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August 11, 2021
BACK BY POPULAR DEMAND: it’s round three of your new favorite, Decode the Decor, where we walk you through different design styles and break ‘em down into pieces that make sense! We’ve got a fun and diverse bunch of styles to go through today, spanning the gamut from: rustic to hollywood glam to coastal to Asian zen, with some southwestern thrown in for flavor. Temps are high, morale is low - why not find the perfect new style for your space, with a little help from your favorite handy gals?
Kicking it off with this au naturale decor style, rustic decor is the opposite of modern or contemporary design. No delusions of grandeur here - it’s approachable, relaxed, devoid of drama or sleekness or anything wild. It’s both a style in itself and a descriptor for styles such as farmhouse (which is like rustic lite, eliminating some of the heavier elements) and coastal (which is both lighter and incorporates some blues and greens).
Rustic style is all about materials that come from and colors that are natural to the earth. Real wood wherever possible: floors, furniture, exposed beams, paneling. Distressed is best - the worn-in, imperfect look is highly desirable in rustic decor and contributes a lot of warmth and comfort to the space. Look for diverse textures: natural wood with strong grain, jute, cotton, canvas, raw stone. Nothing glazed or chrome or too shiny - it’s a dead giveaway. Where other minimal-type styles go for sleek silhouettes, rustic pieces will be hefty, square, dark. You get even more rustic street-cred if you’ve made pieces or accessories yourself, as the unique character of handmade elements fits adds the finishing touch to rustic decor. If you’re into the light, natural tones of minimal style but crave something more grounded and traditional, rustic style might be a perfect fit for you.
Buzzwords: earthy, approachable, heavy, simple.
Colors: warm neutrals like beige, white, brown, gray. Wood!
Aesthetic: the friend who wears flannel, drives a truck and doesn’t buy anything new if they can help it. No makeup, not much decor, but both they and their space are somehow warm anyway.
And now, let us swing ALL THE WAY to the other side of the pendulum with HOLLYWOOD GLAM! It’s glitzy, it’s luxurious, it’s the height of vintage glamour. Also known as hollywood regency, this style was born in the Golden Age of film in the 1930s (which means it co-existed with art deco style!), when set designers were creating incredibly detailed and extravagant movie sets. The stars of the time wanted to bring the sets into their homes, making their private lives as bright and glamorous as their public ones. Hollywood glam is fabulous and opulent while maintaining balance; think Taurusian maximalism, high luxury meets optimal cozy comfort.
If there’s one thing that screams hollywood glam, it’s a mirrored finish. Dressers, nighttables, coffee tables, buffets - you name it, if it’s mirrored, there’s an infusion of hollywood glam, right there. You’ll absolutely need a bar cart, with gold accents if at all possible. Pair animal prints with bold colors. Lacquer in any form - sideboards, ash trays, serving trays, vases; this high gloss finish is chic and *fancy.* Bold color accents, furniture with curves and swerves, fluffy luxe fabrics, and SUNBURSTS! Pairs of tables, or lamps, or vases. This style will absolutely thrive in a space with big, sunny windows, high ceilings, a fireplace, but with the right eye for elegant maximalism, you can live your starlet fantasy anywhere!
Buzzwords: fabulous, decadent, welcoming, GLAMOROUS!
Colors: black and white, gold, bold saturated accents (red, green, purple, blue, fuschia).
Archetype: effortless, charismatic, compelling, put-together no matter what they’re wearing. The friend that gets swarmed at the bar but always leaves alone. Flawless eyebrows.
Is the beach your happy place? Sun on your skin, the sound of surf and the smell of salt in the air? Meet coastal design. Don’t worry, no anchors or kitsch here - for that, please take the Nautical exit. Coastal design is about escape to the seaside. Soothing, breezy, airy, a coastal space is a sanctuary, a place to unwind, tranquil.
To achieve that serene quality, avoid stark contrasts, bold prints, anything that might disrupt the flow of the space or call too much individual attention to itself. Light neutral tones with infusions of navy and sea-toned blues and greens. Stripes. Natural woods, light or dark (but avoid the in-between.) Texture is huge for coastal style: cotton, jute, driftwood, limestone, greenery. Comfort is also key. Make sure you’ll have seating for your family and friends. It’s not a sanctuary if you aren’t all comfy! Incorporate some thematic elements in your lighting - a colorful or textural accent can be super effective here. And if you’re looking for some easy decor, consider sea-themed paintings or photographs, or a glass receptacle with sand and shells.
