Let’s start with your first lesson. Every design trend or movement falls under four basic styles, and we’ll show you how to recognize each in this article. To practice identifying the various groupings, look around your home and try to match your existing furniture up to one of the four styles. By looking at the pieces you love most, you can gain a better understanding of your personal design preferences, so you can make decorating decisions with confidence.
If you want furniture that's fashionable and on trend, then contemporary style is the first place you should turn.
Its very name, which in Latin translates as "with the times," suggests how trendy this style can be. Where traditional style is all about details, this modern counterpart is simple and streamlined. Its designs include everything from understated to over-the-top, encompassing a wide range of tastes.
The outlines of contemporary furniture
may be free of ornate details, but that's not to say everything is square or straight. A sofa may offer one big, strong curve, but then it'll typically be counterbalanced by squared track arms and tapered legs. When you do see detail, it is often made up of a repeating shape like a line, square or circle. Dark wood tones are most prevalent in contemporary style, and it's not uncommon to see them paired with polished metal and glass textures.
Despite the tendency toward simple furniture designs, contemporary decorators have a flair for the dramatic. Contrasting colors or finishes are welcomed as a way to add interest in contemporary homes. Graphic patterns fit right in here, and they tend to be geometric or abstract in nature. The simplicity of contemporary frames is what allows these bold choices to exist without overwhelming the room. The result is a fresh, fun look that's right on trend.
This style pays homage to designs from centuries past, a time when fine craftsmanship was celebrated.
With decorative elements like rolled chair arms, button tufting
and nailhead trim
, today's traditional furniture
takes subtle (and occasionally not-so-subtle) cues from bygone eras. And while you don't have to be a Victorian aristocrat to enjoy traditional style, sitting at the head of a classic dining table
may just make you feel like royalty.
With this highly adorned style, it's rare to see a room without one or more patterns at play. Whether it's simple stripes or more ornate florals
and damask prints
, layering patterns and textures is a favorite technique among decorators when tackling traditional
interiors. Depending on your preference, you can make your space feel more or less formal just by adding or removing decorative layers.
Warm wood finishes are most common with traditional
pieces, and they're often adorned with beautiful veneers that showcase the wood's natural grain. In keeping with its fine-crafted heritage, you'll also be sure to find moldings and decorative carvings gracing traditional furniture
. When all of these elements come together in one room, it's an impressive sight to behold.
To put a twist on traditional, furniture designers will often take a classic look and freshen it up. A scroll-back chair might be reimagined with a graphic print that's anything but traditional. Other times, it's a more subtle adjustment like taking a rolled arm, softening its curve and making it flow with a more modern frame. With these fresh takes, transitional style has the ability to breathe new life into old-world designs.
This style's broad influences give you a great deal of freedom when accessorizing. A contemporary rug
or a traditional painting can both work, but often the most successful pieces share elements of both styles. A traditional paisley-print pillow, for instance, feels more contemporary with oversized scaling and modern color combos, like blue and brown. Because this brand of design touches on so many tastes, transitional spaces present an endless number of possibilities.
Relaxed and unpretentious, this style's chief concern is your comfort.
As its name suggests, these spaces are designed for casual lifestyles, like living in the country or on the waterfront. From craftsman to cottage to coastal, casual designs vary greatly, but the common denominator is that they are always inviting—after all, who doesn't love soft fabrics and overstuffed seat cushions?
The resourceful furniture makers who helped define casual style relied on whichever local materials were readily available, with oak, poplar and pine being among the more common woods. Painted and natural finishes are well suited for this style, and you don't have to choose just one. Two-toned furniture designs that incorporate both natural and painted finishes are immensely popular in casual decor.
As a reflection of the simple life, casual furniture is usually rustic in nature, but that doesn't mean it's altogether without ornamentation. What details there are tend to be primitive, such as square nailheads, chunky bun feet and arrow-back chair splats. Practicality is a priority here, so there's no expectation of precision. In fact, a few nicks and dents or imperfectly painted flowers are a welcome addition. Where others see flaws, casual decorators see furniture with character.