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Periods and Styles of Interior Design

Periods and Styles of Interior Design

The history of interior design is one that extends over thousands of years, and it is overflowing with richness, culture, and diversity at every turn. You can date the start of interior design as far back as the stone age, where cavemen would adorn the walls of their dwellings with drawings and the floors with animal skins. Much has changed since that time, but not without the birth of dozens of unique styles along the way, all influenced by different time periods and regions of the world. Many of these styles have withstood the test of time and are still used today to inspire the interior design of homes, businesses, and other institutions.

  • Art Deco - This style of interior design first gained popularity in 1908 in the city of Paris, France. It spread throughout Europe, then globally, and remained prominent until the end of World War II. Influenced by Art Nouveau, which was still popular in the early 1900s, Art Deco design takes inspiration from nature and adds a twist with geometric and angular shapes. Popular colors that were used include black, chrome, silver and off whites. Symmetrical designs were popular in wall décor or wallpaper, and polished parquet wood were the floors of choice.
  • Art Nouveau - An appropriate name for this style, which lasted from 1880 to 1910, as it is said to be the first style to not take influence from history. Rather, it took inspiration from nature, using flowing lines and curves to depict flowers, leaves and vines. Similarly, popular colors used were those found in nature, including sage and olive greens, mustard yellows, browns and shades of lilac and violet. Décor was often ornate with much detail. Tiffany lamps, a type of lamp with a glass shade, are a popular décor item from this time period.
  • Arts and Crafts - The Arts and Crafts era was a result of dissatisfaction with the poorly made, mass-produced furnishings and décor of the previous Victorian era. Taking off in England at the end of the 19th century, this style highlighted handcrafted goods, mainly made of wood. Detailed wooden features such as staircases, fireplaces, doors, wall paneling, and furniture were the focal point of this style. Warm tones found in nature were often used, as it accented the main wooden features nicely.
  • Asian - This design concept is based on influences from the Far East, including China, Japan and Thailand. Designs are often simplistic, with minimal furniture and decorations. Bold colors such as black, deep red, and cobalt blue combined with glossy black furnishings provide an exotic look. Shoji shades, lanterns and bamboo decorations finalize the look and feel of this concept.
  • Baroque - This is a period of Italian history that lasted from the early 17th century to the mid-18th century. Interior design during this time was extremely decorative and elaborate. Furniture and décor was often hand-carved and gilded, textiles were expensive, accents ornamental and the colors were rich and bold. It was also during this time that the Quadratura, a ceiling painting technique that created the illusion of three-dimensional space, was commonly used.
  • Coastal - A popular design style for beach cottages and bungalows, however, you don't have to live near a beach to adapt this style. The design is inspired by the natural colors and materials of the beach. White Bead boarding and blue painted walls with accents of white and yellow are characteristic of coastal themed homes. Comfortable and functional furniture and nautical-themed décor round out the look.
  • Colonial - The Colonial-style home was brought over to North America by immigrants from England during the 1700s. The Colonial style ranges in design based on the wealth of the owner. A rustic farmhouse-like Colonial was common among the middle class while the upper class chose a more sophisticated rendition of this style. Generally speaking, though, Colonials bore simple handmade furniture and quilts, antiques, hardwood flooring and muted walls accented with crown molding and wide baseboards. All together, this created a bright, simple, and spacious interior.
  • Contemporary - Contemporary design is all about what's current and features clean, angular lines and sleek finishes. Contemporary design is versatile in that many color palettes, fabrics and materials can be used to achieve the desired look. The idea is to keep spaces clutter-free and rather simple, similar to the minimalist style. Contemporary design is always evolving, so updates and changes can always be made to reflect the times and the owner's tastes.
  • Eclectic - Eclectic is defined as a style or taste that derives from a diverse range of sources. As regards interior design, this means a combination of different styles and periods through a variety of colors, textures, and finishes. Really, anything goes with this style. However, when done artfully, otherwise mismatching furnishings and décor can be combined to create a cohesively designed space.
  • French - The French style of interior design is characterized as elegant and ornate. It is common to find a single color be represented throughout the room. These colors can range from soft, neutral colors to rich browns and yellows. Gold, bronze and gilt along with antiques, heirlooms and chandeliers are used to accent the space. French style doors are used to separate rooms or open up to a balcony or backyard. Fresh flower bouquets are also commonly used to decorate a room.
  • Georgian - The Georgian era is a period of British history that lasted from 1714 to 1837. As the era progressed through early, mid, and late periods, the style developed from traditional to more luxurious and detailed. Furniture was intricately carved, gilded, and upholstered with expensive fabrics. Colors used were pale and subtle. Elaborate and opulent fireplaces were often the focal point of a room. Claw feet chairs, tables, and bathtubs were also popular during this time.
  • Gothic - The Gothic style of architecture and interior design became popular in the UK and Europe during the Middle ages. Many European cathedrals, such as the Notre Dame de Paris, were designed and built during this time and depict the Gothic style. The style features a variety of arches, elaborate and detailed fireplaces and mantels, black and other dark colors, and ornate furniture.
  • Industrial - A recently growing trend in interior design, this concept highlights features that have a raw or unfinished 'factory' look to them. This is a popular design option for lofts or spaces with exposed concrete or metal beams and poles. The industrial style is often blended with minimalism and therefore dons a neutral and gray color palette. A downside to this style is that it can appear 'cold' and uncomfortable. However, it is a suitable style choice for those on a budget, as items that are 'industrial' looking are generally inexpensive.
