Furniture Buying Guide: Styles

Furniture Buying Guides


Styles

Discover Your Favorite Furniture Style

Looking to decorate your new space or give a room a refresh? Figuring out your style can be daunting (so many options!). This overview of 12 main design styles will help you decide on the right furniture and fall in love with your home.

Traditional

Traditional style is, as its name suggests, the foundation from which other styles have evolved. Old World craftsmanship (elaborate hand-carved details, delicate nail-head trim) is paired with hardwoods and luxe fabrics like velvet and silk. Queen Anne, Regency, and Rococo are examples of traditional style.

Key Elements and Materials:

  • Dark woods, often with carved detailing (spindles, medallions, barley twists)
  • Rich colors (red, brown, cream, blue, green)
  • Curved silhouettes
  • Linen, silk, and velvet upholstery
  • Skirted, tailored, and wingback styles
  • Contrast welts, piping, and tufting
  • Delicate nail-head trim
  • Floral prints and patterns

Coastal

Coastal style is all about capturing the relaxed, nautical ambience of the beach. The palette takes inspiration from sand, sea, and sky, and some accessories have ocean tie-ins or motifs: (think ropes, seashells, starfish, anchors, and boats.) In furniture, silhouettes are simple and undressy. A whitewashed coffee table might complement side tables with a darker finish; upholstery might be solid or striped.

Key Elements and Materials:

  • Weathered and whitewashed woods
  • Blue, white, gray and cream tones
  • Linen slipcovers and upholstery
  • Rattan, wicker, raffia, jute and other richly textured natural materials
  • Colored translucent glass
  • Nautical motifs
  • Blue and white stripes

Industrial Modern

One of the more urban styles, industrial modern is inspired by the look of old factories, emphasizing architectural details and materials normally hidden from view. Exposed pipes, old brick and concrete floors. Furniture elements include steel, iron, weathered wood, and visible bolts and screwheads. Clean lines lend a utilitarian yet edgy feel. An industrial modern design approach is particularly well suited to an open concept or loft living.

Key Elements and Materials:

  • Chrome, steel, iron accents
  • Hardware details
  • Unfinished or weathered wood
  • Tailored silhouettes
  • Rustic nail-head trim
  • Open shelving

Contemporary/ Modern

Shiny glass or metal pieces and geometric prints are some of the hallmarks of contemporary design. Contemporary and modern styles are similar (sleek, clean-lined, minimalistic), but contemporary furniture typically has more of a rounded silhouette and a generally more comfortable feel. Neutral color palettes are often paired with abstract art and bold accessories.

Key Elements and Materials:

  • Geometric prints
  • Acrylics/ lucite accents

Rustic

A rustic style combines the rugged, earthy feel of wood and stone with the warmth and comfort of fireplaces and upholstered furniture pieces. Rustic elements are warm and cozy (nubby fabrics and wool throws).

Key Elements and Materials:

  • Stone accents and details
  • Relaxed linen and leather
  • Color palette that’s warm and earthy (reds, oranges, browns)
  • Unfinished iron details
  • Unfinished or weathered woods
  • Storage baskets

Farmhouse

The Farmhouse style is light and bright and more open. Often viewed as “breezy” in style. (White shiplap, pale linen and cotton, gingham and faded floral prints).

Key Elements and Materials:

  • Raw, whitewashed, and painted woods
  • Relaxed linen and cotton
  • Simple, unadorned silhouettes
  • Natural materials
  • Pale, nature-inspired palette (white, cream, robin’s-egg blue, pink, soft green)
  • Delicate florals, gingham, and ticking stripes

Transitional

Can’t decide between the elegant formality of a traditional style and the more casual vibe of contemporary design? Consider transitional style, which blends the two. The furniture features simple curves and straight lines; to give the room character, blend a variety of textures in a largely neutral color palette.

Key Elements and Materials:

  • Oversize patterns and medallions
  • Simple, streamlined silhouettes
  • Soft neutral palette (cream, beige, brown, gray)

Glam

Sometimes called Hollywood glamour or Hollywood Regency, this style incorporates luxe materials like velvet, marble, and gold. Jewel tones sit alongside animal prints; mirrored and metallic finishes aren’t limited to details but can cover the surfaces of large chests and tables. More is more: bold colors, gleaming accents, ornate details.

Key Elements and Materials:

  • Rich, jewel-tone colors
  • Velvets, satins and other luxe materials
  • Brass, chrome, gold and other metallic accents
  • Animal prints and hides
  • Marble, malachite and other stone elements
  • Mirrored pieces
  • Lucite details

Mid-Century Modern

A mid-century modern look is defined by super-clean lines and overall minimalism. The style utilizes many materials that were not traditionally used for furniture, including metal and molded plastic, which results in a sleek, functional aesthetic that still feels current and relevant today. Many of the most iconic furniture pieces in the world are of mid-century design, including Eames chairs and Saarinen tables.

Key Elements and Materials:

  • Simplistic silhouettes, largely straight lines with minimal curves
  • Turned or straight “peg” leg
  • Metal, glass, vinyl, fiberglass, plexiglass, and Lucite
  • Muted earthy tones mixed with bold pops of primary color
  • Shallow tufting
  • Geometric patterns

Bohemian

Bohemian style is about creating an eclectic, well-traveled look by mixing pieces with varying patterns, textures and styles. The color palette is bold and vibrant, with eye-catching prints. The textures are rich (sheepskin rugs, wool throws, leather and linen upholstery).

Key Elements and Materials:

  • Ikat, suzani and batik upholstery
  • Rattan, raffia and other organic materials
  • Bone-inlay furniture and accents
  • Leather, linen and wool elements
  • Sheepskin, hide and Moroccan-inspired rugs

Asian Influence

What most of us think of as Asian style is actually chinoiserie or japonaiserie—millennia of Eastern motifs and silhouettes filtered through a Western lens. Some of the most common elements are lacquered finishes, Ming-style legs resembling a Greek key and bamboo and silk accents. Blue and white porcelain, dark woods and flashes of red are also hallmarks of a classic East-meets-West palette.

Key Elements and Materials:

  • Ming-style furniture and pagoda-inspired silhouettes
  • Blue-and-white flora and fauna motifs, especially on porcelain
  • Bamboo accents
  • Garden stools
  • Ginger jars, foo dogs and dragons
  • Lacquered finishes

European Heritage

A subset of the Traditional style, European Heritage is feminine yet stately, elegant yet inviting. Louis-style chairs, sunburst mirrors and toile prints are some of the most common elements. Other accents: cabriole legs and exposed wood frames with carved details, whitewashed finishes, pale upholstery, woven rush seats and grain-sack pillows.

Key Elements and Materials:

  • Exposed carved-wood frames
  • Feminine silhouettes
  • Louis-style chairs, settees and sofas
  • Crystal and gilded accents
  • Antiqued mirrors
  • Pastel color palette
  • Linen, ticking, velvet and grain-sack fabrics
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