The 10 Most Popular Interior Design Styles Explained

Minimalist Decor

Modern, rustic, industrial, contemporary….the list may seem long.  It’s not surprising that many of us struggle to understand the differences or how to description it to a contractor or designer.  In this article we take a look at the top 10 most popular interest design styles and explain a bit about each and how they differ.


Modern is a very broad design style that most often is represented with clean, crisp lines, a simple color palette.  It typically incorporates glass and steel, or other metals.  Simplicity is the theme, sleek, clutter free, even extending to simple furnishings,.


Contemporary style is often discussed interchangeably with the Modern style.  In truth they are different because “contemporary” literally describes “today”.   Modern is a strict interpretation of a design emerging in the 20th century.   A Contemporary design is not necessarily adhering to a particular style, it’s more subjective and trending.  That said, the two are quite similar.  A contemporary design may look modern, but if it does not adhere to the modern style of crisp straight lines, simple materials and colors, it is not.


A Minimalist design basically a Modern style simplified further.  Colors are typically light and neutral. Minimal furnishings with simple clean lines it the norm.  Collectively elements of a minimalist style are functional with excesses.


The Industrial style originally grew out of warehouse or urban loft renovations but the style has become popular well beyond city confines, even influencing other style likes Industrial Farmhouse.  An Industrial style typically has an unfinished raw look with high ceiling, exposed brick and steel, wood or ductwork.  Lighting and plumbing fixtures have a commercial vibe or even using reclaimed commercial materials.  The design extends to furnishings as well, with reliance on iron or steel pipe, heavy wood elements, or even reclaimed machine parts.


A 1950-1960, retro vibe is encompassed in a Mid-century modern style.  Not unlike a minimalist contemporary style, Mid-Century Modern represents simplicity, with natural or organic shapes.  It’s different from Modern stylings with its use of flowing lines, ie. the egg shape was a common element.  Its simple and basic elements complements any interior and lifestyle.


One you think of Scandinavian designs, you should think of simplicity, white or beige color palettes, loads of natural lighting, and the use of natural materials blended with plastics and steel.  Elements of a Scandinavian design are functional and never excessive, extending to furnishings which despite their simple forms may feel more like art.


Traditional design style are typically represented by opulent or lavish furnishings and excessive use of accessories.   Interiors often feature rich, but dark, color palettes, finished wood, and a multitude of textures.  Curved lines extend from architectural elements to furnishings, with ornate details.  Unlike most other design styles a Traditional design has depth, layering, and dimensionality.  Simplicity, functionality, and economy are thrown out the window.


If you are drawn to some elements of Traditional designs but are put off by the opulence, consider a Transitional design which borrows from both traditional and modern design.   Transitional designs often feature the use of modern materials such as steel and glass in architectural designs, but balances it with the use of plush furnishings and accessories.  It may also replace deep color palettes with neutral colors creating a sleek but stylish and warm living space.



The clutter of Shabby Chic is giving way to the French Country design style with the use of warm earthy colors.  French Country furnishing, like Shabby Chic, is often worn or distressed, but almost always features ornamental details and white, gold, ivory, or pink color tones.  French Country has an overarching farmhouse inspiration.



A Bohemian design style, not surprising, reflects a carefree lifestyle with little rules, except to follow your inner muse.  The design often features a mix of vintage furniture and lighting fixtures with textiles and accessories inspired by a global range of cultures.  It’s not uncommon to find elements of an ultra-glam style paired with common flea market treasures.  Within the Bohemian style there is an attitude of anything goes.

In this years top 10 list you’ll notice that perennial favorites like Rustic, Shabby Chic, and Farmhouse design styles are missing.  Shabby Chic and Farmhouse styles were bumped replaced by French Country which incorporates elements of both.  The Rustic style seems to have fallen off our radar all together.  While the Bohemian style moved up significantly on our radar from last year to take the no. 10 spot.

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