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There is no one way to design a room, nor one style that is best for any space. Good design is personal. Good rooms are livable, conveying the sense that the person who designed them made thoughtful aesthetic judgments about the elements within the space—these rooms are harmonious without being predictable or slavishly following one particular look.
Great rooms evolve as we live in them, reflecting the stories of our lives. But before you can design such rooms, you need to understand both the definitions of different interior styles and the main principles of design. This means gaining basic knowledge of the elements present in different design styles. By understanding these definitions and principles, you’ll understand why certain spaces naturally appeal to you. Applying these principles in every space—including the kitchen—will help you to create rooms that are exciting to look at, pleasing to be in, and welcoming to family and friends.
Understanding the basic components of the three major “master” styles will help you lay the underpinnings for a well-designed room that reflects your personality and taste. Although there are a seemingly unlimited number of highly specific design styles that can be incorporated into a space, a case can be made that they all evolved from one of the following three styles: traditional, modern, and transitional.
Without a doubt, traditional style remains at the top of America’s popularity chart for home design. Gracious and inviting, traditional design evokes images of understated elegance and the grand style of the 18th and 19th centuries. It offers the warmth and classical comfort many of us remember from our childhood homes, which helps keep it at the forefront of favorite design styles. Within the “traditional” designation, you’ll find specific styles, such as classic, colonial, Tuscan, and country.
- CHOOSE COLORS WISELY: Softer colors, such as blue and terracotta, impart a fresh and relaxed approach to traditional style. If you prefer a more formal traditional palette, select jewel-tone colors with gold and silver accents.
- PAIR OLD WITH NEW: Rustic flooring, wood furnishings, statement backsplashes and painted cabinetry can be used together successfully and key to achieving the best possible traditional look. Look for styles and colors that complement interesting lighting and architectural details.
- ACCESSORIZE BUT AVOID CLUTTER: Today’s most successful and elegant traditional interiors keep accessories to a minimum. Keep useful accessories, like books and plants, but don’t add too many.
- ADD A LITTLE DETAIL: Caning accents and upholstered furniture pieces, unique lighting and unexpected architectural elements such as ironwork and ceiling treatments bring personality to a traditional space. Highlighting these special touches creates a sense of warmth and reflects the homeowner’s attention to detail.
When people hear the term “modern,” they often think “cold.” And although they want a modern environment, they still want a space that is warm and inviting. Fortunately, a streamlined modern interior can also be luxurious and inviting, layered with classic elements full of texture and interest. If modern seems too broad a decorating concept, remember that specific styles such as art deco, retro, minimalist, and contemporary can be considered modern. A classic modern design is often as much sculptural as it is functional. Monochromatic walls and architecturally clean lines encourage an overall sense of simplicity and orderliness. Contemporary elements work so well with today’s casual, more eclectic direction that the overall feel is comfortable and uncomplicated.
- INCLUDE SOME SHINE: Deep-toned rooms can come to life with shine: the glimmer and reflection of glass and metal. You can achieve this effect by using a series of mirrors or polished surfaces in tones-of-white as well.
- ADD ACCESSORIES: Modern does not have to mean bare. You can make any space personal with books, dramatic backsplashes, art, and family photographs.
- KEEP COMFORT AND FUNCTION IN MIND: A modern style is a functional style. Deep-seated upholstery pieces, luxurious fabrics, well-placed lighting, and other accoutrements of comfort and enjoyment can be included in a modern design.
- THINK ABOUT LIGHT: Modern lighting features incorporate both shine and rich, fluted wood tones. Metals, such as brushed steel, evoke a sense of the contemporary. The quieter sheens of polished wood and leather can be reflected in the warm glow of candlelight.
Transitional style is a marriage of traditional and contemporary furniture, finishes, materials, and fabrics. The result is an elegant, enduring design that is both comfortable and classic. Because of their simple design, Asian, Shaker, and Mission-style furnishings are often a nice match for transitional interior design. Whereas traditional and modern schemes may introduce a few opposing elements in their designs, transitional style strikes the perfect balance between the two. Through its simple lines, neutral color scheme, and use of light and warmth, transitional style joins the best of both the traditional and modern worlds. The simple yet soft furniture style creates a room that is not too manly and not too frilly, making it comfortable for all. Color palettes are very subtle, with an emphasis on ivory, beige, and tan, creating a scheme that is relaxing and uncomplicated. Warm brown to chocolate wood tones are typically the only deep tones used. With transitional design, flooring is neutral; soft-colored carpets or wood floors in warm tones are generally used.
- CHOOSE FABRICS WISELY: The straightforward fabrics used in transitional interior design make up for their lack of color with an abundance of texture and pattern. The texture combinations can range from uneven to smooth fabrics, with most rooms receiving a balanced mixture of several textures. Patterns are usually tone-on-tone designs or small-scale graphic elements.
- LOOK FOR TEXTURE: Because flooring is neutral, the texture in woods, natural stone, carpets and rugs is important. Rustic reclaimed woods and sisal rugs are popular choices for this style.
- KEEP ACCESSORIES SIMPLE: Tasteful signature pieces are displayed without much fanfare. Try using a single dramatic floral stem or leaf in a chunky modern glass vase. The metal of choice, for frames as well as accessories and fixtures, is brushed brass, nickel or silver.
Now it’s your turn—which style speaks to you and your ideal space?
By Kerrie Kelly, FASID, NKBA