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July 21, 2021
If you're anything like me, you know your style when you see it, but when asked to describe it - you draw a complete blank. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but it can be super hard to get those words to make sense when there are JUST SO MANY descriptors and labels out there. After mulling over definition after definition, we end up in no-man's land. What's my style? Who am I?
Stop worrying! Welcome to our first round of DECODE THE DECOR, in which we'll give you a crash course through some of the most popular interior styles. Buzzwords, key decor features, color schemes - we'll give you a detailed outline, some inspo photos and an archetype for each one. Get ready to FINALLY pinpoint exactly where your style is - and if you don't resonate with any style in this round-up, not to worry - we've got WAY MORE where this came from!
Let's start with the basics: traditional style. It's got roots in 18th- and 19th-century European stylings, which means detail but not too fancy, not quite busy but never minimal. This is that comfy, functional, sitcom-ready style. Everything in its place without being too formal, following all conventions: matching bedroom sets, pairs of lamps, couch and armchair sets, coffee tables and side tables. Traditional textiles and linens, tablecloths, antique style rugs and silver and china. It's comforting, and perfectly suits family photos and knick-knacks. It's also an excellent baseline from which to add some more personal, eclectic touches - mixing patterns, adding accent pieces in harmonious color palettes.
Buzzwords: familiar, comforting, conventional.
Colors: neutrals, dark woods, stripes, florals, plaids.
Archetype: the nuclear family of design styles.
Space over stuff - this is the style for someone who prefers to emphasize the room itself, and not what's in it. Contemporary style is about less is more, high contrast, clean, strong lines spiced up with texture. Neutrals are also highly utilized here, but differently than in traditional stylings - here, the neutrals play together to create a space in which specific elements can pop, while in traditional style the neutrals create a harmonious, equalized space. Geometric shapes add some personal flair and bold accent furniture, artwork or fixtures take center stage. Instead of the matching, warm lamps you might find in a traditionally styled space, go with track or recessed lights, or simple but bold suspended fixtures.
Buzzwords: simple, sophisticated, bold.
Colors: neutrals, black and white, primary colors for accents.
Archetype: the successful big sib, flying far from the nest.
Transitional style is exactly what it sounds like - a middle ground. It's the happy medium between traditional and contemporary style, taking the familiar comfort of the former and modernizing it with the clean simplicity of the latter. Less ornate but not totally devoid of details, still comfortable but with the elevatedness that contemporary styling does so well. There's a lot more room here for showing off collections or personalized accessories, in moderation, and mixing materials does very well here - metal, glass, wood, leather. Where contemporary style prizes sharp lines and traditional style is more ornate, transitional style once again falls in between - soft lines, made modern with monochrome or closely related color palettes. It's a delicate, airy mix, an updated classic.
Buzzwords: fresh, elevated, cool.
Archetype: the mom everyone wants, cool + caring, a Cancer with a fire moon.
This is one of the most popular and prevalent styles out there right now, and we totally see why. It was a perfect pandemic-era transformation, when we all needed to make our home multi-functional: cozy but uncluttered, comforting and home-y with modern touches to keep the space functional and tidy. It evokes that country homestead feeling but smooth lines and contemporary textiles keep it modern and photo-ready. Modern farmhouse style comes to life via reclaimed wood, big furniture, organic materials and metal accents: inviting and sensible, nothing delicate.
Buzzwords: contemporary homestead, sensible, clean.
Colors: white, neutrals, natural wood tones with grain
Archetype: this is the influencer of the friend group (and everyone loves hanging out in their kitchen.)
Mid-century modern style was a post-WWII movement that emphasizes minimal decor and connection with nature. Clean lines, functionality and simplicity - it reads a little like modern farmhouse, a little like contemporary style. While it shares the color palette of contemporary styling, it leaves the strong lines behind in favor of sleeker curves and introduces more warm wood tones and plant elements. Access to windows and doors as well as natural light are big here. This is a great style for someone who doesn't align with kitsch and needs no place for knick-knacks, but wants to maintain an infusion of warmth - almost minimal, but not quite. Function leads form.
Buzzwords: functional, simple, natural.
Colors: neutrals, white, black, warm, light woods and greenery.
Archetype: busy professional, skilled at traveling with a carry-on, many sets of coasters, no pets but an avid plant parent.
I've got one word for you - Ikea. Oh, yeah - white walls, wooden accents, luxurious textiles, minimal but meaningful decor. It's simple but oh-so-cozy, serving up that profound contentment known as hygge. Scandinavian style was a response to two centuries of ornateness - the romanticism of the 19th century was followed by the varied and bold maximalism of the post-World-War era. Minimal carpets and window treatments. Clean lines, light wood, pale and neutral colors. This is elegant minimalism at its best.
Buzzwords: cozy, minimal, warm.
Colors: white, pale neutrals, light woods.
Archetype: your best friend's quiet older sibling who brings you hot tea and a grilled cheese when you're down.
Greece. Italy. Ocean, sky and sun. Mediterranean style has the joyful warmth of salty hair drying in the breeze and colorful tiles warm underfoot. It's about indoor spaces flowing into the outdoors, natural stone walls, exposed beams and tile - encaustic, if you can swing it. Arched windows and doors (if not structural, then faked with paint!), all the natural light and natural materials too - rattan, wood, ceramics, terracotta, linen. A lot of white and natural tones, but also ocean blues and greens and don't you dare forget sunny yellows. This is also a style that prioritizes entertainment spaces and hospitality - think big family dinners, lots of laughing and lots of joy.
Buzzwords: earthy, colorful, open.
Colors: Natural earth tones, blues, greens, yellows, whites.
Archetype: the foreign language teacher you ALWAYS had a crush on, with wild hair and a loud laugh. Or, like, someone you met on vacation. Tour guide, maybe?
This style was inspired by the conversion of factories and industrial spaces into residences - lots of previously concealed mechanics and technical elements were left exposed, and instead of finding ways to cover them up, they were showcased. This is a strong, masculine style that makes use of raw materials and exposed elements. Mixed materials are a real industrial vibe - metal pipes and wood floors, or concrete with sheet metal. Gray leads the color-pack here, and texture is king. Coziness doesn't have a place here (though a secret blanket bin is ok by us).
Buzzwords: strong, functional, minimal
Colors: gray, neutrals, mixed metals.
Archetype: austerely sexy, scotch-drinking business person who knows the best bars in town.
You did it! You made it through your first class in decoding decor styles. We hope you took notes - just kidding! No quiz this week. But we'll be taking the deep dive into more eclectic, busy styles in our next-round up, so fiends for patterns and bold colors better keep tabs for installment no. 2!
Which of these styles speaks to you? Need some more help figuring out what colors and textures fit into which style? We've got your back. Sound off in the comments or drop us an email - and let us know which style you'd like us to define next!
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