25 Interior Design Styles Explained

 March 25, 2020 by Happy DIY Home Staff


There are so many options when it comes to selecting an interior design style for your space. And it’s an important choice! The interior design style you choose has the power to improve your life, reflect your personality, share your tastes with friends and family and bring you endless pleasure. But where to start?! What’s the difference between the shabby chic style and French provincial anyway? Do you see yourself living in a Bali inspired laid back tropical fitout or letting your individuality shine through with the bohemian style? Do you want a masculine and mature space or feminine and soft space? What works for you? This article is your first step to finding a style that suits, with 25 of the most popular interior design styles broken down and explained, with simple steps for you to follow to realise in your own home. Let’s jump in!

1. Scandinavian


  •         Simplicity

  •         Whites and greys

  •         Warmth with textiles

  •         Designer Scandinavian furniture

  •         Natural light


2. Industrial

(Industrial loft refurbished by #HoutwerkBV by design milk / CC BY-SA 2.0 The industrial interior design style is trendy in the lofts and warehouses of the Big Apple. It’s a masculine and mature style that can be adopted in your space to capture that warehouse cool. Here’s how: In the industrial interior design style you want to make a feature of the structural elements of a building, so consider exposing the following: raw brick, wooden beams, distressed timber or concrete floors. The exposed elements become the focus of the space, and you can then layer in other design elements to complement. For instance, you can accentuate with metallic elements, add graphic artwork for a touch of colour, and reinforce the warehouse feel with salvaged furniture. The classic graphic print leaning against the wall is perfect for the industrial style. Décor wise find pieces which go with the vibe, such as, antique metals or factory pieces. For the colour palette of the walls, stay neutral and minimal. Want to paint like a pro, here’s a step by step guide. Sparingly, use textiles and rugs for warmth but remember you don’t want softness in this look; it’s all about that masculine harshness. Key Points:

  •         Make a feature of structural elements

  •         Masculine and mature

  •         Graphic art work and metal accents

  •         Salvaged furniture

  •         Neutral colour scheme.

3. Bohemian


(NYC Bedroom update by Stacie, CC BY-SA 2.0) The Bohemian interior design style has been everywhere in recent times, books have been published, retail stores stock it and TV makeover shows celebrate it. It is a truly popular style because it’s all about expressing your individuality in a fun and playful way. We want to capture that free spirit in your space. Here’s how: The most important thing about the bohemian style: there are no rules to follow! Go crazy expressing your personality through decoration. Show off your collections of knick-knacks, travel finds, and flea market discoveries. It’s a busy style, with textiles being layered on top of textile and bursts of colour matched with pattern. Be bold, messy and adventurous! Animal hides, tribal and nomadic textiles are very popular. Himalayan salt lamps are popular too, make sure to select the best kind for you. The unifying principle of the bohemian style is to create a laid back space that you feel comfortable being yourself in.  So floor pillows and hanging chairs for comfort are a must! Furniture wise, mix modern with vintage. Anything goes! You can layer in glam elements too. Key Points:

  •         Express your personality

  •         Layer textile on textile

  •         Match colour with pattern

  •         Display your collections

  •         Keep it laid back


4. Art deco


(Dining Room Conservatory by Lizzie Benton / CC BY 2.0) Bring back some of the glamour of the roaring 20’s in your space, with the Art Deco interior design style, a must for those who like things a bit opulent and larger than life. Here’s how: Ideally, you would fuse art deco with more contemporary styles, to avoid working on a history project. But if you are going to do art deco style here’s the lowdown. Firstly, you want to aim for symmetry in your space, so find a sense of balance in your decorating. Source traditional art deco decor, accessories, and furniture from auctions, antique stores or thrift shops, and feature them. If you can’t afford or find any, reproductions of the art deco era are fine too. Ideally, you want streamlined and statement sized furniture (glass furniture is popular) and lots of antiques displayed. Work with bold colours with contrasts, or contrast softer colours with the lacquered wood common in art deco furniture. Layer your space with fabrics featuring geometric patterns, animal prints or nature motifs. Make the space appear bigger with large mirrors. Finally, accent with precious metals such as gold and silver, choose chrome lighting fittings and finish the look with nude and animal statues. Key points

