Trends come and go, but style is forever. This famed fashion adage not only applies to how you adorn your body, but also your home. By having a keen sense of interior style, you’re far more likely to build an aesthetically fulfilling and cohesive home. This doesn’t mean your home has to be static, strict or singular, however – we say mix, match, change and innovate until you find the ambiance that most enlivens your inner interior designer.
To help locate your interior sensibility, here are twelve major interior design styles, told through two newsletters and the art they lend themself too. Whether illuminating a design philosophy, era or aesthetic, art is an essential artery in building the perfect home. It injects depth, meaning and story into what could otherwise be just a stylish set. So here’s our rundown on interior design style and the art that elevates each.
Minimalism is defined by what it lacks. As the name suggests, it trades in minor notes – clean simple lines, a neutral colour palette, and sleek and simple architecture. This is not about being plain or austere, but rather curating a space where everything serves an aesthetic or functional purpose. Think of Kim Kardashian West and Kanye West’s monastic mansion. At its best, minimalist homes are themselves a kind of sculpture or art installation.
The art most suited to a minimalist mindset is abstract and modern – refined, thoughtful and in excellent taste.
The industrial style flows from a home’s location or heritage. It is perhaps most native to the converted warehouse. Working with the space’s natural character, industrial homes may contain exposed brick, untreated wood and metal, exposed ceiling beams, metal or naked light fixtures. Functional, non-decorative furniture populates the expansive cavity.
To take the edge off, art is essential to industrial homes. Hang black and white photography or abstract imagery for a touch of personality.
Just as industrial interior design takes its lead from the building, coastal homes invite the outdoors in. Typically set by the sea, coastal homes are characterized by laidback interiors and free-flowing living areas. They can range from the more luxurious Hamptons look – weatherboards, white, grey and navy – to a more Spanish vibe. While the latter trades in natural timbers, rattan and splashes of bright colour, both typically embrace natural fibers, wicker, greenery and seaside inspired homewares.
Since coastal homes are all about the sea, the art ought to be too. Think beach scenes and sea-views.
Just like a bohemian dresser, bohemian homes buck any single set of aesthetic rules. They patchwork together vintage furniture, cushions, rugs and knick-knacks sourced from around the world. A bold sense of eclecticism runs through bohemian homes – old merges with new, opulent meets op-shop, tales weave between objects, telling of the inhabitant’s life.
Since bohemian homes eschew any dogmatism, the art you hang can be whole-heartedly personal. Seek out imagery that tells a story or was a story to acquire.
Along with its sister aesthetic, French provincial, country cottage homes are signified by earthy tones and an abundance of timber. Fresh-cut flowers and cost textures sing of farmhouses, countryside getaways and simple living. Time-worn homewares like porcelain plates, embroidered cushions and floral fabrics pepper the space. Perhaps a storied wooden table sits as the home’s heart.
Like a French it-girl country cottages are effortless and thrown together. They lend themselves to understated but varied art.
The traditional aesthetic is native to classic, European-inspired homes with heritage. Refined spaces are enlivened with decorative touches, eclectic rugs and old-world treasures. Vintage books, maps and crystal decanters are dotted throughout. To enter, is to sink into a comforting, cosy space with a sense of history.
Art in traditional homes is more often than not pre-20th century.
Norman Lindsay, 'Gloria'
Contemporary or Modern
Not to be confused with modernism – which refers to mid-century art and design – contemporary or modern interior design is rooted in the now. It features a mix of iconic designer furniture and modern fittings in a neutral colour palette with supple, rounded homewares. Think sleek, luxurious finishes and plentiful indoor plants.
As the name would suggest, contemporary interiors can be elevated with contemporary art – imagery that’s refined, on the pulse and ever-cool.
Charlotte Phillipus Napurrula, 'Untitled'
Mid-century modernism is having a comeback. Originating in the post-World War II creative boom, this is grounded in simple, functional forms – clean lines, woods and pops of colour. Merging organic shapes with an architectural edge, mid-century interiors are both retro and futuristic – they imagine the future from a historical moment.
Mid-century homes suit art from the era that birthed that aesthetic. Think the 1950s, 60s and 70s.
Rustic homes trade in simplicity and authenticity. They celebrate a pared back style – antique finds, bunches of flowers, plants, unclaimed timber, stone and natural fabrics abound. There’s an unfussiness at play. You’ll find them as farmhouses, log cabins and Mediterranean or Italian hideaways, or else Japanese-inspired retreats, taking after the philosophy of Wabi-sabi which finds beauty in imperfection.
To align with the Wabi-sabi ethos, consider textual, abstract art. Nature isn’t perfect and nor should you have to be.
Alun Leach-Jones, 'Voyager (Grey)'
The art deco style originated in Paris during the 1910s, but was first exhibited in 1925 at the International Exhibition of Decorative Arts and Modern Industries. Where other designs favour simplicity, the art deco aesthetic is giddily elaborate. It sees man-made materials like glass, plastic, chrome and steel contrasted with natural, luxurious materials like jade, silver and ivory – creating a playful, elegant and expensive effect.
Since art deco interiors are artful in themselves, seek out imagery that compliments its penchant for the ornamental. This may mean patterns, stylised scenes or sensual shapes.
As the name suggests, Scandinavian design is inspired by homes in Nordic countries like Sweden, Denmark and Norway. It was synthesized by Ikea, which democratized the minimalist, uncluttered aesthetic. In reality however, many Nordic homes invite bold, playful uses of colour and pattern – Scandinavian interiors do not necessitate blandness.
Due to long winters, Nordic homes try to be light and inviting. Think blonde timbers, natural textures like wool and rattan, abundant light and minimal clutter. Ample greenery also helps stave off the winter blues.
Bright and colourful imagery, minimalist art or organic shapes can elevate Scandinavian interiors, shifting them from Ikea to iconic.
Mark Howson, 'Childsplay II'
Eclectic or maximalist
Maximalism is in diametric opposition to minimalism. Where the latter denotes more is less, the former is all about more, more, more. There’s bright colours, bold patterns, strong graphics and notes of the avant-garde. Critically however, maximalism is not pure chaos but rather requires a discerning eye to carve out a sense of cohesion and intention in excess.
Eclectic and maximalist homes make a statement – so should the art they feature. Big, colourful, challenging or boisterous, here’s your chance to be a daring art curator.