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Home Decor Styles Decoded

How to Find Your Home Decor Style….And Why You Should Care.

I know, I know, I’m getting all Designer-y here. Most people go their whole lives without ever needing to define their decorating style. And that’s OK, unless you have ever attempted to redecorate a room or even buy a new piece of furniture. If you have ever set foot in a furniture store, wanting something simple like a new couch, then you know the choices can be downright overwhelming.

Perhaps a nice sales person approaches you, all smiles and business cards and, pleasantries aside, asks quite innocently, “What style were you looking for?”


“Style? I don’t know…comfortable?” you squeak, feeling slightly out of place.

She smiles condescendingly, and says, “They’re ALL comfortable.”

You then proceed to wander around indiscriminately, feeling more and more confused as you go, suddenly convinced that your couch at home is perfectly adequate.

Sound familiar? Then you suffer from a little known, and quite recently made up condition, called Decor Style Indecision. Don’t worry, it’s completely treatable, and requires very little therapy. In fact, I’m going to share with you the tools to conquer your DSI and face the furniture store once again. Admitting that you have a problem is the first step to recovery. Ready? Here we go.Know your style to save time, money, and sanity

You may not know it, but your home has a style. Phew, that’s a relief! And I’m willing to bet that it falls into one or more of the categories that I see most often:

  • Traditional
  • Contemporary
  • Modern
  • Transitional
  • Country
  • Eclectic

If you can identify the style(s) you like, you’ll save lots of:

  1. money – by buying the right things the first time,
  2. time – by only looking at the pieces that fit your style, and
  3. anxiety – by being able to converse knowledgeably with salespeople and feel confident you’re not being “sold” something that doesn’t suit you.

The good news is that it’s not too hard to define a style. The bad news is you probably have more than one style, and sometimes it can be hard to separate and identify them.

I feel like the best way to understand your style is by looking at pictures, rather than definitions. But just in case, I’m going to give you both below.

First, let me offer my disclaimer that style is subjective, just as beauty is in the eye of the beholder. These are my own definitions, written in everyday English, which means that probably every designer out there will disagree with some part of them. That’s OK with me. There are no hard and fast rules, merely suggestions to get you started looking in the right direction.


Traditional Style is marked by molding (crown molding, chair rail molding, etc.), muted historical colors, and classical furniture lines. Think greek urns, wingback chairs, and oriental rugs. Most people today who say they are traditional in style actually fall into the transitional category (coming up later). When you want Traditional style, Ethan Allen can be a good place to start.

A Traditionally Styled Living Room

Photo credit: coco+kelley / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0)


Contemporary Style and Modern Style (defined next) are often confused for each other, partly due to the similar names. I define Contemporary as clean lines, less wood and more metal, with blocks of intense color on clean grays, whites, and blacks. Think “Loft” style, with some Scandinavian (IKEA) influences.

A Contemporary Style Bedroom

Photo credit: Weidner Apartment Homes / Foter /Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)


Modern Style is defined differently by some people, but I keep it straight in my head by tacking on the phrase “mid-century” at the front. When you say Mid-Century Modern, you’re in the realm of Mad Men, the Jetsons, and all sorts of other iconic 50’s and 60’s images. Modern is similar to contemporary, but with a mid-century flair, rather than late century. (That’s 20th century for you young-uns.) This style is seeing a huge resurgence right now, with most stores carrying some modern pieces.

A Living Room in Modern Style

Photo credit: urbaneapts / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)


Transitional Style is like an updated Traditional. (Think “transitioning” from Traditional to Contemporary.) As a designer, when clients tell me they want traditional style, I ask a lot of questions because what they usually really want is Transitional. (Of course you can call it whatever you want, but I’m just giving you the tools to talk to the couch salesperson.) With Transitional, you see lines and framework that follows traditional influences, but with some contemporary colors and twists on fabrics thrown in. Pottery Barn and Restoration Hardware have some great examples of this style.

A Living Room in Transitional Style

Photo credit: Wicker Paradise / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)


Country Style is as diverse as there are countries in the world. Some of the subcategories that fall into this style are: Shabby Chic, French Country, and English Country. I won’t go into all the distinctions between each because they usually share the same characteristics of natural woods, creamy or sunny colors, and floral, gingham or natural fabrics. Flea market finds such as chippy dishes and antique figurines usually play into the decor as accessories.

