April 23, 2024

12 Popular Interior Design Styles: Which Ones Speak to You?

“I know it when I see it”: Supreme Court justice Potter Stewart wrote that regarding the definition of obscenity. It’s also how many of us think about our interior design style. Which is fine, of course—until it comes time to explain your style to your partner, your designer, or the salesperson helping you decide on a sofa. 

To help you determine which aesthetic is most you, let’s look at the hallmarks of the most popular interior design styles out there. You may find that multiple styles speak to you; many of us aren’t purists. In fact, incorporating elements from several styles ensures that your home will be uniquely yours. And isn’t that the goal when decorating your space?

12 favorite interior design styles


Classic interior design transcends trends. Encompassing silhouettes and motifs from the 17th, 18th, 19th, and early 20th centuries, it’s traditional, but that doesn’t mean stuffy. It’s true that classical interior design emphasizes ornamentation: fluted table legs with claw feet, gilded mirrors adorned with acanthus leaves, crown molding, damask curtains and upholstery, chinoiserie accent pieces. If you’re of a “less is more” mindset, however, go ahead and pare back. Eliminating patterns and decor you consider excessive will simply put extra emphasis on the classic materials (mahogany, maple, velvet, leather) and graceful silhouettes of the timeless furniture pieces you do choose to keep. 

Photo credit: tradchap

Speaking of furniture—and decor, for that matter—go ahead and mix pieces of different provenances. For instance, a Queen Anne-style chaise, with its sumptuous curves and button tufting, can definitely complement a more-restrained neoclassical table. That’s the beauty of timeless design: It works with just about everything.

The quintessential classic piece: an Oriental rug. 

English traditional

You could consider English trad a subset of classic interior design. If you’ve ever been in an exclusive British members’ club (or seen one in TV series such as Sherlock and Spooks), you know the look: a rich palette reinforced with dark wood paneling, shelves filled with leather-bound books, thick velvet drapes layered atop white sheers. Accompanying this is traditional English decor that hints at the owner’s having been to the manner born, such as painted portraits of thoroughbreds and heavy cut-crystal decanters. Signs of wear are in keeping with the saying that English people of a certain class don’t shop for furniture in stores but rather in the attic of their family estate. 

Photo credit: sublime_casa

The quintessential English traditional piece: a leather chesterfield sofa.


It’s tough to define contemporary interior design, given that contemporary literally means “the present time.” What’s contemporary now, in other words, won’t be contemporary 50 years from now. 

But for these purposes, let’s think of contemporary design as simple but bold silhouettes and a focus on textures over colors, both of which have won over so many fans since the century began. The palette is tight and neutral. If you thrive amid bright colors and lively patterns, you might find the style underwhelming. On the other hand, you might appreciate the contemporary design color palette—ivory, wheat, terracotta, charcoal—as a welcome respite from the stimulus of the modern world. 

Photo credit: LLI Design

To make up for the lack of color, contemporary design goes big on textures: bouclé, faux fur, suede, cashmere. These are textures made for snuggling up against and stretching out on. Ditto the generously proportioned, amply cushioned chairs and sofas that are also keystones of the aesthetic.

The quintessential contemporary piece: a modular or sectional sofa with plush upholstery.

Scandinavian ease

For half of the year, sunlight is in short supply throughout Scandinavia. That’s one reason Scandinavian interior design has long embraced a light palette: Who wants a room of dark colors on winter days when the sun doesn’t rise till after 8 a.m. and sets as early as 3 in the afternoon? Another reason is the value placed on cozy, easygoing comfort—hygge in Danish, a word related to “hug” in English. Pale neutrals, chunky knit throws to wrap yourself in, sturdy wood coffee tables that you can rest your feet on when you’re not gathering around it with family and friends playing board games: That’s hygge decor. 

Photo credit: Clay Banks/Unsplash

What distinguishes Scandinavian design from contemporary home design is the relative minimalism. Negative space, the empty space between objects, is just as important as the objects themselves.  

The quintessential Scandinavian ease piece: a sheepskin throw, on a floor, a chair, a bed, or all of the above.

Industrial chic

Industrial design isn’t an interior style per se; it’s the act of determining the optimal form of a manufactured item for its given function. But legendary architect and designer Frank Lloyd Wright declared that “form and function are one,” and one might say that’s at the core of industrial chic. Industrial materials such as iron and brick are elevated into objects of envy. Not that long ago, interior brick walls were painted or paneled over; now they’re celebrated. Iron furniture frames were clad in chrome or gilded; now they’re left exposed. Wood was lacquered or polished; now it’s left bare, the better to flaunt its natural grain.

Photo credit: Home Evolution

While the industrial chic palette leans dark, it includes flashes of metal—not just iron but also steel, bronze, aluminum, brass—that brighten it up. And clever repurposing of industrial elements, such as steel pipes and reclaimed pallets to make a bookcase, brings a dash of the unexpected, and even whimsy, to the look.

The quintessential industrial chic piece: a sawhorse-style dining table that pairs iron and wood.

Modern farmhouse

At a glance, modern farmhouse decor is the yin to industrial chic’s yang. There’s lots and lots of white: white shiplap walls, white-painted furniture (though at times artfully distressed), white cotton slipcovers. And it’s more convivial than industrial chic, with throw pillows and table runners, rustic landscapes and splatterware bowls piled high with fruit. 

Photo credit: theoldhouseonmain

But modern farmhouse design shares a number of traits with industrial chic. There’s the lack of vivid colors, of course, and the incorporation of weathered wood and patinated metals. A wagon-wheel chandelier made of blackened iron is equally at home in a modern farmhouse kitchen and an industrial chic dining room. 