  •         Source art deco era décor and furniture

  •         Bold colours with contrasts

  •         Mirrors

  •         Accent with precious metals

  •         Statues


5. Coastal


(Interiors (Coastal design) by Irene Baya Casal / CC BY 3.0) Coastal interior design style is a popular look in the beach-side suburbs of Long Island in New York, U.S.A. However, even if you don’t live beside the ocean, it is still an option for creating serenity and tranquillity in your space. Here’s how: Coastal is all about letting the peacefulness of nature into your space. So consider opening up to create an airy and light space. You might want to install plantation shutters or decorate with white curtains that can blow in the breeze. Select a colour palette that reflects nature, with shades of blue, yellow, green and white, popular choices. You want to evoke the colours of the beach and create a light tone for your space. Furnish with wooden furniture, like wicker chairs or rattan and pair with a plush sofa. You want to layer the space with organic textiles. However, it is important to avoid decorating with nautical or beach items (such as oars and shells), this was popular once, but is now considered passé. Key Points

  •         Open up to outside

  •         Beach tones for the colour palette

  •         Wooden furniture

  •         Organic textiles

  •         Avoid nautical decorations


6. Shabby Chic DIY shabby Chic furniture project Indulge your romantic side by choosing the Shabby Chic interior design style, popular in the 1980’s with artists and bohemians and inspired by 18th century France. Shabby chic is all about DIY projects and upcycling furniture to create a soft, feminine vibe in your space. Here’s how: Begin by whitewashing your walls and wooden floors with a pale colour palette of whites, creams and pastels. Then source some furniture from thrift shops that you can get DIY crafty on and age with paint. See the above video on how you can create shabby chic inspired furniture in simple and easy steps. Or read these articles on chalk painting furniture and coffee table makeover ideas. Decorate with floral prints, flea market décor, and display your hand me down fabrics, collectibles and furniture. You want to make the space not only feminine but also comfortable and inviting. Use linen and soft cotton. Finally, add a special touch by dressing up with some glamorous choices like a chandelier, opulent gold mirror, ornate light fixtures or some delicate vintage French furniture and décor. Key Points

  •         Colour palette of whites, creams and pastels

  •         DIY project: age your furniture

  •         Display hand me downs

  •         Linen and soft cotton

  •         Add glamorous touches


7. Mid-century modern


The mid-century modern interior design style is an all-time favorite for a lot of people. It’s all about bringing alive the nostalgia of the 1950’s and 1960’s. A lot of people mix furniture and décor from the mid-century modern style into a contemporary fit out with much success, so that is always an option. However, if you want a pure mid-century modern style read on. Here’s how: Mid-century modern promotes inside/outside living so you want to open your space up with large windows to let the sun and breeze in. Open plan living is a must, allowing a fresh flow of air to gently waft throughout your house. Hunt around for original mid-century modern furniture pieces at auction, or if you’re lucky at seconds and thrift stores, to get that classic look. Mid-Century modern furniture is all about functionality and choosing natural, organic shapes that are simple. Teak furniture is popular. Focus on a colour palette of blues, greens and oranges, and accent with rusty metal and molded plastics. You want to emphasise wood and clean lines in your interior design. Key points

