimed lumber and stone. Also think rattan, bamboo, paper, clay, etc. Usually incorporates wooden beams and columns as well as hardwood or stone flooring.
- Art Nouveau: Picture hardwood, both stained and varnished, and lots of it. Also Tiffany lamps and stained glass windows, colors that give light (sage greens, browns, mustards and lilacs), and furniture that incorporates stylized flowers, leaves, etc.
- Art Deco: There is often layered lighting, to create the right atmosphere, shiny chrome or brass fixtures, geometric shapes, lacquered furniture and polished wood. (Think of The Great Gatsby – novel or movie)
- English Country: Rustic, relaxed and comfortable. Classic furniture and patterns; typically considered eccentric. Prominent or floral fabrics. Walls are usually wallpapered, and china is arranged on a wall or in cabinets. Picture landscape paintings, crystal candle holders, vases of fresh flowers, dark-stained chests and pine bookcases.
- Shabby Chic: Has a soft, feminine feel. New items are distressed to achieve an antique appearance. Shabby Chic furnishings show signs of wear – think lovingly time-worn. White and pastel colors are most prominent. Decorating tip: Anything with roses goes.
- French Country: Rustic, old-world and welcoming. Typical features include fireplaces, wood beams, stone or brick floors, furniture with carved details and rugs. And flowers, flowers, flowers.
- Gothic: Traditionally, this style features dark colors for the walls, ceilings and floors. A Gothic space usually has large windows in the Palladian or pinnacle style. There are often enormous candelabras and chandeliers.
- Victorian: Gained popularity during the industrial Revolution, when many people chose to use items that had previously only been available to the aristocracy. Picture spaces with as many pieces of furniture, fabrics and accessories as possible (attempts to showcase new cultural interests and status). Colors: rich walnut and mahogany browns, black, and shades of plum, mustard yellows and gold. Fabrics: silks and velvets. Patterns range from plants and animals to geometric patterns. Furniture is typically opulent and extravagant.
- Indian: Warm colors – think spices from India (curry, cardamom, garam masala, cumin, etc.) in burnt shades rather than bright colors for a warm look. Patterns and textured finishes abound. Tiles, marble and granite floors are traditionally found in Indian style homes. For decoration: statues of Hindu gods and goddesses made from bronze, brass, wood or gold. And plenty of dark, solid wooden furniture.
- Moroccan: Rich colors of the Middle East, dynamic contrasts and traditional patterns. Reds and oranges (sunset), greens and blues (Mediterranean Sea), golds, light browns and yellows (desert), as well as silver. Abundant use of terra cotta and exotic plants. Mosaics for sinks, coffee tables and mirrors. Wool rugs, carved wood furniture, bright cushions, Moroccan lamps and silk curtains are often found in homes of this decorating style.
- Industrial: Popular for decorating lofts and old buildings converted into living spaces. It is important to create the illusion of rough surfaces and to use materials that suggest an industrial past. Walls or surfaces unfinished. Use of wood, steel and other metals. Think shades of gray (not 50 Shades of Grey – let’s stay focused interior decorating for now). Exposed bricks, steel beams or columns, exposed concrete and unfinished wood are all hallmarks of this style. Lighting often includes standing floor lamps and pendant lamps.
- Japanese: Simple and clean with a natural essence. Line, form, space, light and material are conceived in a very elemental way. Imagine walls that can be slid open to allow a continuous flow between the interior and exterior. The use of sliding doors, transparency, and white and light brown colors are prevalent in this decorating style.
- Spanish: Related to rustic villas, sunny patios and an old-fashioned sense of family. Walls finished with a smooth-touch stucco texture or faux finish. Colors: earth tones such as taupe, burnt orange, chocolate brown, indigo blue, deep red and mustard yellow. Carpeted floors (generally the flooring surface is continuous throughout the entire house). Use of leather and distressed wood furnishings. Some common dark wood choices include mahogany, walnut, ebony, butternut, teak and rosewood.
Photo by Daderot, from Wikimedia Commons (public domain)
- Scandinavian: Wood floors except in the bathroom. White walls. Clean lines. Lots of light. Neutral colors. A very chic, modern look.
- Traditional European: Traditional interior design reflects classic European décor, with wood tones, architectural details and elegant furnishings. Furniture: wing-backed chairs, claw-footed tables, and curved furniture pieces that reflect the 18th and 19th centuries (think Queen Anne or Chippendale style).
- Modern Minimalist: This style is a form of extreme accuracy where nothing is too much, without heavy backgrounds. The emphasis is on simplicity, the colors may be dull or bright, in any case there will be flashy colors. Pieces are often geometric shapes – square, rectangular, round – but the surfaces are clean, with no scenery, no details. This decorating style is made to showcase simplified forms.
- Maverick: It is part of modern style, its approach is very inventive, unusual and unconventional. Young, explosive, inventive, with not respect for the rules. Structure can be obtained by joining pieces and overlapping volumes. Colors can be randomly chosen even for the same room, just as part of the eccentricity of this decorating style.
You can get a description of the most common decorating styles on many other websites; here are two we suggest if you want more information: Online Design Teacher and Froy Interior Design Blog.
We have created a condensed classification called the Kukun Interior Design Styles Synopsis that integrates the representative characteristics of the most recognized interior design styles merged with the latest tendencies, so you don’t get overwhelmed by the vast options and can easily understand the basic concepts and find your own decorating style.
Kukun Interior Design Styles Synopsis
How to Figure Out the Right Style for You
For some people, it is obvious, almost innate, what they like (and don’t like); for others, it’s not that easy to feel confident about a decision when it comes to selecting a piece for their home. There are, however, some tricks you can learn to quickly identify the decorating style that suits you best, whether you are going to decorate a new blank space, or you look around your home and don’t feel sure that it quite reflects your style.
- First, look to other areas of your life for hints. It might sometimes seem strange at first, but your personality usually determines the decisions you make in various aspects of your life, such as the way you dress, or the car model of your dreams. For example, if you like a curvy car in a strong color, or like to wear many layers of clothing, you probably shouldn’t go for the modern minimalist style in your home.
- Think of your favorite vacation of all time, or the country you have always dreamed of visiting. If you enjoy tropical destinations, you might like strong and warm colors in your home, too.
- Make a simple and quick list of what you like and what you don’t like. If you take the time to recognize what you don’t like, you can stay away from making mistakes in buying items in the heat of the moment.
- Grab a few design magazines and start tearing out the pages that catch your eye. You can review your intuitive results later, and will probably notice that there is a common theme in those pictures. Looking on Pinterest (and Kukun!) and creating an inspiration board for this exercise is also useful.
Fun Quizzes to Help You Recognize Your Favorite Decorating Style
If you still doubt what the right decorating style is for your home or what trend really suits your personality, we suggest these three online quizzes:
- MyDomaine is the place to find What’s Your Décor Style?, a fun and short quiz. The questions look quite random, but they do the trick by relying on the belief that your personality and taste for different subjects (from chairs to drinks to your ideal man) maintain a coherent line.
- Lonny has the fantastic MyStyleFinder Quiz, which offers six choices accompanied by beautiful images for each of the questions to make the decision-making fast and easy. Bonus: The result comes with a tip on how to make it work.
- Glo is the where to go if you aren’t the visual type and prefer explanations of the options. Your result for their What’s Your Design Style? quiz comes with a short description of what that decorative style means, so you double-check if it’s really what you are looking for.