What is Your Design Style?

I thought I’d round up a post today full of images of different design styles or aesthetics. Sometimes people have a mix of styles in their homes, sometimes they lean one way in one house and another in the next house, sometimes people have a very specific look they love. So often I hear from friends and family that they really like X-style or their home is X-style and then I visit and what I see is really Y-style. It can be hard to define your personal style! Especially because design styles can change and evolve as you age, go in an out of popular vogue, or be dependent on the house you’re living in!

It’s best to try to avoid mixing too many styles in one home as it can look chopped up and disjointed. When you move to a new home or space, having an concrete idea of what look you want can be so helpful in designing your space, which is why I rounded up every style I could think of in one big comprehensive post!

Mid Century Millennial

via Loving Quarters

My friend Emma, who founded a design firm specializing in apartment design here in Portland, really knows how to rock this style. Mid Century Millennial — as I like to call it — is hot right now. This is a style a lot of young people are pulling together in their homes. As Mid Century Modern furniture came out of their grandparents’ homes and was rejected by their parents, Millennials have started a huge push to pick up these pieces from various thrift shops. Soon, so many people were craving the Mid Century look, it started being created again and sold at popular stores like West Elm. This style is very trendy, but I think we will continue to see it reign popular amongst young people for the next 5-10 years. Mid Century Millennial style usually incorporates several Mid Century Modern accents like peg legs, saturated colors, knock-off Eames dining chairs, hairpin legs, or globe lighting. It then mixes in more contemporary items like colorful shag rugs, acrylic tables, playful art, and a whole lot of plants. This style hollers, “FUN! YOUNG! PLAYFUL!” and the best part is: these rooms never fail to put a smile on your face!


This is my style, my personal favorite. I often joke that my style is “Grandma,” but what I really mean by that is: traditional. This style can be high or low. You’ll see high traditional design like the image above all over House Beautiful magazine and Architectural Digest. Those homes are millions and millions of dollars. In my house or other bloggers like the Makerista (her amazing Library below!), you can see a modern take on affordable traditional design with lots of thrifted and DIY’ed pieces. Regardless of whether it’s high or low design (and I really mean that as $$, not that it’s lacking in design at all!), traditional style often encompasses carved and turned legs, saturated colors (though more subdued palettes are also quite common!), brass and black accents, mixed patterns, and interesting shapes. Traditional style may be incredibly eclectic with patterns, furnishings, and influences from a variety of cultures or more straight-laced and European.


Transitional style is like traditional’s more calm cousin. They’re related, but transitional is just a bit more clean lined and subdued. It became increasingly more popular starting in the 80’s and continues to be a favorite today. Here we see straight legs and more crisp lines in furniture. Patterns appear rarely on entire furnishings, but frequently on pillows and other accessories. Transitional design often has a more subdued color palette and today makes frequent use of grey upholstery and dark or black wood tones. Popular are chrome and satin finished silver metals as well as crisp white trimwork and accents.

Mid Century Modern

For this style, think Mad Men, think Design Within Reach. This is the dawn of experimentation with furniture shapes and styles, the start of what we think of as contemporary design. This is where so many of the furniture designer icons got their fame. This style is beloved by it’s followers and carefully collected from antique shops and thrift stores. Think classic designers, big windows, open concept homes, lots of texture, natural colors, and play on geometrics. Clean lines, metal tubes, mid-tone woods, brass, chrome, and nickel are all favored here.

California Casual

Design: Amber Lewis, via

This is one of the newer styles to come out in recent years and it is BLASTING onto the scene with amazing designers like Amber Lewis just killing it left and right. As the name suggests, this style came out of California (specifically Southern California) and promotes an indoor / outdoor lifestyle. This style epitomizes casual, but expensive comfort and was popularized by Southern California celebrities. A limited color palette dominated by varying tones of neutrals with subtle accent colors is a must. Natural fibers like linens, wools, and cottons are popular and pattern is limited primarily to accent pieces like ottomans and pillows as well as area rugs. Patterns are usually classic or tribal inspired and while colorful, always subtle and subdued. Light woods and black accents dominate this style. Plants are a must, but no more than one or two in a room. Interesting and unusual statement furnishings or lighting is key to this design style.

Design: Amber Lewis, via

Modern Victorian

Emily Henderson and her team first called out the rise of this design style just last year and I love it almost as much as I love traditional design. This would be my style if I was a little bit cooler and a little bit more modern. Alas, I am what I am, so I’ll just have to drool over this in my spare time. This style is epitomized by high drama, deep colors, and lots of contrast. To create the Victorian base, you need mouldings, LOTS of mouldings! Frequently you see this where the mouldings and walls are all painted the same saturated hue (just like I did in my bathroom!). The traditional backdrop of elaborate mouldings is then contrasted with contemporary furniture, often in fun jewel tones. You see lots of mixed metallics, bold florals, high contrasting tones, fringe, black accents, statement lighting, and tufted furniture in this style.

Modern Minimalism

This style is very yuppie tech, but not in a bad way. It’s clean, clean, clean and oh, so simple. It’s all about appreciating a few good pieces and letting them speak for themselves with out excessive clutter or accessories. It’s pretty much the opposite of my style! The foundation of this design aesthetic is a simple, subdued color palette. Comfort is important and you’ll frequently see oversized sectionals. Black or silver accents dominate and brass is a rarity. There is a huge emphasis on geometrics and tone-on-tone color play. High end rooms in this style frequently feature stunning, unique furniture pieces that create a statement without the use of pattern or color.

