Interior Design 101: Our 6 Most Popular Design Styles Defined

ProSource | 3/7/2017 | Expert Advice

When you picture your dream home, what comes to mind? Is the space open and airy or cozy and inviting? Does it feature classic or modern lines? Would it include loads of color or simple neutral hues? If you were to list the fundamental characteristics of your ideal space, you’d soon discover that they come together in a specific design style.

Here, we elaborate on the six most popular styles trending on The next time you hear terms like “transitional” or “rustic” or need to know the difference between “modern” and “contemporary,” you’ll have a solid vision and understanding of what they mean. Armed with that knowledge, you’re ready to plan, shop, and create that space you’ve always wanted!

Transitional – A Perfect Blend of Traditional And Contemporary Styles

Transitional design style

“Transitional style steers clear of formal and stuffy without necessarily being casual,” says Liz Toombs, owner and president of Polka Dots & Rosebuds Interiors in Kentucky. This is the style most often requested by Toombs’ clients “because it allows them to play with elements from various other design styles and not be pigeon-holed.”

Larry Green of Case Design/Remodeling Indianapolis agrees and says, “The seamless blend of the two design aesthetics is characterized by simplicity and a timeless feel.” Use this style in the kitchen or living areas, pulling in defining materials such as iron and wood.

The bedroom above is an excellent example of transitional design. It has a classic appeal without feeling too conventional; and it’s grand, but not pompous. The monochromatic color scheme is anchored by creamy, neutral carpeting that sets a calm tone from the bottom up.

ProSource offers thousands of products, from lustrous chrome faucets to striking white carpeting, that meet the definition of “transitional.” Visit our Room Inspiration page to view amazing projects completed by ProSource members from all across North America. Simply select the room you’re designing, choose a budget, click “Transitional,” and get inspired!

Modern – Shiny, Sharp, Minimalistic Style

Modern design style
While the two styles are often confused, “the modern aesthetic is a bit more industrial than contemporary style and often incorporates clean shapes and surfaces,” explains Greene. Modern is particularly popular in kitchens and bathrooms, as well as on home exteriors. 

Pulling in elements such as sleek laminate floors and steel accents, modern design exudes coolness. “Think Jetsons,” says Toombs. “Silhouettes are sharp and can be funky, and the use of glass and silvery metals is prevalent.”

The gorgeous modern bathroom pictured above maintains clean, simple lines but is anything but boring. The deep dark cabinetry stands out brilliantly amid the glass tile and shower. Get a similar dramatic look at incredible wholesale prices with Teagan slab cabinets, brushed nickel cabinet pulls, and stunning mosaic tile from ProSource Wholesale. 

Traditional – A Classic, Formal Style 

Traditional design style

“Traditional style incorporates a lot of rich wood tones and deep colors that can make a space feel more formal,” says Toombs. Characteristics include ornate finished wood, oriental rugs, tapestry fabrics and upholstery, and significant draperies or window coverings. 

Greene incorporates traditional design in formal dining and sitting areas. “Furnishings are placed in formal arrangements that invite a certain flow of activity,” he explains. “Pieces and fabrics are usually meticulously matched.” 

Dan Moyer, Jr., national director of social media for Closet Factory, says that most furniture nowadays is made of pressed, engineered wood. “Incorporating real, high-quality wood furniture reminiscent of the 1950s can help achieve a traditional look,” he says.

Moyer encourages homeowners to reinforce the theme by selecting pieces, such as cabinets, made of clean polished walnut, oak, or rosewood. ProSource’s line of solid wood cabinets is impressive and provides the perfect start to a room with truly traditional style. 

Contemporary – Clean Lines That Reflect Design’s Most Current Trends

Contemporary design style
“Contemporary describes the design of the 20th century that isn’t quite as architectural and geometric as you would find in modern style,” says Greene. Start with hardwood flooring, and add glass elements via backsplashes, tables, and décor. 

This design style is current and relevant. A contemporary kitchen, for example, might display the latest trend of combining three or more colors in one space. (A pre-2016 contemporary kitchen, on the other hand, would have featured no more than two colors.)

The room featured above includes a spectacular combination of dark brown, white, and pale green cabinets. The sleek, marble island and the quartz countertops are beautifully complemented by the silvery accents of the appliances, bar stools, faucets, hardware, and pendant lights.   

Coastal – Tranquil, Sea-Inspired Design

Coastal design style
“As the name suggests, coastal style is inspired by the ocean,” says Toombs. You’ll often see a blend of tranquil sea colors – blue, aqua, white, tan, cream – complemented by whitewashed or gray-washed woods that resemble driftwood.

Toombs incorporates “woven materials such as sisal rugs, banana-leaf baskets, and seagrass wallcoverings” in coastal rooms, while Greene utilizes “stucco, tile, and painted wood in open, breezy floorplans.”  

ProSource offers thousands of marine-inspired materials, from colorful porcelain tiles to beachy resilient flooring. Scoop up your coastal design elements at wholesale prices!

Rustic – Pulling Elements From Nature In Their Raw Form

Rustic design style

Nothing defines pure rustic styling better than a log cabin. Picture slate floors, reclaimed wooden furniture, and metals with a patina finish. “This style puts an emphasis on natural textures and materials and often goes hand-in-hand with a cozy, warm aesthetic,” says Greene.

Megan Carolan is not a certified interior designer, but she is a “self-proclaimed home décor obsessee.” She loved the idea of incorporating a farmhouse style but was compelled to make it her own with some modern touches.

“I kept hearing the same phrase – rustic chic – from everyone who saw it,” she says. “We modernized our otherwise rustic space with gold accessories like cabinet hardware, light fixtures, and wallpaper.” Carolan said these modern touches helped refine the reclaimed wood beams that defined the open space. 

What’s Your Design Personality?

It’s easy to be swayed by any (or all) of the styles defined above, but what’s right for you? We’ve rounded up six super-simple ways to determine which style is the best fit for your home. You may find that you’re both rustic and contemporary (check out how fabulous they look together!) or that you are a true traditionalist through and through.

Before you begin, make sure you’ve created an online account. Then you’ll be able to keep all of your inspiration in one place – right on your myProSource project board – to share with friends, families, and even potential contractors and design pros. It takes just a free account to get started! Let us know what style you choose!

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