If you’ve watched any of the countless shows on television that deal with makeovers and remodels, then you’ve probably heard the show’s designers bandy about terms describing different styles: modern, rustic, antique, county, contemporary, colonial, etc.
But what do these all mean? In most cases you” want to choose a style before you ever start redecorating, so let’s review the various design styles so you can match them to your own taste in furniture and décor.
This style is just what it says. The look harkens back to the styles that came over from Europe roughly between the Revolutionary and Civil wars. They are practical pieces that can have some nice detailing, but were designed to be used, not simply admired. This includes Queen Anne, Chippendale and Hipplewite furniture. The woods are typically dark and the furniture is characterized by ornate carvings and an overall regal appearance. They make a living room look extremely formal and elegant.
Also known as contemporary, modern furniture takes a page from the visionary designers of the Modernist movement who felt that form should follow function. As such, the pieces are streamlined and devoid of brash ornamentation. Typically, modern pieces use chrome or stainless steel, aluminum, plastics and fiberglass. Much of it is playful in nature and the emphasis is on comfort. This style emphasizes natural materials, handcrafted pieces and often has regional or cultural influences. It is very casual and organic in approach and feeling. A rustic living room can feel like a cozy cabin that is comfortable and welcoming. This style of living room would focus on comfort and color. The use of simple lines and equally simple furniture is complemented by natural fibers, a weathered look to wood pieces and cottage style fabrics. This has a lovely handcrafted look. The Amish use lighter colored woods such as pine and oak, giving your room a warm, relaxed look that emphasizes craftsmanship and clean lines.
Of course, furniture with European influences can take many forms, given the centuries of influences from some of the greatest cultures of ancient and modern history. A living room inspired by English styles has a lot of oak, walnut and mahogany furnishings that are dark and heavy looking. Handcrafted details are evident and there’s limited decoration. Obviously, Louis IVX furnishings come to mind when you’re thinking about French décor. The carvings are highly intricate and the elaborate furnishings use lush fabrics. It gives a living room a very fancy, formal look. Italian styles are ornate as well, but are typically larger that French. A living room decorated in an Italian style would take its influences from classic Roman architecture, using materials such as marble and stone.
A lot of people gravitate toward less formal styles. This can include urban and eclectic approaches to living room décor. This is a very minimalist style of design. Think IKEA and you’ll get an idea of the urban look. Woods are black, blonde or white with lots of glass and brushed aluminum. The pieces are scaled for smaller rooms and work well in a small apartment or flat. If you want your room to be a mix of styles, you could consider an eclectic approach to your living room. While the pieces may span different periods or styles, they are tied together with a common color palette, texture, shape or finish. As you can see, there is a style for nearly every taste out there. In deciding what style your living room should be, you need to go with your personal preferences. You want something that reflects your lifestyle and tastes, not those of a famous interior designer or something you saw on HGTV. A big part of your decision will be the type of home you live in and the approach the builders used in building your home. For instance, you may want to go with an Amish look in an Arts & Crafts home while a downtown loft may demand a more modern, contemporary or even urban approach. The best way to narrow your choices is to look at the different styles online. Start by saving photos of rooms you like or pieces of furniture you’re particularly drawn to. Once you have a collection of photos, go through them and look for common themes, such as colors, textures, design elements or style. The results may surprise you. Instead of thinking urban is the look for you, you may find your self drawn to traditional or antique styles instead. By focusing on images instead of labels, you may find that you like a style you would have never thought of if it were called by a particular name.