Buzzwords: peaceful, breezy, natural.
Colors: light neutrals, watery blues, seaglass green, navy.
Archetype: laid-back, welcoming, always a little sunburnt, this seaside dweller is an easy laugh, great company, and always ready to offer comfort at the drop of a hat. The kind of friend you might not stay in touch with consistently, but it’s never awkward picking up where you left off.
This style has major appeal thanks to its warm, earthy vibes, stunning patterns and ease of implementation. It’s also got a whole lot of history behind it: in this case, the name, though accurately describing the influence of the American west (think hammered metal, cowhide and wooden furniture) does not say it all. Southwestern style draws heavily from indigenous culture, specifically from the turquoise and textiles of the Navajo people (so if you’re looking to incorporate southwestern style, make sure you’re purchasing directly from a Navajo craftsman!) It also incorporates Spanish colonial style - white stucco, terracotta tones, clay roof tiles and wooden beams.
Let’s build you a Southwestern space. First, easy enough - white walls. A blank canvas so that your warm tones and textiles really pop. Next, furniture - stay in the wood family, and mixing tones? A-ok! (Super thrift-friendly.) This is where we get an infusion of rustic style: go as heavy and large as you want! Third, textiles: leather! Woven rugs! Cowhide! Sheep fur! Some smooth, some rough, some fluffy. Last: accessories. A longhorn skull would definitely set the mood, but you can also achieve the vibe with cacti, wall hangings, woven hats. A geometric print in the Navajo style is a surefire way to solidify the identity of your space, as is a mix of neutral and terracotta tones, with pops of turquoise if you’re daring. This is a style for lovers of deserts and artful textiles, and a warm, curated take on rustic decor.
Buzzwords: warm, rugged, earthy.
Colors: white, neutrals, terracotta, reds and oranges, turquoise.
Archetype: warm-toned linens and swirling skirts, they pick up colored stones as they find them and collect succulent after succulent. Iced coffee and boots with a Virgo’s work ethic and an Aries’s playfulness.
If you thought coastal style was about tranquility, Asian zen takes it to a whole new level. Prioritizing the highest level of serenity, harmony, balance and symmetry, Asian zen takes the utmost care to curate. It cultivates an intense connection to nature as well as minimalism, so get ready to dump your knick-knacks and invest time and energy into plants.
If the previous section didn’t make it clear, the key to creating a space in the Asian zen style is twofold: keep it natural, and keep it minimal. Natural colors: white, light beige, light grey, light wood. Natural textiles: cotton, linen, wool. Natural light: windows, candles, many small and gentle lights instead of few powerful ones. In terms of furniture - the cleanest of lines, nothing ornate, and nothing too tall. Sliding screens, plants, maybe a rock garden. And then - declutter. Balance and STUFF don’t really work together. Take the time to become incredibly intentional about everything you have in your home - does it add something to your life? Does it bring you joy? Everything must work together to create a space that is optimal, harmonious, inspiring tranquility and clarity.
Buzzwords: balanced, minimal, tranquil, meditative.
Colors: white, beige, gray, green, dark accents.
Archetype: yoga-doing, minimal-wardrobe-having, tea-drinking powerhouse. Particular about all things, low-waste, flying under the radar but exceedingly impressive.
Everyone should ask themselves the questions posed at the end of the zen decor section: does this add something to my life? Does it bring me joy? Above all things, these are the questions we should ask ourselves when we’re decorating our space! It’s so easy to feel pressured to like a certain trend or style, especially if it’s exploding and popping up everywhere. But not everything works for everyone. I, for one, couldn’t ever stick to a zen styling - I’ve got crystals, books and art piled up everywhere. What can I say, I’m an eclectic (if not a humble maximalist) at heart! Don’t ever feel obliged to fit into a box that was built for someone else.
Decor is such an incredible way to express yourself, and to make your home really fit and work for you. Understanding these different design styles is the most useful tool for helping you figure out exactly what style will take your home to the next level.
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