HOW TO: Find Your Design Style and Use It In Your Space
If you’ve ever tried to redo a space on your own, odds are you took some time to explore the various design styles there are. Maybe you simply researched ones you knew you liked, or maybe you took one of those online quizzes to see which you’re drawn to. Either way, you may have found that it was difficult to really pinpoint one style that you’re entirely in love with without adding in anything else.
Yeah, us too.
The good news is, design isn’t like math, where there’s one possible solution to each and every problem. It’s much more organic and evolving, so it’s very rare that someone is drawn to one style and one style only. It’s ok if your space reflects several design styles! That being said, it is a good idea to educate yourself on what the different styles are, and pinpoint the aspects of each that you really like (or really dislike) to guide how you’re going to design your space. Below are some of the most common design styles, and beyond the overview, we’ll talk a bit about how to use those in your space!
FYI – HAVEN did a session on finding your design style at our Tuesdays @ Two with HAVEN series. You can watch the recorded webinar.
Image via Decor Aid
Traditional is one of the oldest, and most common design styles so let’s start with that. The traditional style is rooted in 18th and 19th century decor, specifically European decor from that time. This style usually incorporates antiques, classic art and accessories, and symmetrical placement of furniture. The furniture is usually a bit heavier, with armchairs, button-tufted pieces, and carved wood accents as the basic staples. It’s seen as elegant and timeless.
Image via Country Living
This style favors simple, practical design over modern flash. Farmhouses traditionally were decorated with whatever was on hand and practical, so items were hardy and often hand-me-downs. This style can sometimes get a little kitsch—think too many rooster ceramics. But modern farmhouse can stay sophisticated and stylish with a thoughtful blend of old and new.
Image via: Queen Bee, Muratore Construction & Design
Industrial style takes inspiration from the look of warehouses, factories, and other industrial structures. You typically think of exposed brick, metals, and reclaimed wood when you think of this style. Soften the look with a neutral color palette, an occasional pop of bold art, distressed leather, and one or two vintage accessories (style blending already!).
Image via: Your Map
Think white walls, wood floors, modern furniture, and a lack of clutter for this style. Beyond furniture from Ikea, this Nordic design aesthetic prizes simplicity and functionality. But it doesn’t feel cold—this style uses wood tones, plants, and faux fur or chunky knit textures to bring warmth and coziness to the space. The overall goal for Scandinavian spaces is calm atmosphere.
Image via: Houzz
Kind of the Goldilocks style – not too flashy, not too simple. Transitional style is modern and clean, and is all about layering neutral textiles and textures. The furniture shapes are clean and classic, nothing too chunky and ornamental but also not overly sleek and bare. This is the style we use as a jumping off point for our staging here at Haven. It’s neutral and inviting, so it appeals to the widest range of buyers with our staging. This style can complement any type of home, and is great to blend with any other design style.
Image via: Ocean Home Magazine
This style is casual and beachy, it’s all about bringing the natural elements of the coast into the home. Blue tones to mimic the ocean, white-washed woods nod to the sand and sun, and natural materials like linen, rattan, and sea grass to bring the beachy dunes inside. Focusing less on the literal nautical decor and more on layering in natural materials will make this look sophisticated and relaxed.
Image via: Lazy Loft
Call it the Mad Men influence, Mid-century modern has been everywhere for years now. The style is ‘50s and ‘60s influenced, with clean lines, simplicity, and practicality of design. Warm wood is a key component, but also materials like acrylic and Formica. Mid-century modern is another style that’s easy to blend with others on this list.
Image via: Domino
This style is eccentric, worldly, and playful. Boho is inspired by travel, and combining objects, colors, and patterns from all over the world. There are no rules for mixing colors and textures—the look is tons of layers that might not conventionally go together. It’s the opposite of minimal and modern, and more is definitely more. But you can create a visual resting place for the eye by using white strategically—a white wall is the perfect backdrop for these rich tones and patterns.
Image via: DecorAid
This style is similar to Boho, just a bit more refined. The colorful and collected nature is still there, but it’s not quite as layered and eccentric. The rooms are more styled and curated, and one or two bright pieces are styled with purpose.
Image via: Homeflish
On the opposite end of the spectrum from Boho and Eclectic is Modern. There is nothing showy or embellished about this style—it’s all about clean shapes and forms. This style can come across as cold or sterile, but it doesn’t have to be all chrome and glass—neutral textiles can help bring a little warmth to the stark design.
Image via: Decorilla
Finally, we have Glam. This style has a high-end look with lots of jewel tones and luxe textiles like velvet and leather. Brass is a great complement to those colors and textiles for a polished look. It’s a bit of a “Hollywood Regency” look, but pared down a bit for a more posh and elevated feel.
Whew, still with us? Good. On to using these to design your space!
Chances are you feel connected to more than one of these styles. That’s where the fun part of design comes in! For revamping a space, we suggest picking one style to be the backbone or the filter for your space, and then treating one or two other styles like you would accent colors – use them in smaller ways very intentionally. Once you have the dominant style figured out, find similarities in the two or three that you can focus on to tie them all together—similarities in colors, wood tones, lines, and scale will all help unify the look and pull it all together. This is even possible with two seemingly opposite design styles. Let’s use coastal and glam as an example.
Maybe you like the blues and whites of the Coastal style, but don’t want your space to feel as preppy as that design aesthetic. Use the Coastal colors, but bring in your other love, the Glam style, through accessories and texture like you can see here in these examples—using brass, glass and faux fur like you see in these rooms, you glam up the space. Use blue velvet pillows instead of blue linen. Choose a neutral shag rug instead of a jute. Or bring in a brass drum side table instead of a rattan drum side table. That way the color story is the common thread, and the shapes feel unified, but you’re adding your secondary style.
Design by MK Interiors via Instagram
You can also use different design styles in different rooms, just keep them unified through color scheme and some of the materials. For continuity, we recommend you stick to no more than three different colors for your overall color scheme—and then use shades of those colors to create a layered palette. So using the example from before, if your style is Coastal-Glam, you’ve got blue and white as two of your colors, but maybe you want to use that emerald green velvet chair again to add your Glam. That’s fine! That’s your third color, so embrace it by bringing different shades of plants and greenery to some of your rooms, and maybe a green velvet pillow to another room tie it all in.
The biggest thing when you’re using these to design a space? Trust your gut! Those gut reactions to something you like are important to notice and act on. Odds are what you are naturally drawn to while on the hunt for furniture and accessories will coordinate in your space, style wise. Just make sure you’re following your color scheme to keep it in check. Remember too that quizzes online are not definitive answers for your style – people are too unique for that to be true! Use them as a springboard for your search and enjoy the process of discovering the elements of your style. Feel free to try some little things first so you can get an impact right away while you plan out some bigger investments for later.
And of course, share your spaces with us! We love to see what you come up with.