A Country Style Dining Room

Photo credit: countrykitty / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)


Finally, Eclectic Style. I’ve saved this one for last because it’s the most misunderstood. When people tell me their style is Eclectic, what they usually mean is they like a little bit of everything and don’t want to be defined by one style. OK. That’s fair, and technically not a bad definition. However, I’d like to suggest that a true Eclectic style is not a hodge-podge, but a carefully curated collection of furniture, fabrics, colors, and accessories that reflect a sense of travel and world culture. You often see Moroccan and Bohemian influences, and exotic materials and patterns in true Eclectic rooms. You can’t just throw a bunch of castoff furniture together and call it Eclectic. Well, you could, but it wouldn’t help you when you try to find a wall color that ties everything together.

An Eclectically Styled Living Room

Photo credit: coco+kelley / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0)

I hope these definitions have cleared a few things up, or at least given you a starting place in defining your style. DSI (Decor Style Indecision) doesn’t have to ruin your life…er…shopping trip. Remember, rules are made to be broken, but it’s good for everyone to at least know the rules of the game first. Next time you set off to find a new couch, you can wow your salesperson by confidently jumping in with something along the lines of… “I’m looking for a transitional style couch in neutral tones to match my living room.” Then enjoy the ride as she takes you to see a small group of pieces that fit your needs, rather than trailing her all over the showroom like a lost puppy.

If I’ve raised more questions than I’ve answered, please let me know! I have a lot of experience in treating DSI – you don’t have to suffer alone. And don’t forget to check out Pinterest for more examples…

Debra Yearwood

Thursday 3rd of July 2014

So with full confidence I started reading this post, smug in the knowledge that I knew what style I was...WRONG. Thought I was traditional, but that formal room is far from me, guess what I was? Transitional (with a hints of country). Had a good laugh. BTW, since I'm now feeling completely predictable, LOVE the Pottery Barn. I can wander in there indefinitely. Restoration Hardware is where we got our switch plates. Just cause you might as well add to your list, Rejuvenation is where all the light fixtures in my kitchen (eventually the rest of the house) come from. :)

I will say this, I've never wandered into a furniture store unsure about what I wanted. When you live with a designer (graphic), you learn to be crystal about objectives BEFORE you get to the store. :)


Friday 4th of July 2014

I love it! Your comment just made my day. Especially the part about designers. :)

Lisa - A Merry Mom

Saturday 28th of June 2014

This is helpful. I love that you have a Pinterest board dedicated to decoding the styles! Thanks for sharing on the Merry Monday party.


Sunday 29th of June 2014

Thank you Lisa! I appreciate you stopping by to visit!


Friday 27th of June 2014

I love style decoders and yours was probably the best I've read! I like your pics but also how you mentioned specific stores attached to those styles. And it's good to hear I can have mixture because I have a hard time narrowing it down to one. :) I'm curious- of those listed, what is your style?


Friday 27th of June 2014

Oh and how would you categorize the book-page, burlap, lace, peonie, put-a-bird-on-it, repurpose-wood-pallets style that's so hip (or perhaps hipster?) these days? I have been thinking about that and can't decide between transitional, country and eclectic. Or a mix...?


Friday 20th of June 2014

The pictures used in the modern and contemporary categories are too good. In the weidner apartment(contemporary) pic,the three wall pictures above the bed compliments the theme so well. Adding a suitable wall photo adds to the beauty of the room.


Saturday 21st of June 2014

Good eye, Tuhin! We'll make a designer out of you yet. :)

Julie Corbisiero

Friday 20th of June 2014

Thanks so much for stopping by my blog and the nice comment on the marinated chicken. Thanks for the nice post and have a nice weekend. Julie


Friday 20th of June 2014

Thanks Julie! Nice to meet you...


Creating a color-filled life. Conquering my little world one DIY project at a time. With lots of coffee and chocolate. Albuquerque NM. Pinterest ~ Instagram ~ Facebook