Design Lesson

Style at Home's design dictionary

Style at Home's design dictionary Author: Style At Home

Design Lesson

Style at Home's design dictionary

One often sees interior decorating terms bandied about, like “minimalist” or “art deco” or “colonial”, but what do these words really mean? You might be surprised to learn that art deco and art nouveau, though sometimes treated as synonyms, are quite distinct movements. And that “retro” isn’t a vague term for anything vintage, it’s a specific one. So if you’ve ever wondered why you see “primitive” or “baroque” used as design adjectives, here’s a dictionary-style overview of some of the most frequently spotted interior design terms.

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Style at Home's design dictionary

Art deco

Geometric and angular shapes and simple lines define art deco, a style that emerged in Europe in the early 1900s. Glossy lacquer finishes, metallics and animal prints inspired by exotic travel reigned in the heyday of this movement. Art deco and art nouveau are not the same movement, though sometimes they are erroneously used interchangeably. In short, art nouveau came first, and inspired art deco.

By: Helen Racanelli Source: courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures Credits: Style at Home

Style at Home's design dictionary

Art nouveau

Art nouveau, although often confused with art deco, is the older of the two styles and also emerged in Europe. It’s called “nouveau” because it supposedly drew on only “new” influences (curvy lines, an emphasis on height, stylized flowers and botanical motifs) instead of reviving any notable past design style. The famous Scottish architect and designer Charles Rennie Mackintosh is one of the best known representatives of art nouveau.

By: Helen Racanelli Source: Stacey Van Berkel Haines Credits: Style at Home

Style at Home's design dictionary

Baroque

There is Baroque, note the capital B, an easily recognizable style from the 17th and 18th centuries featuring highly detailed carved woods, rich colours including an abundance of gold and jewel tones, and oversized furniture among other theatrical Versailles-worthy elements. And there is also baroque, a design descriptor that encompasses the gist of the above: maximalist style, ornate and intricately luxe patterns.

By: Helen Racanelli Source: Farrow & Ball Credits: Style at Home

Style at Home's design dictionary

Coastal

Coastal style is a loose term to describe airy and casual seaside-style interiors and sea- and beach-inspired decorative elements. Think seashells, sand, nautical stripes and weathered wood. It can also be a regionally influenced design term. For example, traditional East Coast or Hamptons coastal style includes white-on-white, slipcovers, stripes, or even nautical nods like crown-and-anchor motifs and displays of model schooners. West Coast or California coastal style, or even more specifically, Malibu coastal style, instantly evokes surfboards, pared-back modernism and of course, a killer ocean view.

By: Helen Racanelli Source: Michael Graydon Credits: Style at Home

Style at Home's design dictionary

Colonial style

Very simply, Colonial style is traditional design or architecture that has been exported from a country to its colonies and used historically in either furnishings or buildings. There are British, Portuguese, Dutch and Spanish styles of the same name. Usually in Canada, when we say Colonial style we mean either the British and American iterations. Antique-look furniture is called Colonial style (sometimes incorrectly) if it boasts carved spindles and turned-wood legs. Pictured here, an example of Spanish Colonial architecture.

By: Helen Racanelli Source: Donna Griffith Credits: Style at Home

Style at Home's design dictionary

Hollywood Regency

“I define Hollywood Regency as Neo-classical lines mixed with Hollywood glamour and a top note of mod moxie.” This how Jonathan Adler has famously described Hollywood Regency style. Colour choices lean toward sophisticated and intense. Sparkle is also present in the form of crystal, and metals, and mirrors. Hollywood Regency’s origins hail from the deeply glamorous boudoirs and sitting rooms of 1930s Hollywood film sets.

By: Helen Racanelli Source: Kim Christie Credits: Style at Home

Style at Home's design dictionary

Midcentury modern

This is a phrase that describes itself quite well. Midcentury modern is indeed modern, and it comes from the mid-20th century. We have the TV show Mad Men to thank for reviving it and enhancing its modern-day popularity. Low-slung lines, solid teaks and rosewoods, and futuristic lighting epitomize this style. Many designers’ classic pieces are still reproduced and available through Design Within Reach.

By: Helen Racanelli Source: Barry Calhoun Credits: Style at Home

Style at Home's design dictionary

Minimalism

“Less is more,” said Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, and this simple statement attributed to him is the credo that fuels the aesthetics and raison d’etre of minimalism. Minimalism began as a design principle that grew in popularity in the 20th century and has grown to become a widespread, instantly recognizable, restrained style. In a sense, absences rather than presences -- of pattern, of loud colour, of intricate flourishes -- describe minimalism.

By: Helen Racanelli Source: Michael Graydon Credits: Style at Home

Style at Home's design dictionary

Primitive

Primitive style is all about a conscious choice of rustic, natural materials and basic forms. Think bare wood, hide rugs, and rough, sturdy handmade furniture. Likewise, Primitive art is a “simple, naive style of art that deliberately rejects sophisticated artistic techniques,” according to the Oxford English Dictionary.

By: Helen Racanelli Source: Edward Pond Credits: Style at Home

Style at Home's design dictionary

Retro

When it comes to interior design, the designation of “retro” doesn’t just refer to merely anything created in the past 100 years. It doesn’t typically include the near past, like the 90s, nor the more distant past like the Twenties. Retro denotes something, be it a wallpaper pattern, a telephone or even a colour scheme, that comes from or riffs on styles from the 1940s through to the 1970s.

By: Helen Racanelli Source: Janis Nicolay Credits: Style at Home

Style at Home's design dictionary

Scandinavian modern

Scandinavian modern is also referred to as Swedish modern. It’s all about curvy, organic shapes, unstained and blonde woods, and deceivingly simple ergonomic design by masters including Eero Saarinen and Arne Jacobsen. Purists may say it reached a historical pinnacle in the 1950s, but the ethos of beautiful and democratic Scandinavian design lives on in the hugely successful worldwide furniture phenomenon, the Swedish company, IKEA.

By: Helen Racanelli Source: Angus McRitchie Credits: Style at Home

Style at Home's design dictionary

Shabby chic

Charmingly distressed white-painted furniture. Billowy white slipcovers over a comfy settee or armchair. Floral prints in muted colours. Whites. Pastels. Ruffles. Antique silverware. These are the underpinnings of the country-infused style known as shabby chic, a coinage brought into the contemporary vernacular by designer Rachel Ashwell. Shabby chic features vintage accessories, gracious sofas to curl up in and toss cushions in abundance.

By: Helen Racanelli Source: Rachel Ashwell Shabby Chic Couture Credits: Style at Home

Style at Home's design dictionary

Transitional

Blend modern and traditional and you’ve got transitional, which is a cleverly accommodating word commonly used in the world of interiors to describe either furniture items and decorating schemes (as opposed to architecture). A transitional kitchen, for example, might feature traditional surfaces like Bianca Carrera marble countertops and creamy white cabinets, mixed with modern chrome faucets and ultra-modern appliances, and traditional barstools -- but the overall effect will be clean and welcoming and hard to define with any other terminology.

By: Helen Racanelli Source: Donna Griffith Credits: Style at Home
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Design Lesson

Style at Home's design dictionary