A Visual Dictionary of Decor Styles

I’ve had a lot of clients and friends ask me questions like “what exactly IS mid-century furniture?” or “what does “Hollywood Regency” mean?”– so I thought I’d compile a little visual dictionary of what each decor style looks like. There are many more styles than this, but I think these are the most popular right now. If there are any others you’d like help with, just leave a comment!

Traditional: Classic style, sometimes ornate detailing, but usually relatively clean lines. Think Bunny Williams and Ralph Lauren. Colors are typically rich- dark browns, greens, reds. Luxurious, heavy materials. Retailers with traditional decor: Restoration Hardware, Horchow.


Transitional: This style blends traditional with contemporary, creating a more laid back, casual look but with classic styling. It encompasses simple lines, no one defining “look” and styling that can be accommodated into any other type decor. Colors are typically neutrals, light sage greens, blues and whites. Stores with transitional furniture: Pottery Barn, William Sonoma Home.

Modern: Hard, straight lines, a graphic appearance, edgier materials and an overall sleek look. Obvious lack of ornate detailing. Retailers with modern furniture: Design Withing Reach, West Elm.

French Country: When I think of French Country, I think of toile! A mix of rustic antiques, feminine detailing and a warm, relaxed feel. Patterns like ginghams, checks, chintzy florals reign as do color combinations like yellow and blue. Retailers with French Country Decor: Pierre Deux, Kate Madison

Shabby Chic: A look that went from a brand name to a bonafide style, “created” by Rachel Ashwell. Lots of white, distressed wood, similar styling to French Country but with a whitewashed effect. Lots of floral patterns, crystal chandeliers, a vintage look to everything. Retailers with Shabby Chic decor: Shabby Chic, Shabby Chic for Target, eBay.


Mid-Century Modern: A style that has resurfaced with a vengeance. Designers from the 1950′s and 60′s such as Eames, Saarinen, van der Rohe, , George Nelson, Knoll and Bertoia. A look that exemplifies the time, when technology and out of the box thinking were rampant. My beloved Barcelona chair is a great example as is the omnipresent tulip table. Retailers with mid-century furniture: Modernica, Knoll, DWR.


Hollywood Regency: The look of glamorous old Hollywood brought back into popularity by super-designer Kelly Wearstler. Reflects the looks of Dorothy Draper- ornate, somewhat whimsical and very bold. Utilizes lots of wallpaper, metallic finishes, faux bamboo, vintage 70′s items with bright colors and patterns. Modern Glamour is the bible for this style. Retailers that carry Hollywood Regency Decor: Z Gallerie, eBay.



17 Responses to “A Visual Dictionary of Decor Styles”

  1. HHL says:

    That was insanely helpful!

    Thanks!

  2. NANCY says:

    can you combine transitional with french country b/c I think that is what I like…or is that not allowed?

  3. Elements of Style says:

    ABSOLUTELY! Mixing is the best! My personal look is modern/mid-century mixed with traditional/transitional! Like taking a very ornate carved armchair and putting a graphic KWID fabric on it….yummy.
    You can get a transitional couch but get some french country styled chairs to pair it with…

  4. Paloma says:

    Wonderful, wonderful post! I think my personal style is a mix of transitional, mid-century, modern, and Hollywood Regency.

  5. Meghan says:

    That’s such a great post! I love that you broke that down for everyone. Would you say that Country Cottage is a mixture between French and Shappy Chic? Thank you shedding some light on design styles!!

  6. Jessica @ The Love List says:

    Erin – great post! Brilliant idea in it’s simplicity – thanks so much for the breakdown!

  7. ZenadiaDesign says:

    This was so much fun to read! I have always wondered what my style of decor is. I take most of my decorating inspiration from foreign countries such as Morocco, France and Italy, so I am guessing I have more of an eclectic style. What would you think? (I know its probably hard to say without actually seeing my house =)
    Thanks for this wonderful post. Loved it!!

  8. Elements of Style says:

    SO glad everyone is finding this helpful- I’ll do another round tomorrow with more styles! I think if you like your style to reflect your world travels and interests, eclectic is what you call it- but perhaps your core furniture (couch, chairs, etc.) are transitional or modern with your accent decor being eclectic?

  9. Shawna says:

    That is so funny you did this post, because I just googled “Hollywood Regency” today and found a great definition from Paris Hotel Boutique blog. Your explainations and visuals are great too! Just wanted to tell you that I enjoy reading your blog…always beautiful sights to see.

  10. Poppy says:

    Thanks for a great post! I am a huge fan of mid-century mod.! 1st Dibs.com is a great source for great pieces! Very user friendly site if anyone has not been on it!

  11. oneshotbeyond says:

    the nature scapes above the couch take my breath away. The entire color scheme and composition is to die for.

  12. pve design says:

    Great job of creating a visual of decor styles!

  13. MaryJo says:

    I love this post, I wish it was a book! Can you recommend any books that would provide this sort of information. Any favorites??

  14. Elements of Style says:

    I have the perfect name for such a book: Defining Your Style.
    Publishers? Anyone? Happy to write it! ;)

  15. mary says:

    Self-publish it! We’ll all help you promote it :)

    I just Kirtsy-ed this. Great, great post!

  16. The Lil Bee says:

    Hi there, I’ve just found your site via In(side) the Loop and it is fantastic! I feel like I’ve gotten a lesson in design just by reading your last few posts. This yellow wallpaper is completely gorgeous. And I love your banner. I shall return :)

  17. Jennifer Ramos says:

    Love it! I think mixing works really well!

    Jen Ramos
    '100% Recycled DESIGNER Cards & More'
    http://www.madebygirl.com
    madebygirl.blogspot.com