Deborah Gordon Designs


A Guide to Identifying Your Favorite Home Décor Style

Individual design styles vary and design is so individual, personal and unique – and as a San Diego interior designer, I see many variations reflecting our cultural diversity. Your home décor style signifies a distinctive appearance, typically determined by the principles according to which something is designed. This includes architectural features, the color schemes, fixtures, furnishings, and accessories. Yet once you identify your design style, it’s much easier to determine what elements will work for you and your home. Here are some of the main home décor styles.


Bohemian home décor style captures the carefree and adventurous spirit of the avant-garde lifestyle with the use of colors (brown, terra cotta, jewel tones, with lots of patterns), decorative material (textile, wood, animal hide, and metallic accents), furniture (ones that may have Moroccan, Southwestern, or tribal-inspired ethnic vibes) and accessories (throws, pillows, rugs, tapestry).  It is very much about expressing individuality, free expression, unconventional displays, and colorful collections. 


Coastal style styles are reminiscent of the beach, lazy vacations, the sand, surf and seaside vignettes.  Colors include all-white backdrops, maritime blues, coral and dune-grass greens, and the style helps set the mood of being comfortable and inviting. It is all about a relaxing, airy and cheerful atmosphere indoors. The look can embrace a tropical island, Mediterranean, American Coastal style and interiors are designed with comfort and color in mind.


Contemporary style is based on being comfortable and welcoming without being cluttered and dark, and refers to décor that is current. While contemporary styles may be completely different 20 years from now, it will still be based on “less is more”.  Colors range from neutrals, black, and white, to tone-on-tone color palettes relying heavily on brown, taupe, cream and pure white.  Pieces feature softened and rounded lines.  It is often confused with, but is different from, modern design.

Cottage Style

Cottage home décor style interiors are warm, personal, informal and intimate.  These spaces look nostalgic and have a charm that emanates from the simplicity of treasured pieces, vintage-look fixtures, and woodwork details that defy today's high-stress, high-tech lifestyle.  Expect to see slipcovers, light colors, feminine fabrics, mismatched furnishings, beadboard and old-fashioned flooring.


Eclectic style is a great way to go if you just can’t choose one style – it’s a bit of this style, and a bit of that and embraces freedom of expression, breaking rules, and mixing and matching.


Wandering through a Pottery Barn or World Market store, or visiting them online, will give you a good idea of this farmhouse aesthetic look. It is a way of life that embraces simplicity and is mostly transitional in nature with some traditional elements mixed in with natural wood, soft colors, fireplace, beamed ceiling, interior textiles.


An industrial design could be described as having a raw, edgy style or unfinished look. You will see the use of exposed pipes and ducts, wood and metal surfaces, old factory and laboratory pieces, and warm/neutral colors.  Shop at Restoration Hardware to find what you will need to finish your space. 

Mid-Century Modern

The nostalgic feel of the mid-1930s to mid-1960s is often sought out by homeowners looking for something custom-made or when looking for unique designs. Classic designers found creative ways to use materials like molded plastic, plywood, and aluminum in their design. You will find Mid-Century Modern furniture at retailers like Herman Miller, Crate and Barrel, and Knoll and Design Within Reach


Sparse and streamlined is this home décor style.  You will find very little clutter – actually, the less furniture the better, and surfaces will be clear. Introduce neutral colors, and focus on quality, not quantity. Think of it as better design through simplicity. Minimalist designed spaces will be well edited and contain only those pieces that will achieve the maximum décor effect.


A modern space tends to follow a strict style format, and interiors are comfortable and welcoming without being cluttered and dark. Although contemporary and modern terms have overlapping characteristics, the two style genres are very different (see contemporary) and in fact, modern really refers to “Mid Century Modern”. You will find open concept floor plans, empty spaces, asymmetry, white walls, natural materials and lots of windows.  Shop at CB2, West Elm, and Room & Board to fill your space.


The nautical style evokes the mood that is associated with the sight, sound, and smell of the ocean. Nautical stripes (striped blue and white pattern), starts, maps, fish, and stars can be found in bedrooms, kitchens, living spaces, and bathrooms. The style is defined by the color palette and materials used - blue as the primary accent color, and unfinished wood and linen upholstery are used.  Shop at Pier 1 to finish your look.


Rustic style is an eclectic look that emphasizes nature that embraces a “straight-from-the-earth” way of life and is cozy, earthy, organic, rugged, unpretentious and warm.  Rustic furniture normally consists of wood, distressed metals, leather, suede, reclaimed lumber, found objects and stones. Patterns mimic neutral colors and patterns (Forest green, denim blue, faded khaki, shades of brown, gold, gray).


Reminiscent of walking through an IKEA store, simplicity and function are the guiding principles Scandinavian style.  Nordic design (i.e. Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Iceland and Norway) prioritizes function and affordability over preciousness and luxury. Lighting is modern, teetering on industrial in style, and carpeting is rarely wall-to-wall. White is predominant, so when using other colors, they are soft and understated.  


Spanish style is a vibrant, colorful Mediterranean style and has gained popularity with home builders in California, Florida, and Texas.  You will find lots of natural earth tones alongside both cool and warm shades, textured walls, wrought iron railings, and accents like terracotta pottery and h and glazed tiles. Charming and inviting are two words that epitomize this style. 


Traditional style reflects classic European décor and interiors are comforting and classic.  The use of antique furnishings (claw-footed tables, various curved furniture pieces, winged-back chairs) and floral-print fabrics might make it feel outdated, but this style is quite versatile and emphasizes simplicity and comfort in its layout. 


Tropical home décor style eludes the feeling and mood of the islands. Because it spans so many different countries and cultures (between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn), its nuances are many and diverse. You will find wicker, rattan, bamboo and teak furniture combined with fabrics featuring palm leaves, lattice prints and cane motifs. By including luscious plants, ceiling fans and folding chairs, you can blend a tropical design into your space.