  •         Inside/outside living

  •         Source  original furniture

  •         Natural organic shapes

  •         Colour palette of blues, greens and oranges

  •         Wood


8. Minimalism


  •         Rugs and throws for warmth

  •         Let in natural light

  •         Furniture that doubles as storage

  •         Monochromatic or neutral colour palette

  •         Allow bursts of colour in artwork


9. French Provincial

Styling a french provincial bedroom If you like classic elegance then the rustic and refined French provincial interior design style might be for you, no matter where you live. It’s a celebration of the traditional and antiquated, think old world charm! This is the style where you can happily display your antiques. You want to style with luxurious and elegant objects, think iron or ceramic.  Patina on metals is a nice touch. Select worn, antique and lived- in furniture to evoke a classical past. Louis IV chairs are a popular choice! You can start a DIY project and reupholster some furniture using white linen. Also remember that to create mood, contrast different tones in your wooden furniture. Paint the walls with a colour palette of white and neutral hues, whilst showcasing any natural stone on the walls or floor. Furnish with toile curtains. Finish it off with oil landscape paintings and fresh uncut flowers in a vase. Here’s a guide to making a cheerful spring vase. Key Points:

  •         Antiques

  •         Lived in and reupholstered furniture

  •         White and neutral colour palette

  •         Natural stone

  •         Landscape paintings


10.  Hollywood Glam Decorating  in the hollywood glam style Feel like a star from the golden age of cinema with the lush Hollywood glam interior design style. Here’s how: The Hollywood glam style is all about being dramatic and getting noticed. You want to bask in glamorous, decadent and luxurious living with this style. It’s perfect for people with a plus size personality. Firstly, choose a bold colour palette of high contrast colours, such as dark purple and hot pink. Or you can paint your walls monochromatic and add bursts of these high contrast colours. Then, go over the top and be bold with your decoration. You can add chandeliers, antiques, extravagant curtains, fine crystals, zebra rugs, patterns, plush and velvet etc. Avoid too much furniture and keep the space clutter free, focus on displaying your décor instead. Pintuck furniture is popular in Hollywood glam style. If you want to make a stunning DIY vanity mirror with lights and side table, here’s how. Use marble bench tops in the kitchen, here’s a guide to costing a new kitchen in 2020. Accent the space with glossy metals like brass and gold. You can also take inspiration from other interior design styles and mix in some Victorian, art deco or mid-century elements. Art deco geometric patterns are popular! Overall, you want to create a comfortable space that is open plan living at its finest. Key points:

  •         Be dramatic

  •         High contrast colours

  •         Minimal furniture

  •         Bold decoration

  •         Glossy metals like brass and gold


11. Urban Modern


(Urban interior by pxfuel / CC .0) Cutting edge meets tradition in the urban modern interior design style, perfect for high-rise apartment and city living. Here’s how: Urban modern is all about modern living with an open plan and flexible space. You want to create a sense of space, softness, femininity and chic living with this style (especially if you are decorating a smaller apartment). Personalise with a few vintage finds but avoid clutter if you can. Softness can be evoked with furnishings, with rugs especially helping soften wooden floors or tiles. Keep furniture to a minimum, and don’t be afraid of using cutting edge furniture design, urban modern calls for it. Select a warm colour palette to make the space inviting, with abstract paintings bringing a cool modern vibe. You can also create lighting displays that showcase your artwork. Feature walls are popular too, here’s how to choose a paint for your feature wall! House plants are a nice touch. You can take inspiration from the industrial and contemporary interior design styles with urban modern, but remember to keep it soft and feminine. Key Points:

  •         Soft, feminine and chic space

  •         Furnishings to soften harsh elements like tiles

  •         Cutting edge furniture

  •         Abstract paintings

  •         House plants


12. Contemporary


(Contemporary Living room with dining space by Foto Miki / CC 1.0) An offshoot of the modern design style, the contemporary interior design style is all about being up-to-date in your design choices. It’s a style appropriate for those who love being trendy. Here’s how: To accomplish this look, you really want to keep abreast of the latest design trends in home décor magazines and online, so you can achieve them in your space. The style also borrows from existing designs, such as art deco and modern interior design. Contemporary interior design calls for simple elegance, achieved with open flexible layouts, a feeling of space and light tones. Select a neutral colour palette and purchase airy furniture that promotes that spacious feeling. You want clean curving lives offsetting right angles. Decorate with metal and glass, and sparingly decorate with antiques. You can create texture with fabrics for visual interest. Lighting can become a statement piece in the contemporary style. The most important thing to know about contemporary is that it’s constantly changing, so you need to stay on –top-of that fresh vibe. Key points

