According to design industry consensus, there are upwards of 25 recognized interior design styles in the US.
It is estimated that there are at least another 60 distinctive and regional interior styles globally which differ from the most popular US styles.
The global total likely includes up to 100 regionally specific interior design styles.
In this article we are going to look at what affects our choice of interior decorative style. Besides discussing the geographical, historical and cultural factors, we will also talk about why some styles stick around so long.
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What affects our choice of interior design style?
Interior design does not exist in a vacuum.
In other words, interior designers and homeowners are usually responding to a variety of social, cultural and practical factors when coming up with plans for their home’s style and design aesthetic.
Geography and History
The first factor is geographically contextual
- Our physical location, where we happen to live plays the biggest role in influencing what we think of as “normal” and what is “avant garde”. Our location also probably most influences what we choose to emulate in our own homes
- Climate is another important factor, as it can affect what materials or products are practical and available in the first place
The second factor is historical
- History comes into play through the architectural qualities of the building in which a home is situated
- It may reveal itself through furnishings and decor which may hark from a much earlier time, but still manage to make their way into our millennial homes
Cultural and Personal Preferences
The third factor is cultural
- The distinctive culture of a society results in the market which responds to the needs and preferences of the population
- A home decor store in Dubai or Japan is going to have many unique products which reflect and expound on their respective local and traditional design influences and which differ from their western counterparts
- Meanwhile, an outdoor bazaar in Marrakech may sell many similar items today to what they’ve been producing for centuries because of their continued appeal
The fourth and last factor which affects our choice of interior decorating style is: our learned aesthetic preference
- The more you have read about architecture, design and art history the more influenced you will become by perspectives from outside of your own environment
- World travelers, too, may begin to feel freer to experiment and ‘adopt’ looks and practices from other cultures and regions which are actually totally alien to them
Regional Architectural Influence
When we talk about style, let’s not forget the role of the style of the architecture to the space. If your home has strong architectural features, this will ‘color’ the style you have in your home.
Your choice is to work with this factor or else to try to work around it.
Some architectural design “styles” naturally work in more than one context.
- For example, various coastal styles can be seen to have similarities across continents.
- The same holds true for homes in the mountains and other extreme terrain.
- In these types of interiors, the materials at hand contribute the most to the look and feel of the home, and embellishments tend to be added later.
Why do some styles stick around so long?
The reason some styles stick around may surprise you.
In my view it comes down to consumer psychology.
People tend to be nostalgic for their own culture as they age.
Thus, for as long as there is still some emotional demand for the cultural offerings of a historically successful design style, it will continue to be used.
Even as we are able to access the world from our mobile phones, (making it possible to bid on a vintage Christie’s lamp on 1st Dibs or eBay while we are at lunch!), what we are comfortable with actually living with is often that which reminds us of an earlier home.
The Trouble with Trying to ‘Audit’ International Styles
If we only consider “western” architectural and interior design history (and the well-established narrative of these fields), it is easier to arrive at an estimate for the number of interior design styles which can be agreed upon.
Americans, for example, are really good at “nailing down”, naming and popularizing regional decorating styles and sub-styles due to the large number of practicing decorators in the residential sector. They are also very visible online.
Many online publishers and websites are American-based.
A simple Google search tells me the most popular design styles by State.
That same information for most other parts of the world is scanty at best.
How the Media Influences Our Idea Of Interior Styles
It is largely thanks to the design industry (and design publications, in particular) that some of the styles we think of as being classic or international have been so widely adopted.
Today they are often implemented and celebrated across oceans and far from where they originated.
Because the style began as an adopted one and continues to be readopted, what we tend to conjure up as epitomizing that style may in reality veer way off the course of the design mark where it originated.
Have you ever asked a Swede what they think of ‘Scandi’ style?
Interior design culture is a slave to familiar fashion
The Rise of Global Styles
Scandinavian and classic traditional styles reign in Australia’s interior design magazine’s lists of best-loved “local” styles, I discovered.
If there is an Australian style (and I’m actually a huge fan!), it lives harmoniously alongside the imported styles, and the imported styles in turn take on a particularly Australian feel.
Design as Cultural Ambassador
On the other side of the world South African interior design magazines laud the same European and American styles so at home in Australia, interspersing some locally-flavored content for good measure.
Meanwhile in Malaysia and Chile, the same magazine content will hit shelves where it will be translated and attuned to local flavor.
There’s nothing wrong with this.
On the one hand, educating the world about style and promoting some excellent examples of common style vernacular help to make homes across the world more beautiful places.
It also goes hand in hand with tourism and international travel. As people, we tend to like the familiar, unless we are especially adventurous. For example, some feel comfortable arriving at a hotel lobby in Bangkok to find the same style of Neoclassical chairs that might grace the White House at home, or be found in a historic home by Robert Adams.
Comfort through familiarity is no doubt the reason that the hospitality industry traditionally keeps its looks so classic and vanilla: it’s easily palatable to visitors whatever their background.
New kids on the block
I’m always happy to see new styles making their way onto the design scene.
African Modern is one such example that I’m excited to see getting more attention.
It’s wonderful that we can celebrate other cultures and learn from their approach and relationship to beauty.
Interior design styles evolve the same way fashion does, albeit a little bit slower.
It is a constant evolution.
“Fashion comes and goes, but style remains.”Coco Chanel
I am making a personal project of compiling design styles by regions and countries as they come to light.
It is my hope that one day I can compile and categorize a better list than the ones I’ve found so far.
I have no doubt that we will only continue to be amazed, the more we learn.
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Interested in a round-up compilation of the 30 Major Design Styles?
Simply follow the links below:
Do You Know the 30 Major Design Styles?
30 Interior Decorating Boards for Easy Reference
Feel free to share your favorite resources for unusual interior design styles or share your personal experiences in the comments.
What would you like to see more of in the mainstream media?
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