  • Mid-Century Modern - This refers to the interior and architectural design movement that took place during the mid-20th century. Homes often had minimalist-style open floor plans with large doors and windows to connect the family to the outdoors. Mid-Century Modern furniture was simple, devoid of ornate detail and focused on function. Pieces were often made of nontraditional materials such as Plexiglass or plywood and were designed to fold or stack to serve multiple purposes. Frank Lloyd Wright was a pioneer in the Mid-Century Modern design movement.
  • Minimalist - Minimalism became popular in America following World War II and is highly influenced by traditional Japanese design. The idea behind this concept is "less is more", only incorporating components that serve a definite purpose. Bright open spaces void of color, clutter or decoration is the general trademark of a minimalist design.
  • Neoclassical - The neoclassical style refers to the design style of the Italian Neoclassical period spanning from mid-18th century to early 19th century. The neoclassical movement began as protest against Baroque and Rococo styles. Neoclassical artists wanted to, while still remaining bold and elegant, return to a more classic Roman and Renaissance design.
  • Retro - Retro interior design reflects the popular style trends of the 1950s, '60s, and '70s. Vinyl flooring, textured rugs, and bold colors and wallpaper set the tone. Décor made of plastic, glass, or rubber is favored over wood, and neon lighting or lava lamps are great for '60s-inspired rooms. Posters or paintings that depict pop culture icons from the chosen decade can also help achieve the desired retro feel.
  • Rococo - Rococo is a lighter, more playful adaptation of the Baroque style, popular during the 17th and early 18th century. Rococo design utilizes the opulent elements of the Baroque style but replaces the bold, rich colors with a pastel palette and the gilded, hand-carved décor with more whimsical artwork.
  • Rustic - A rustic interior design brings the outdoors inside by using organic materials such as wood, reclaimed lumber, clay, and stone. Wooden or stone floors, exposed wooden beams and stone walls are all common characteristics of a rustic style interior. A color palette that reflects the colors of nature compliment this style nicely. Simple wooden pieces mixed with comfortable furniture make for an inviting living space that is harmonious with nature.
  • Scandinavian - Scandinavian design features two distinct styles: country and modern. Both styles emphasize simplicity and functionality. Trademarks of Scandinavian country style include light colors, hardwood or reclaimed lumber flooring, and rustic looking furnishings. Scandinavian modern design also favors light colors and hardwood flooring but applies a more modern craftsmanship with clean lines and sleek finishes.
  • Shabby Chic - This term was first coined by The World of Interiors magazine in the 1980s and gained popularity on the west coast of the United States in the '90s. Shabby Chic is a concept that mixes 'shabby' and worn vintage items with other 'chic' and elegant pieces. For example, pairing an antique looking headboard with a clean linen bed or wrought iron curtain rods with sheer curtains. This style uses neutral tones and pastels, giving it a soft and romantic feel and making it popular among women.
  • Shaker - The shaker style home dates back to 1774, when the first Shaker village was established in America. Here, a very religious sect known as Shakers lived in a tight-knit community of simplicity and pacifism. Their homes reflected their lifestyle, with neutral-colored walls, bare floorboards, simple wooden furniture with little upholstery, and natural fabrics such as cotton and wool.
  • Southwestern - The Southwestern style can commonly be found in Arizona and New Mexico and is inspired by the rich desert landscapes and culture of Hispanic settlers. Popular wall colors used reflect those colors found in the desert: deep red, burnt orange, dark green, and terracotta. Exposed natural stone is also commonly used as wall accents. Terracotta tiles are traditionally used as flooring to help keep the space cool. Simple mid-toned wooden furniture, colorful pottery, woven rugs, and other rustic earth-toned accessories help round out the design.
  • Traditional - Inspired by 18th- and 19th-century Europe, traditional homes are elegant, classic, and comfortable. They often feature detailed molding and paneling, dark wood, expensive fabrics, elegant furniture, and beautiful chandeliers. A neutral color palette balances out the lavish furnishings. Traditional design is one of the more versatile styles and can be easily combined with other design styles and elements.
  • Tuscan - This style comes from the region of Tuscany, located in central Italy. The style is similar to that of the Southwestern style, as it takes inspiration from the landscape of the region. The color schemes are reminiscent of the beautiful rolling hills, with olive and sage green, burnt orange, gold, terracotta and burgundy. Walls and floors are often made of stone, tile, or dark timber, while furniture and light fixtures are made of different metals, such as wrought iron. Natural woven rugs and landscape paintings decorate Tuscan style homes nicely.
  • Victorian - The years 1837 and 1901 marked the beginning and end the Victorian era, during which Queen Victoria reigned in Britain. The emergence of the Victorian style was the result of new mass production, which made quality goods readily available at cheaper prices. Victorian homes had a luxurious appeal, with floor to ceiling windows and curtains, wainscoted walls, cornices, parquet flooring, bold floral-printed wallpaper, ornate button-backed sofas and chairs, decorative lamps, and rich color schemes of burgundy, gold, and emerald. Woodwork was often made of cheap materials which were marbleized or grained to give a higher-quality appearance. These practices eventually sparked of the Arts and Crafts movement.
  • Zen - This interior design style is inspired by both Japanese and minimalist designs and incorporates the ancient lifestyle of living in tranquility and balance. It features neutral colors found in nature, bare walls and floors, open spaces free of clutter and simple furniture made from natural materials. The art of Feng Shui is often applied to the space to allow ultimate relaxation and harmony with nature.