Coco Chanel. Audrey Hepburn. Marlene Dietrich.
Few of us have trouble recognizing good style when we see it. Translating that style into our own lives, however, can be more difficult.
While we may come to learn the colors and cuts of clothing that flatter us best, home design presents its own set of challenges. It’s easy to pick out glossy magazine photos that appeal to us, but maintaining an aesthetic consistency through several rooms can’t be achieved from a collage of disparate styles.
Becoming familiar with a range of different design styles will help you recognize and name the elements that appeal to you consistently. From there it will become easier to settle on an aesthetic that reflects your personality and can be incorporated into every room of your home.
To get a sense of art deco style, picture The Great Gatsby or the glamour of old-world Hollywood. Sleek lines are combined with repeated geometric patterns to create this distinct style. Mirrored surfaces and metallic accents balance detailed, often dark-stained wood pieces. Be careful to avoid overdoing it with this style. The introduction of one or two pieces to each room can carry the aesthetic without creating a stage-set effect.
The quintessential member of the Prairie movement was Frank Lloyd Wright. This style is in many ways more subtle than ornate traditionalism or self-conscious modernism. Nevertheless, detailing in glass window panes or rosettes carved into built-in furniture adds subtly elegant charm and draws the eye to the quality of furnishings.
Like art deco, mid-century modern is another classic twentieth-century style. Sleek, modular pieces hearken back to the beginnings of suburban expansion. Pops of bright color contrast pleasantly with the use of stone and dark woods. Like art deco, overcommitting to this style can create the feel of stepping onto a film set. However, with a few quality pieces and the right accessories to accentuate, you can create a warm and inviting space.
This popular style derives from the Americana roots of New England. Imagine the classically preppy look of Ralph Lauren as applied to your home. Primary blues and reds provide solidity to light fabrics and furniture. Nautical accessories are a common feature of the coastal style. Let location dictate how you approach this style. While coastal decor can be appropriate anywhere, you should invoke it with increasing subtlety the further inland you move.
The industrial style is among the more recent developments in design, coming about with the popularization of loft warehouse apartments. While this is an aesthetic most commonly seen in apartments and condos where the exposed architecture of the unit becomes an element of the decor, it can function successfully in a toned-down manner within a single-family home. To avoid feeling too cold, the metal, concrete, and untreated wood surfaces that define industrial style should be balanced with rich leathers and warm, intimate lighting.
Eclecticism is another style that is growing in popularity in recent years. It can be one of the most difficult styles to pull off, but when done well is also one of the most visually stunning and unique. Rather than depending on a particular style of line or type of material, the hallmarks of the eclectic aesthetic are color and texture. Intense color in both walls and primary furnishings sets it apart from other styles (though this should be balanced with a few neutral elements). The introduction of multi-textured textiles in various aspects of the room is also a key component in this style.
There are a number of regional-specific styles as well, from French to Tuscan to Moroccan, each with their attendant set of features. Regional-style design can reflect a degree of worldliness, but capturing authenticity is a must for any of these styles to succeed. Mass production of regional-style furnishings often flattens detail and nuance as producers attempt to appeal to a wide swath of buyers. Incorporating pieces produced and purchased right in the region you wish to emulate will ensure not only high quality but also a unique and inimitable style.
When committing to a style there are two additional points that should always be kept in mind:
1) Be conscious of the interplay between your interior design style and the architectural style of your home. While art deco within a Tudor could create a surprising and potentially memorable effect, straying too far from or failing to incorporate the architectural roots of your home will undercut any design plan, no matter how well-appointed.
2) Your home should reflect your personal style. Copying a magazine image piece for piece may create a lovely space, but will ultimately feel flat, empty, and forced. Infuse each room with a taste of your personality, and you’ll find you’ve created a space worthy of a magazine spread of its own.