November 27, 2022
"The details are not the details. They make the design." – Charles Eames. Creating attractive spaces that anticipate the needs of users relies on several factors: scale, circulation, functionality, and comfort. However, the past few decades have proved that the visual appeal of a project is also greatly important, and can make or break the interior space. In this interior focus, we will explore the aesthetic side of interior design, looking at popular styles across the world and how architects and designers use elements such as color, furniture, accessories, and finishes to define their spatial identity.
There is often a confusion between interior architecture and interior design, as they do tend to overlap occasionally. Interior architects tackle the technical stages of a project; they work on structural renovations, the spatial organization and functionality of a space, the circulation of users, and ensuring that the building structure and codes promote a safe and habitable living space. Interior designers and decorators, on the other hand, are more about aesthetics. They are in charge of creating visually-pleasing and meticulous designs within existing structures. Similar to architecture, each era saw a unique interior style. Streamline Modern for instance, which first appeared in France in the 1920's, was characterized by rich colors, bold geometric shapes, and lavish ornamentation. Whereas Mid-century Modern, the American design movement that rose to popularity in the United States' post–World War II period, featured designs that were rooted in functionality, clean lines, and simplicity, using materials such as wood, metal, and glass.
Read on to learn more about the visual characteristics of trending interior styles and how they've been employed by architects through 22 projects from our database.
Contemporary interior design is perhaps one of the most commonly-used styles over the past couple of decades, notably due to its timeless features. The style is known for its use of sleek and smooth surfaces, refined furniture selection, and avant-garde art pieces within a neutral, black, or white color scheme. Often dubbed as "ultramodern spaces", contemporary-designed interiors are filled with streamlined materials, integration of wood, marble, and metallics, contrasted with bright and bold colors of wall art, lighting fixtures, or accent furniture pieces.
Inspired by refurbished factories, particularly after the Industrial Revolution, the industrial style is identified by its bare and effortless philosophy of exposing architectural elements like pipes, brick, concrete wall surfaces, and beams. It is believed that the industrial style gained popularity in the late 1990's - early 2000s when dense urban areas were facing housing shortages. That, in addition to economical crises, inspired people to convert old factories into loft apartments, keeping the structural elements exposed and making use of its open floor plan and large windows. Along with the open floor plan, this interior design style is often accompanied with a neutral color palette, and embellished with a blend of rustic materials in furniture and pendant lighting to contrast the rawness of the space.
Nordic countries are globally known for their design characteristics, so much so that they have their own design style, the Scandinavian design. This minimalistic style uses a blend of textures and muted hues, such as taupe, ivory, and sage, to create sleek and contemporary décor that exudes a sense of warmth and coziness. This style is further emphasized with clean lines, and simple-yet-functional furniture pieces and fixtures, as well as an abundance of natural light. Another prominent feature is sharp contrasts, particularly with color palettes. It is very common to see an all-white dining room contrasted with an all-black sculpture or black and white photography, creating a subtle yet bold statement.
Asian Zen interior design is a style that emphasizes a sense of harmony, calmness, and simplicity. At the very core of Zen décor is a sense of tranquility rather than a focus specific features, which is why designers often prioritize finding what works for the client personally instead of following generic schemes. Nature is a focal point within Asian Zen interiors, so the color palettes and material selection such as wood, sand, and rattan usually revolve around natural elements to reinforce this connection between human and Earth. With that, plants, rocks, pebbles, and water features are elemental, promoting a sense of relaxation and connection to the outdoor world. It also important to note that walking barefoot is a prominent cultural aspect of Asian households so choose flooring solutions should encourage doing so without slipping. Other design features include the use of sliding doors, low rise platform beds and seating areas, screens, and partitions.
Japandi is the intersection of Scandinavian and modern Japanese interior design, sharing the same minimalist design principles, with a focus on warmth, comfort, natural elements, and muted color palettes. Japandi is currently one of the most popular and sought-after style by designers. Some of the notable characteristics used in Japanese designs include natural fibers like bamboo and rattan, furniture made from natural materials, and pottery, balanced with sleek lines and warm hues for a modern aesthetic. In Scandinavian homes, on the other hand, color palettes are dominated with shades of grays, white, and black, with the occasional neutral tones and metallic accents. Unlike Japanese interiors, Scandinavian designs employ a mix of materials such as leather and knits to create a casual, cozy, and effortless aesthetic. Once combined, modern Japanese and Scandinavian interior design create the timeless Japandi aesthetic.
Organic modernism, also known as Biophilic interior design embraces the characteristics of biophilic architecture, taking advantage of daylight, natural color schemes, and abundant integration of greenery, blurring the lines between engineered, man-made structures and the natural environment. Inspired by nature, organic design trends promote natural forms through the material selection and furnishing, the weaving of interior and exterior spaces, and natural materials such as wood and brick. Other characteristics include minimal ornamentation, light organic forms, muted hues, translucent materials, and open floor plans.
A big sum of designers, regardless of their specialized field, recycle trends while creating new products. Similarly in interior design, styles that were prominent decades ago, such as Art Deco and Art Nouveau, have found their way back into the modern design scene. But in order to blend with today's modern aesthetic, interior designers reimagine old styles in a contemporary context, such as through the use of contemporary materials or color palettes. This revival can be seen in the form of vibrant color palettes, bold geometric patterns, brassy fit-outs, or vintage furniture pieces, finding inspiration from the second half of the 20th century.
Farmhouse interiors prioritize practicality and simplicity with a rustic, rural charm. Although this style is often linked to architecture in countryside houses, it has recently found its way into urban contexts, promoting comfort and creating a an effortless look that feels raw, cozy, and trendy simultaneously. Excessive use of timber elements and white-washed finishes are the most characteristic of this style, along with mismatched fixtures; vintage sofas and antiques are complimented with contemporary chairs or textiles.
Inspired by the serene, sunny, and classic atmospheres of countries around the Mediterranean sea, this interior style is a reinterpretation of summer beach villas. Mediterranean designs are characterized by light and warm tones, contrasted with shades of blue and green to represent the sun, sea, and lush plantations. Extensive use of natural materials such as ceramics, wood, fibers, and wrought iron are also heavily seen in such projects, along with ornamented tiling that characterize the flora found in Mediterranean countries, and floods of natural sunlight.
The perfect embodiment of "good big or go home", a maximalist or eclectic style is often a combination of all kinds of interior design styles and periods organized within one interior space. These styles, which rarely follow any design rule, take a "more-is-more" approach, employing vibrant colors, bold patterns, graphics, avant-garde shapes, and an abundance of details, to make a strong and playful statement. As for how to create a maximalist or eclectic space, opt for expressive, bold patterns and colors, and layer textures and materials. Ornament the space with artwork and unique furniture pieces from different design eras, and organize them around the space in whichever layout desired. For a more "balanced" interior scheme, choose complementary colors, shapes, and arrangements so that the space doesn't feel too messy.
Using modernist architecture as a foundation, minimalist interior design uses the bare essentials to create a simple and clean space. It's characterized by a monochromatic color palette, functionality, lack of ornamentation, and clean lines, embodying the "less is more" approach. These spaces often incorporate an open floor plan, an abundance of natural light, and sleek furniture that is durable and comfortable.
Find more interior projects in this My ArchDaily folder created by the author.
This article is part of an ArchDaily series that explores features of interior architecture, from our own database of projects. Every month, we will highlight how architects and designers are utilizing new elements, new characteristics and new signatures in interior spaces around the world. As always, at ArchDaily, we highly appreciate the input of our readers. If you think we should mention specific ideas, please submit your suggestions.