  •         Keep abreast of the looks in home magazines and online

  •         Simple elegance

  •         Airy furniture

  •         Metal and glass

  •         Lighting as a statement piece


13. Modern

(Modern interiors with plants by design milk / CC BY-SA 2.0) Here’s how: With the modern style you want a clean and fresh look in your space. Avoid decorating with accessories; instead have a few pieces of art on display. However, if you do style décor be subtle with it, strive for simplicity. You want to select functional furniture and arrange it to promote symmetry in the lines of the room. Geometric forms are encouraged. Paint in either monochromatic or neutral colour palette, with accents of primary colours or block contrasts. Chrome outfits are popular. You can draw inspiration from Scandinavian and mid-century modern interior design styles, but be careful of the coldness of the modern style. Try to add warmth with your design choices. Key points:

  •         Clean and fresh space

  •         Avoid accessories

  •         Functional furniture

  •         Symmetry in the lines of the room

  •         Monochromatic or neutral colour palette


 14. Tropical

(Tropical interior by piqsels / CC.0) Create an oasis in your own home, channeling a Bali beach resort, with the tropical interior design style. Here’s how: Tropical design style is all bringing the outdoors indoors, with natural textures in the rugs and hangings, potted tropical plants, and furniture made from tropical woods such as bamboo, rattan and wicker. You want a light and airy space, so consider installing rooftop fans to keep airflow circulating and open windows with shutters to let the breeze in. For the colour palette, take inspiration from the jungle and ocean, with army greens, turquoises and golden yellows. Furnish with animal and plant motifs, and consider installing draping white mosquito nets over your beds. You can mix tropical with other interior design styles to avoid overload, and it can be refined with some elegant touches. Key Points:

  •         Natural textiles

  •         Potted tropical plants

  •         Tropical woods

  •         Rooftop fan and open windows with shutters

  •         Colour palette inspired by jungle and ocean


15. Postmodern

(Our Living Room facing east by Jonas Forth / CC BY-ND 2.0) Be bold and choose the postmodern style and create a playful and complex interior design. Here’s how: The postmodern interior design style is all about harnessing the theatrical, releasing your inner quirk and making an eclectic mix of past styles. You want to make some bold choices with colour, be kitsch, play with scale, and exaggerate. There is a lot of radical furniture made in the postmodern style that can be purchased at auction, with pop art of the era also being appropriate to display. Concrete floors are common in the postmodern style, as is functionless décor, such as empty frames. Colour wise, you want to contrast a neutral palette of greys and creams with the bold colours of the furniture and accessories. Dazzle with patterns and multi-coloured textures. Remember, the unorthodox is encouraged! If the postmodern style is too bold for you, you can combine touches of the style’s playfulness in another interior design style. Key points:

  •         Quirky and unorthodox

  •         Radical postmodern furniture of the era

  •         Concrete floors

  •         Functionless décor

  •         Neutral palette mixed with bold colours of furniture and accessories


16. Traditional

A room in the traditional interior design style (Koviashuvik in temple Maine by Danjo Paluska / CC BY 2.0) Inspired by 18th and 19th century Europe, traditional interior design is a classic style that is overwhelmingly popular and influential with a lot of people. Here’s how: You want to select heavy European furniture made in dark wood, and find similarities between your furniture and accessories. This is a style that lets you accessorise to your heart’s content, ideally with ornate décor and antiques that conjures classical luxury. See if you can match your accessories in pairs. Select a neutral colour palette, and add pops of sophisticated colour in your furnishings. For flooring you want either tiles or heavy wood floors. In-built cabinetry is also popular. Floral displays, old world oil paintings and fine fabrics and classic detailing finish the look. For inspiration in decorating in the traditional style look to old world Europe and the neoclassical period. Key points:

