Ultimate Guide To Furniture Styles


Traditional, modern, rustic… we see and hear these words all the time on our favorite HGTV shows and on our “Dream House” Pinterest boards, but what do they really mean? Designers and interior decorators often use these terms when describing the best furniture for you, and it can get confusing when you have no idea what the difference between modern and mid-century modern.

Here’s the rundown on some of the more popular furniture styles you’re probably hearing:




This traditional style became popular back when the colonists first planted roots in what is now New England. There is a focus on comfort, grace, and craftsmanship with ornate details and dark, warm tones. For all of you Hamilton fans out there, this style could probably be seen in every house of the Founding Fathers, especially those with the flair for the dramatic.  Traditional furnishings were meant to mimic the style of royal monarchies while being sturdy and long-lasting.

Style Points:

  • Ornate details

  • Dark, warm tones

  • Clawed feet

  • Patterned Fabrics

  • Curved arms

  • Carved wood





Despite it’s name, this style isn’t the most recent craze. It gets it’s name from an art and design movement that really picked up speed in the 1920s. This style is the exact opposite of the decorative traditional style: clean lines, minimalistic design, monochromatic color schemes. The goal was for this furniture to be accessible and easily/quickly produced with a “form follows function” ideology in regards to design. Modern style furnishings aim for practicality, functionality, and cutting access.

Style Points:

  • Clean lines

  • Simple designs

  • Factory technology

  • Glass

  • Steel

  • Molded plywood

  • Plastics

  • Monochromatic/simple color schemes



Mid-Century Modern:

This style became popular in the 1930s thru 1960s with a new take on the modern style that so many adored in the decades previous. The name “mid-century modern” wasn’t coined until after the movement had ended. This style adds character to the sometimes “boring” modern style with an array of color schemes and organic forms. This style has mostly lost it’s appeal, but you can still find specific pieces from this style in popular interiors.

Style Points:

  • Multifunctional pieces: nested, stackable, foldable, bendable, and interchangeable

  • Simple

  • Clean lines

  • Array of colors

  • Organic forms

  • Plastic

  • Wood

  • Lucite

  • Glass

  • Plexiglass




Transitional style is the lovechild of modern and traditional styles. It combines the grace and curves of traditional styles with the functionality and clean lines of the modern movement. This is often thought to be the equal meeting of feminine and masculine design. It aims to be timeless, seamless, and sophisticated. To attain this style, you don’t necessarily need to use all “transitional” pieces-- mixing and matching modern and traditional furnishings give the same effect.

Style Points:

  • Simple details

  • Clean lines

  • Curves

  • Patterns  



Arts and Crafts:

When you think of Frank Loyd Wright’s style, you’re thinking of Arts and Crafts style. This style is very much a mixture of different classics, almost like a hodgepodge of the best aspects of modern, traditional, and mid-century modern styles.

Style Points:

  • Wood with a prominent grain

  • Blocky shapes

  • Rectilinear shapes

  • Exposed joints

  • Clean, strong lines

  • Minimal accent detailing



Classic Contemporary:

This style is the Ritz-Carlton of design styles...literally. Most rooms at the Ritz-Carlton are decorated with furniture from this style category. It’s all about combining luxuriousness with comfort, elegant with inviting.

Style Points:

  • Round furniture lines

  • Soft, curved lines

  • Soft, inviting textures

  • Neutral colors




If any of you were obsessed with the apartment Katniss and Peeta got to stay in during The Hunger Games, you’ll like contemporary style furniture. It gives off a very unique vibe, almost futuristic. This style picks up on a lot of the style points of the modern movement, while still remaining unique.

Style Points:

  • Straight lines

  • Sharp corners

  • Wide curves

  • Spherical shapes

  • Solid colors

  • Empty walls

  • Sleek appeal

  • Bold colors

  • High contrast

  • Monochromatic

  • Metals and solid surfaces




Here in the South, we are not strangers to the word “country.” However, this style isn’t exactly what first comes to mind when you think of the word. Country styled rooms are usually feminine, with soft color pallets and elegant touches in design.

Style Points:

  • Distressed wood

  • Antiques

  • Raw wood

  • Exposed beams

  • Soft colors

  • Small prints

  • Plaids




Fixer Upper fans will know exactly what this style is all about. This style has risen to fame in recent years, and many southern families are choosing this style as the main focus of their homes. While the true basis of the style is much more simplified and masculine (think the dwarfs’ cottage in Snow White), you can combine aspects of this style with others to create beautiful interiors.

Style Points:

  • Raw materials

  • Wood with worm holes, prominent knots, and/or rasped edges

  • Distressed metal

  • Distressed leather

  • Hair on hides

  • Stone

  • Wood

  • Fireplaces

  • Cozy seating


Knowing your way around popular styles can help you decipher some of the jargon on your favorite HGTV shows, while also helping you communicate what exactly you’re looking for when you go furniture shopping! Interior decorators and designers will be able to help match you with amazing furniture designs when you can let them know what style you really connect with.


Need some help deciding on the right style for your space? We offer completely free design services!

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