Modern Farmhouse

Design: Magnolia, via

You’ve seen this style explode lately as HGTV’s extremely popular Fixer Upper launched the career of Joanna Gaines and modern farmhouse aesthetic. Although it’s existed for many years, Fixer Upper really brought it to the forefront of new home design. It is now everywhere! This style is characterized by shiplap or other simple wall mouldings, white paint, neutral furniture, black accents, rustic wood beams, black windows, and rustic country accents. While similar to California Casual, this style has a more of a deep south flair and frequently includes old signage, collections of found objects, and a mix of furniture styles. Studio McGee have streamlined and raised the modern farmhouse style to new heights, bringing in a simple elegance to their spaces. Leather accents, lanterns or open frame lighting, industrial antiques, black accents, metalwork, and subtle use of color are all key elements of this design style

Design: Studio McGee, via

Classic Country


This is modern farmhouse’s older sister, a more classic country style that’s been around for one hundred years, country farmhouse really dives back to it’s more traditional, casual roots. Here the lines are less clean, the metals less black, and the rooms more colorful that modern farmhouse designs. You’ll see more traditional furniture pieces, curved legs, a tapered lampshade. These spaces tend to be contain more furniture and accessories and look over-filled in the coziest ways. You will not find industrial accents in a classic country home. Gallery walls, slip covers, classic patterns, and stone accents reign supreme in this style. Rustic furniture pieces or beams are a must.



Coastal is tricky because you can realistically take any of the other styles I’ve mentioned and clean up the styling, add more white and blue, and make it a coastal style. Coastal style should stay where it’s intended: on the coast. If you’re more than 50 miles from the ocean, stay away from this design aesthetic, even in the bathrooms! Traditional coastal design incorporates lots of woven textures, jute, sisal, rope, lots of stripes, and the occasional nautical accessory. It doesn’t have to be all blue and white though, envision a pink Florida living room inspired by the classic neon flamingo! More contemporary coastal design (like this image below, which I love!) is all about chrome, mirrors, acrylic, and glass. It can still be plenty colorful, but it tends to contain more clean lined furniture and limit it’s color palette.



Design: Justina Blakely, via

This is a such a fun style that’s hitting it big in Southern California and the Southwest of the USA. It’s an amalgamation of varying cultural styles that emphasizes color, pattern, fun, and maximalist tendencies. Every piece of furniture in a bohemian designed space makes a statement and has a fun, unique flair. Justina Blakely of the Jungalow is the queen of the Bohemian style and has even written two books on how to master this aesthetic! Color is important in this style, layer it on! Spaces should be filled with pattern, found object accessories, lots of various cultural pieces from around the world, SO MANY PLANTS, and heavy textures. Have fun with this one. It really is a blast!


Mission / Spanish / Mexican Style

Design: Orlando Sorio, via

Again popular in California and the Southwest, these style comes directly from the Spanish colonial influences in these areas. Spain itself incorporates a lot of varying cultural entities in it’s own architecture and design and these styles draw from that type of complexity. While there are differences in Spanish, Mission, and Mexican styles, they are often very similar and hard to distinguish in newly designed spaces. Mission style (above) is often the most simple, incorporating lots of white walls, natural fibers, and black accents. It can be colorful, but is often more restrained and simple. Spanish style (below) in contrast is more colorful with Moroccan influences and various intricately patterned pieces, with bold styling.


Mexican style in the US (see below) draws from the wonderful culture of our southern neighbors and emphasizes South American influences over Afro-European styles, the patterns tend to be even more boldly colorful and slightly more simple. I love these design aesthetics in Spanish / Mission / Mexican architecture style homes as well as in mid-century homes! It’s one of my personal favorites since I grew up in a Mission style home.



This is a classic American design aesthetic, just as the name suggests. It’s a blend of traditional with country farmhouse and it’s just lovely! This design features the classic red, white, and blue color scheme of the USA and cleaner lined traditional furniture, often Shaker style or Amish made. Patterns used are classic: plaids, stripes, checkered, gingham, or polka dots. It can sometimes be difficult to strike the right balance to keep this bold color scheme looking classic, rather than as if the 4th of July threw up in your room, but this is where lots of subtle texture and use of layered neutrals comes in. You can see lots of blacks or brass metals, though sometimes silver tones also make an appearance. Old portraits, slipcovers, antiques, and classic quilts are all mainstays of this design style. Wall textures like beadboard, v-groove, or wainscotting are all important aspects of this aesthetic.


This style became steadily more popular in the last twenty years as the urge grew to return to simplicity after the 80’s and 90’s. Recently it’s been overtaken by California Casual style which draws a lot from this aesthetic. This style is all about neutrals and layered whites. It’s a quite style with a hint of rusticity. It’s not IKEA cookie cutter, but rather layered style, layering in a number of classic mid-century modern pieces as well as contemporary furnishings. Accessorizing is minimal and color is rare. Accents of black, charcoal, and grey create interest and contrast in each space. It’s a light look, with emphasis on windows, texture, and blonde wood tones.

Design: Emily Henderson, via

Whew! That’s a lot of styles in one post, ey? Did you figure out which one embodies your own personal style? Let me know your personal favorite in the comments below! Is your favorite style the same one as your home or is it different?

6 thoughts on “What is Your Design Style?

  1. The great thing about an article like this is that when you like multiple things you can start to think it’s hopeless to pick one. Then you see a list like this and realize you hate 95% of it. So really, everything that you like is within a fairly similar scope and just by choosing things you like, your style will be cohesive and “you.”

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