  •         Heavy dark wood furniture

  •         Match your accessories in pairs

  •         Neutral colour palette

  •         Tiles or heavy wood floors

  •         Floral displays and oil paintings


17. Transitional Decorating with the traditional and modern styles Bring the best of the traditional and the contemporary together in one space with the transitional interior design style, where masculine meets feminine. Here’s how: In the transitional style you want to blend and contrast classical, heavy and dark furniture with sleek modern pieces. However, use furniture sparingly, to create a minimalist vibe. To encourage the minimalism, keep your decoration clean and avoid excess accessories. Make the most of the décor you do display, by creating statements, a selective mix of antiques and contemporary knick knacks. A warm colour palette will create a cosiness and sense of calm, with hints of colour in contemporary art. The transitional interior design style is all about creating a cohesive space that sees the fusion of the two styles whilst also showing off your personality. Don’t be afraid to experiment!  Key points:

  •         mix old world and contemporary furniture

  •         minimal accessories

  •         mix antique with contemporary knick knacks

  •         warm colour palette

  •         hints of colour in contemporary art


18. Asian zen

(Asian interior by Pixabay, CC.0) Find inner peace, balance and connection to the natural world with the Asian Zen style. Here’s how: The Asian Zen interior design style is all about creating a space that evokes tranquillity, so look to the ancient principles of feng shui for guidance. Circular shapes, clean lines and wooden floors are encouraged. You can divide your space into sections with the use of curtains or panelled doors, and generous windows allow the natural light to enter the space. In designing an Asian Zen space you want to reduce everything down to its most simple and avoid excess distraction. Draw inspiration from nature for the colour palette, think, beiges, whites, soft creams and pale yellows. Decoration should include nature motifs and organic materials, such as organic cotton. Freshly cut flowers in a vase are a nice way for you to enhance the natural focus.  Here’s a guide on how to care and grow for a Bonsai, a perfect touch to your asian zen space. Key points:

  •         Tranquillity and feng shui

  •         Circular shapes

  •         Wooden floors

  •         Curtains to divide the space

  •         Natural colour palette


19. Rustic


  •         Untreated wood and stone

  •         Fireplace as the focal point

  •         Salvaged bold furniture

  •         Colour palette of yellows  and browns

  •         Decorate with industrial metal objects


20. Eclectic



(Bedroom delight by Wicker Paradise, CC BY 2.0) Similar to bohemian, the eclectic interior design style is more formal, seeing different styles and time periods melt together. Here’s how: Firstly, let your personality shine through with this style. Show off the trinkets you have acquired from your overseas adventures and be bold and fuse together décor from different styles and periods. The eclectic style is more curated then the bohemian style with disparate items organised by colour or texture. You want to avoid a feeling of chaos by carefully selecting what goes where. Imagine you are curating a museum exhibition. Also, it’s common to pair modern sleek furniture with classic pieces. Create a blank canvas with a neutral colour palette to display your décor against. Fun prints and paintings can enliven the space. Overall, keep it energetic and fun, as you tell your story by pulling together the strands of your collection. For more decorating tips for the eclectic style, read this Elle decor article. Key points:

  •         Curated accessories

  •         Modern matched with classic furniture

  •         Neutral colour palette for a blank canvas

  •         Fun prints and paintings

  •         Tell your story


21. Retro


(Transitional Rugs Raisse Beige by Matt Walker / CC BY-SA 2.0) Resurrect your favourite interior design era, whether it’s the swinging sixties or seventies, with retro style and find your own unique modern twist. Here’s how: Be original as you blend the old with the new. Think bold wallpaper patterns, psychedelic upholstery, orange shag carpet, bean bags and hanging chairs paired with contemporary furniture and décor. You want to select an appropriate colour palette to work inside of, with black and white floors being common. Have fun thrift shopping to find prints from artists of the era, old cabinetry to restore and paraphernalia to display. You can add texture with furnishings. For a less extreme interior design style, you can add retro touches to a modern design. Key points:

