What's Your Style?
Many furniture styles fall into the traditional category. The most enduring styles are English-inspired such as Regency, Federalist, Queen Anne and Chippendale. French-inspired styles of Louis Philippe have also withstood the test of time. Mahogany, cherry and other richly toned woods and cherry finishes are staples of traditional style. Designs will often feature carvings, burl veneers and details such as marquetry. Traditional upholstery often features formal fabrics such as damask, jacquard and tapestry, in jewel-tone or muted shades.
Country & Cottage
Country and cottage styles encompass a broad range of designs that vary by region. The most influential in this category are French, English, Italian and American Colonial. Inviting comfort is the harmonizing theme with rural inspired touches. Lines are simple and tend to be minimally adorned. Woods are usually pine and oak in washed, pickled, antiqued or painted finishes, often with hand-applied and painted accents. Painted pieces may be one color or two-tone combinations. Wicker and iron elements are also often incorporated. Natural fabrics such as cotton and linen are frequently used in upholstered pieces. Florals, stripes and checks are combined for a casual, comfortable look.
English country is somewhat more formal. One of the most recognizable examples of English country style is the Windsor chair, characterized by a spindle back, turned legs and a saddle-shaped seat, which originated from England's Windsor Castle in the early 1700s. Chintz fabric, in elegant floral, striped, gingham and plaid mixtures, is typical of English country upholstery.
Cottage style is often based on American Colonial silhouettes, in white or whitewashed finishes or even distressed black finishes. Cottage upholstery can vary from subdued pastel colors to brighter hues as in French country style, using a combination of floral, striped and solid fabrics for layers of visual appeal.
NOTE: Prefer a more relaxed look? Many classic designs are available in lighter woods and in more casual upholstery such as cotton, chenille and microfiber.
Modern & Contemporary
Inspired by the rise of industry in the early 20th Century, modern style echoes the streamlined silhouettes of industrial design used in inventions of the day such as skyscraper architecture and transportation. During this Machine Age, smooth surfaces, sweeping horizontal lines and rounded corners came to signify the image of efficiency and speed. Both French- and American-inspired, Art Deco was enamored with this glamorous and futuristic aesthetic, using new materials to construct home furnishings such as tinted glass, plastics, steel and chrome to accent pale or dark wood furnishings. Sleek, monochromatic upholstery in fabric and leather is generally used to complement this look.
Though "contemporary" and "modern" are sometimes used interchangeably, the styles have distinct differences. Contemporary style reflects current trends, often incorporating convenient elements into the furnishings, such as chairs with casters or sofas with built-in drink holders. Contemporary silhouettes often feature gently curved lines. Woods can be light or dark in tone with minimal grain, such as maple and birch. Accents include clear or frosted glass and metals such as stainless steel or chrome. Upholstery emphasizes the natural textures and neutral tones of cotton, silk, wool and linen, as well as leather. Vibrant colors and geometric patterns are also used, though usually in accessories such as rugs or accent pillows.
Not a style in itself, eclectic is a fusion of designs. If implemented carefully, the possibilities are endless. The key to mastering an eclectic look is to avoid an even 50/50 mixture. Instead, aim for a 2/3 to 1/3 mixture of styles. Even combinations of classic and contemporary home fashions can complement each other, creating interesting contrast. For example, one or two pieces of Louis Philippe-style or Federalist-style furniture can create a dramatic point of interest in an otherwise modern or contemporary room. Eclectic style is also a great way to incorporate family heirlooms into your décor without sacrificing your own style. Similarly, a rustic piece such as a French country armoire or a cottage-style chest can work well with more refined traditional furniture, such as Queen Anne or Chippendale. Color balance is also important. The controlled use of one or two colors in upholstery fabrics and accents provides a common element to unite the various periods.
Transitional style blends fresh contemporary furnishings with the best designs of the past for an attractive, easy-to-live-with style. Defined by understated form and restrained approach to line and material, this style is versatile, adapting easily to different décors. A transitional sofa can be dressed up to complement a more formal environment, or casually accented to suit a contemporary room.
Woods may be warm in tone, or even dark, but generally have minimal carving and ornamentation. Upholstered pieces feature solid colors or simple patterns that are easy to coordinate. Camelback silhouettes with exposed frames and feet, Lawson-style sofas with loose, square cushions and many leather pieces fit into the transitional category.
Shaker styling, with its straightforward, unadorned lines, exemplifies transitional wooden furniture. Mission or Arts & Crafts furnishings, featuring heavy squared forms, exposed joinery and wrought iron accents, are also well suited to a transitional décor.
Open floor plans (in which one room flows into the other, such as a kitchen to a family room) and rooms that are multipurpose (such as a living room that doubles as a home office space) are particularly well suited to transitional furniture, which can easily create a sense of continuity from one room to the next.
Choosing an overall style establishes harmony and unity throughout the home. However, you can still create a custom look for individual rooms through different color schemes and with accents such as collections, artwork or themes from nature, sports or even a favorite hobby. Once you've decided on a style, you're ready to move forward with your decorating plan.