Decoding Differences in Design Styles

What’s the difference between Traditional, Modern, Transitional, Boho and Mid-Century Modern design styles? Here’s your primer on these common styles of interior design. It doesn’t matter which you prefer or whether you stay within the lines! Just enjoy the inspiration you find in these styles and choose to transform your space with what you like.


Traditional Style

Classic and inviting, Traditional interior design embraces history and tradition in a more formal, symmetrical look. While Traditional design sticks more to the script of design essentials, it doesn’t have to be boring.  It isn’t necessarily bound by one era or design style, and traditional style can range from masculine to luxurious in how it feels.

The important element is cohesion. Items should connect easily and effortlessly in terms of color and style. No one piece should stray too far from the prevailing style. Never compromise on quality in traditional style designs. Other than that, it can be easy to shop for traditional sets of furniture for the living room, bedroom and dining room and layer it with classic accessories and textiles.


Transitional Style

Transitional style blends old and new in a cohesive way. Usually, based on a neutral color palette or a more simplified color scheme, Transitional design opens the door to combining vintage and more contemporary furnishings together through clever choices. The textiles used in Transitional style should be deliberately selected to help ground a room. Accessories can vary widely but need to have some connection to other items in your space.

If you have heirloom furniture items from various eras, Transitional design principles can be used to pull them all together. The vintage side table you got from your grandmother may fit together best with a traditional couch. However, the opportunity exists to spice up the living room with chevron upholstery, a contemporary area rug and interesting artwork. If the dining room table and chairs you picked up at an antique store are too dark for your tastes, consider replacing the chairs with modern upholstered dining room chairs to lighten the space and wake up the design.


Modern & Mid-Century Modern

With roots in Scandinavian styles, Modern design embraces clean lines and minimalism. Form follows function, and light to earthy neutrals are the flavor of the day. Natural light is welcome, and adornments are not. Natural materials such as wood, leather and metal help to achieve a neutral color scheme. Woods tend toward the lighter maples and unstained walnut, and the lines in furnishings reflect simple, practical shapes. Functionality reigns.

The next stage of evolution for Modern design is Mid-Century Modern, which emerged in the late 1940s and stretched past the 1960s. There has been a resurgence in the popularity of mid-century elements, which reflect more form than function. A brighter color palette and man-made materials, such as fiberglass, can be found in today’s interpretation of Mid-Century design. You are likely to find more whimsical shapes in the chairs, couches and accessories.


Boho Style

Funky, lively and colorful, Boho style, short for Bohemian, embodies those concepts of the carefree, creative life through interior design. With Boho style, the idea is to inspire people to experience the space with all the senses. Touch it, feel it, look at the eclectic textures and colors that bring it alive. Today’s Boho style breaks the rules of design and embraces personal taste over perfection.

A sense of exotic places and times can be pulled into a Boho design, as it is less buttoned-up than other design styles. Native, African, and Indian influences throughout the furnishings, accessories and pillows naturally add texture and color. Area rugs can bring those elements into any room to evoke an international flair.

In a Boho room design, you’re likely to see dark wood, brass and clay. Based in browns, these items help ground the color scheme, which can otherwise go wild with oranges, reds, pinks, teals and other bright and unique hues. Think jewel tones and soften them with ambient lighting from shaded lamps at different levels in the room.

If you’re a world traveler, you may have international treasures, such as a teak chest, a brilliant photo of a Turkish market or a handcrafted wall hanging. Or dig out the crocheted afghan your aunt made you years ago and give it center stage on a chair or couch. Layer your inspiration pieces alongside other vintage or quirky items saturated with rich dyes. Cozy, yet vibrant, Boho style can create a striking yet relaxed vibe.


Interior design styles can be your guide to a personalized space that works for you and your family. Take what you want out of these design styles and craft your own style suited for your life! If you need help figuring out what’s right for you, let the team at Phelan’s lend a hand.