  •         Blend old with new

  •         Pick an appropriate colour palette to work inside

  •         Match retro furniture with contemporary

  •         Prints from artists of the era

  •         Paraphernalia


22. Tribal

(Tribal 3156 African Handicrafts and Kuba textile by Ann Porteus / CC BY 2.0) Find a harmonious balance between the natural and the handcrafted with the tribal interior design style. Here’s how: Start by whitewashing your walls and floors to create a canvas for all your tribal pieces. Match wooden rustic furniture with pillows, prints and throws featuring tribal patterns, as well as fur throws or organic and natural textures. Aim for a colour palette of earth colours such as sand, brown and honey in your décor and furniture. Read this article, on types of paints – everything you need to know! Display your handmade furnishings, such as, tribal woven baskets (useful for storage), masks and sculptures (adds a sense of drama.) Priority is on handmade items that display craftsmanship. Decorate with indoor plants, ceramics and feathers to further enhance the style. Monochromatic tribal is currently popular and you can always add a hint of tribal to another interior design style such as contemporary or Scandinavian. Key points:

  •         Whitewash walls for a blank canvas

  •         Display tribal pillows, prints and throws

  •         Display handcrafted items

  •         Colour palette of sand, brown and honey

  •         Indoor plants


23. South Western


(Tried and true for a #southwestern style by Rustico Tile and stone / CC BY 2.0) Drawing its influence from Spanish, Native American, and Pioneer American settlers, south western style is a homely and warm approach to interior design. Here’s how: Ideally you would have white stucco walls for texture, and exposed wooden beams. Tiles or bricks on the floor are perfect, and you can embellish with mosaics. Murals on walls are popular too. A colour palette of warm colours, such as terracotta, gold, yellow and then bursts of green and turquoise, suits the south western style nicely. You want heavy wooden furniture with ornate carvings, hand carved cabinets and chests and a lived in brown leather couch works too. Finish off the space with iron architectural details, Aztec or Navajo rugs and pillows, dried flowers, pottery, animal skins, candles and wooden carvings. Here’s an article on how to make your own candles! Key points:

  •         White stucco walls

  •         Tiles and mosaics

  •         Heavy wooden furniture

  •         Iron architectural details

  •         Aztec or Navajo rugs


24. Mediterranean


(Mediterranean bedroom by pxfuel / CC.0) Capture the sun kissed exuberance of life in the south of Europe with the Mediterranean interior design style. Here’s how: The Mediterranean style is all about bringing the outdoors inside and creating a sense of breeziness, like a late summer afternoon siesta. The Interior architecture of the style often includes arches and columns, interior balconies and stucco on walls for texture, and terracotta or stone tiles. The colour palette is of earth browns and oranges reflecting the Mediterranean countryside. Furnish with iron and textiles on the walls. Key points:

  •         Arches and columns

  •         Stucco on the walls

  •         Terracotta tiles

  •         Colour palette of earth browns and oranges

  •         Furnish with iron


25. Art Nouveau

(Musee dÓrsay Paris Art Nouveau, Ninara, CC BY 2.0) The art nouveau style, emerging in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, involved all areas of design from architecture to furniture. Learn how to use this style in today’s interior design. Here’s how: Firstly, you don’t want to attempt to fit out an entire space in art nouveau style, instead take elements and blend them into another style, such as eclectic. Art nouveau embraces the natural and the feminine, so choose floral patterns in textiles, paintings and wallpapers. Embrace curvaceous lines and asymmetry. A colour palette of whites, greens and browns, all inspired by nature, is fitting for the art nouveau interior design style. Read this article on the best interior paint of 2020. Wood is common. Decorate with circular mirrors, add accessories and details that bring out the daintiness of the style. Key points:

  •         Don’t attempt a whole space in art nouveau

  •         Embrace the natural and feminine

  •         Floral patterns

  •         Curvaceous lines

  •         Colour palette inspired by nature, whites, greens and browns


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