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Why does it matter if you understand interior design styles, much less have your personal interior design style fully articulated?  As far as the rest of the world is concerned, it probably matters very little.  But I am here to convince you that on a personal level there are five good reasons to dive in to defining your interior design sweet spot.   

    1. You will become a selective Shopper – Once you understand the basic interior design styles and their components you will be able to identify the characteristics of the style that you want your home to reflect.  Knowing what you love and what fits into the style of your home makes impulse buying, well , much less impulsive! You won’t be tempted to purchase that oversized floral, rolled arm sofa if you want your home to reflect a minimalist modern vibe!
    2. Investment purchasing will be part of your long term design strategy.  Remember when our parents or grandparents would purchase a sofa or a chest.  Those investment pieces would be reupholstered, moved from room to room, passed on to children and grandchildren.  We need to think about building the rooms of our homes around investment pieces that will stand the test of time.  A beautiful bespoke chest could be the foundation of a living room plan and later moved to a hall or bedroom.   
    3. Your rooms will fit you, just like your favorite clothes do.  Our homes and the rooms that make up our homes should be a reflection of who we are and what we value.  Once you realize what style of rooms bring you joy, comfort and confidence, you will love being in  your home the same way you love pulling on your favorite sweater.

The more you understand the style you love, the more you will be able to do the look for less

You should always have a budget for all of your interior design projects.  Knowing the design style that you are trying to achieve will give you the freedom and courage to splurge on some items while filling in frugally with other items.  In the design world we call this mixing high and low, or “how to get the look for less”.   

Knowing your style and executing it well, will help you achieve a home that you love.

Trying to define your personal style without having a basic understanding of the core interior design styles is a bit like planning a trip to the beach but not having any idea what route to get there or exactly which beach you want to end up on.   The elements of each design style are kin to a good roadmap (or in this day and age a GPS)  So let’s jump in and define the elements of the Four Core Interior Design Styles: Traditional, Modern, Transitional and Eclectic

Traditional Design

If you are drawn to traditional interior design style, you love a beautiful antique piece of furniture, rich wood tones in your furnishings, floral fabrics, hand knotted oriental rugs, skirted sofas and chairs, fringes and tapes on your drapes, and symmetry in your arrangements. 

Key elements of traditional style:

  • Classic 18th and 19th century  English antiques 
  • Furnishings with strong European influences
  • Rich textured fabrics
  • Stripes, plaids, florals
  • Symmetry
  • Gilt , tassels
  • Skirts, rolled arms, highly carved furnishings
  • Wallpaper, layered collections
traditional interior design example

Nandina Home & Design – Shelly Marshall Schmidt

traditional interior design example

Nandina Home & Design – Shelly Marshall Schmidt

Modern Design

Loving clean lines, uncluttered interiors, the combination of stone, glass, and mixed metals, and a monochromatic color palette are characteristics of a Modernist – a lover of Modern interior design.  There are many modern elements that are classics – since modernism first appeared on the design scene as early as the 1920’s 

Elements of Modern Style:

  • Sleek, clean lines, basic shapes
  • Muted – neutral color palette as the base
  • Furniture and accessories are lower to ground
  • Stone, metal, glass
  • Uncluttered! Has a strong minimalist vibe
  • No skirts, track arms vs rolled arms
  • Leather, hides, bold graphic patterns
modern interior design example

Christina Scharf Design

modern interior design example

Nandina Home & Design – Shelly Marshall Schmidt

Transitional Design

The perfect blend of Modern and Traditional is the style that is described as Transitional.  Transitional balances sophisticated style with comfort to achieve a balanced interior, which effortlessly combines equal measures of Modern and Traditional elements.  Furnishings are comfortable but clean lined with stylish silhouettes, fabrics are rich but not overly ornate, like neutral velvets, mohairs, fresh linens.  An antique chest can share space with a modern abstract piece of art, and a classic hand knotted oushak rug.  No wonder that Transitional style is so popular – it reflects a more contemporary attitude of casual yet sophisticated interiors that are frequently warm and inviting.

Transitional Design Elements:

  • Seamlessly merges feminine/masculine, simple/sophisticated, sleek/curved or carved
  • Clean patterns, warm tones
  • Plush materials
  • Timeless, elegant and inviting
  • Track arms, mix of legs and skirt 
  • Mix of materials
  • Mix of art
  • Tone on tone or just pops of color
traditional interior design example

Nandina Home & Design – Shelly Marshall Schmidt


traditional interior design example

Nandina Home & Design – Shelly Marshall Schmidt


If you are into richly layered patterns and colors and the art of mixing seemingly disparate styles than you may be a fan of eclectic design.  Gallery walls, pattern on pattern textiles, a strong mix of furniture styles, and the use of statement objects are just a few of the characteristics that define an Eclectic styled room.

Eclectic Style:

  • Harmonization of seemingly disparate style, textures, and colors
  • Pair different design eras and genres – antique, farmhouse, modern, French, art deco
  • Don’t buy the set!!  Furniture and accessories need to look curated and not like a matching set
  • The look is controlled chaos – you can add in visual layers with lots of textures – without adding visual cacophony
  • Make it personal!!
eclectic interior design example

Nandina Home & Design – Shelly Marshall Schmidt


Christina Scharf Design

The best part of understanding what elements define the Core Four design styles is that most of the popular design interiors you recognize today are a combination of these basic design styles.  I love to describe popular interior design styles like Bohemian,  Mid Century Modern, Modern Farmhouse, Modern Classic, Glamour

Some of today’s popular interior design mash ups:

  • Bohemian – a mix of eclectic and ethnic
  • Mid Century Modern – Mix of 50’s modern and  industrial 
  • Modern Farmhouse – Mix  modern, transitional, vintage and  industrial
  • Modern Classic or New Traditional –  Mixing the European influences of traditional design with classic modern elements (think Ralph Lauren!)
  • Hollywood Glamour – the perfect mix of eclectic and modern, bold uses of color with high contrast metals, glass and stone.

There are many more mash ups of interior design styles but once you master the basics you will better understand the design elements that best represent your personal style.  What could be better than to live in spaces that are well designed, beautiful and that perfectly reflect you! If you’re looking for an interior designer in Greenville, Atlanta, or Aiken – our team would love to help!