The quintessential modern farmhouse piece: an iron-frame bed, so long as it’s piled high with quilts and ruffled pillows.

French country

Also known as Provençal style, French country interior design is a Gallic (and of course, not-so-modern) counterpoint to modern farmhouse. It hums with joie de vivre, thanks to the floral, gingham, and block-print fabrics in both sunny and pastel hues. Quimper faience pottery hand-painted with roosters and farmhands plays into the rustic charm, while Louis XIV-style chairs with curvy stretchers and arms add a sense of refinement. And if the pottery is chipped and the chairs scratched from decades of use, no worries. Signs of wear are signs of love, and love is integral to French country finesse.

Photo credit: Cindy Kahn Interiors

The quintessential French country piece: toile wallpaper or bedding.


There’s no such thing as too much when it comes to boho style. Feel free to layer patterns and/or textures and/or colors with abandon…or not to. Boho decor doesn’t require multicolor shag rugs atop striped kilims and macramé wall hangings next to fringed curtains. But it does rely on incorporating global influences, particularly decor from Morocco and other parts of the Maghreb where Beats—the bohemians of the mid-20th century—including Paul Bowles and William S. Burroughs lived for a time. 

Photo credit: tszujit

Boho chic offers a certain informality, a certain laissez-faire ease. That’s why boho style typically features lots of cushions you can toss on a sofa, the floor, a bed. Materials are durable and fairly fuss-free. And Mother Nature definitely makes her presence felt, in the form of wicker baskets, rattan lampshades, and plants galore.

The quintessential boho piece: a leather Moroccan pouf. 

Quiet luxury

A reaction to gaudy excess, quiet luxury as an aesthetic has long existed. It didn’t make headlines until several years ago, however, in part due to the popularity of Succession and its quietly luxurious interiors. “Quality over quantity” is the guiding light. Quiet luxury style is minimalist in terms of objects on display but maximalist when it comes to the opulence of its materials: marble, velvet, silk, leather. It’s better to have one set of Egyptian cotton or Belgian linen sheets than three microfiber sets. 

Photo credit: juthamat.by.jem

Quiet luxury furniture is streamlined and sleek, all the better to show off the exceptional materials and craftsmanship. And as you’d expect, the palette is, well, quiet—but only to a point. Jewel tones make their presence felt in ways big (large-scale abstract art) and small (a decorative malachite box). Quiet luxury interiors also feature judicious glints of gold, bronze, or brass—slender golden sconces, say, or slim bronze table legs. These glimmers are just enough to hint at hidden riches; the look is sometimes called stealth wealth, after all.

The quintessential quiet luxury piece: a minimalist marble table.

Mid-century modern

Though it’s sometimes confused with contemporary style, mid-century modern decor really doesn’t have much in common with that aesthetic. Mid-century modern flourished from 1945 to the early ‘70s, reveling in the juxtaposition of natural and manmade materials. Vinyl, resin, and plastic were popular, but so were teak, oak, and wool. 

Photo credit: dallasbonds

Another juxtaposition that defines mid-century modern style is neutral tones with bold spot colors. A sofa might flaunt legs of pale wood and teal or orange upholstery, for instance. Similarly, fluid organic forms such as kidney-shape occasional tables play nicely with geometric silhouettes such as Sputnik chandeliers. 

The quintessential mid-century modern piece: the Eero Saarinen Tulip table. Or maybe the Eames molded plastic Shell chair. Or the George Nelson Ball clock. There are so many to choose from! 


You don’t have to live near a beach to appreciate the breezy ease of coastal interior design. The palette, inspired by sea, sand, and sun, and the focus on richly textured organic materials such as sisal, driftwood, and linen invite you to kick back and relish salt-kissed breezes—or at least imagine yourself relishing them. 

Photo credit: Mark D. Sikes

A smattering of nautical home accents wouldn’t go amiss here: napkins and hand towels decorated with anchors, say, or a collection of vintage glass floats on an étagère. But they’re not necessary. You can evoke coastal bliss with little more than ropelike textures, seascapes, and of course, plenty of blue and white.

The quintessential coastal piece: a striped blue-and-white flat-weave rug.

Art Deco

Born in the early 20th century, Art Deco style reflected the fascination with technological advances, from Bakelite to skyscrapers, as well as the emergence of Cubism and the exuberant optimism of the Roaring ‘20s. Symmetry and geometry are key, seen in shapes both sleek and stepped or scalloped. Jewel tones are paired with shimmering metallics and offset by starkly contrasting black and white: The look is bold, glam, and impossible to ignore. 

Photo credit: juliettesinteriors

Art Deco decor has seen a resurgence in the past few years. You can introduce it into your home with faux-shagreen photo frames or pillows decorated with metallic chevrons. Once you do, however, you just might find yourself going all out with geometric-patterned wallpaper, a tuxedo sofa upholstered in sapphire-blue velvet, and a gallery wall of Erté prints.

The quintessential Art Deco piece: a gold-and-glass bar cart.

Which style is yours?

Hopefully this guide has helped you narrow down your favorite aesthetic or aesthetics. And if you’re still not sure, take our Aesthetic DNA Quiz—a fun and interactive way to uncover your personal and unique design style.

Sherry Chiger was formerly the head of editorial at One Kings Lane, where she produced a leading interior design blog. She also writes on decor and other topics for numerous other sites and publications.


© 2024 Palazzo. All rights reserved.


© 2024 Palazzo. All rights reserved.

© 2024 Palazzo. All rights reserved.