How to Define Your Design Style for Your Home

Are You Traditional, Transitional or Contemporary?

Many of my clients have difficulty describing and expressing their preferred design style.  Sometimes it is hard to know what the terms Traditional, Transitional and Contemporary mean, especially when shelter magazines talk about “the New Traditional” or “updated Traditional”.


Traditional and classic fireplace and bookcase design for Chicago North Shore living room

A classical fireplace design, combinations of different patterns both in fabric, tile and accessories, together with a wing chair with curved arms, makes this living room unmistakably traditional.


Bedroom design with upholstered bed and modern table lamp
Contemporary bedroom design by TDF Interiors

Here in this bedroom design, the repeating square shapes and clean lines of the nightstand and bed, portray a very contemporary look.


Defining Your Style

Does it even matter whether you fit into one of these categories when you see featured, beautifully designed homes with a mix of modern furniture and antiques?


Modern chair with antique table
Here is a clever mix of modern and traditional design; mixing the old with the new.

A careful balance is achieved in the above design between the traditional elements (the table and patterned rug) and the modern chair and artwork.  Using white as a backdrop and for the classical sculpture as well as the chair unites the pieces together.

There is a lot more to defining your style than deciding whether you fit into one of the three main categories, Traditional, Transitional and Contemporary.

Ask yourself, do you like;

  • shiny glossy surfaces and sparkling details
  • curvacious shapes or linear, geometric shapes
  • organic textures and heavily grained wood
  • decorative details, carving and embellishments
  • classical moldings, columns and architectural details
  • pattern

These are the more important questions to ask when deciding on a style for your home.


Consider the Architectural Style of Your Home

The other most important factor to consider is the architectural style of the house itself.  Surprisingly, if your home is very traditional and classical in the style of its windows, exterior details and interior architectural moldings, then it is easier to design your home in a modern style.  Those architectural details add visual interest and an extra layer of detail which forms a backdrop for the clean, paired down style of modern furniture.


Traditional home with modern living room design
Modern furniture in a traditionally styled home with architectural and decorative moldings details

Many newer homes are not built with the architectural details that give so much character.  However, these can be added in the form of crown moldings, chair rails, built in cabinetry, fireplace mantels and paneling. If your style is more traditional, then consider adding these details so that your home does not look out of character with your choice of furniture.


Define Your Style in a Different Way

It is often more helpful to try to find a connection to a design style that is recognized based on a region, place or historical period, such as coastal style or English style.  Here is a directory of styles that is very useful for identifying characteristics which reflect your own unique preferences.


Coastal style living room in pale colors
Coastal style has a relaxed feeling with a soft, light color scheme. Design by TDF Interiors


Whatever you feel is closest to the look you would like to achieve, look for balance and remember to mix in some of your personal keepsakes for an authentic feel.