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Defining Design Styles

Modern, Contemporary, Traditional, Transitional, Rustic, & Shabby Chic

Perhaps you’re building a new home, looking to remodel, or just want to change up your home’s aesthetics. In any case, it’s easy to feel a bit overwhelmed or confused by all the fancy names and styles available. Before getting into the difference between “modern farmhouse” and “modern country,” we'll start with some of the broader, more basic categories.



Modern design can be broken down into numerous subcategories, such as mid-century modern, industrial modern, and urban modern. Overall, it is characterized by open floor plans, intentional asymmetry, geometric shapes, and clean lines with an emphasis on functional simplicity. The smooth sleek surfaces are often accented with art and less clutter.


Often confused or used interchangeably with Modern, Contemporary style changes with the times. It is the here and now coupled with open space, lots of light, and typically neutral colors. Contemporary design has roots in modernism, but may appear more warm and cozy than some minimalist modern designs and has more freedom with shapes.



Traditional design is classic design, originating from older European designs. The furniture tends to be heavier, the tones richer, and unlike modern design, symmetrical. Traditional designs can add elaborate woodwork, coffered ceilings, and beautifully carved furniture. Modern, classical, or country elements can easily be integrated into this time tested design style.


As the name implies, transitional design incorporates a bit of both traditional and modern or contemporary elements. Less ornamentation than traditional styles with straighter lines yet a greater focus on comfort and warmth. This blended style creates a simple, sophisticated room that can fit into nearly any type of existing architecture.



Love cowhides, exposed beams, lots of wood, and weathered finishes? Rustic design brings the outdoors inside with farmhouse and industrial elements. It can fit into a farmhouse, a mountaintop cabin, or be blended with modern styles to create a rustic modern home. Color in rustic design is usually pale, neutral shades combined with darker shades of brown.

Shabby Chic

With roots in antique French design, shabby chic is a lived-in vintage inspired style that blends comfort and extravagance. Surfaces are usually distressed or weathered, but the furniture itself is ornate and elaborate. The use of white, pinks, creams, and golds in shabby chic style creates a soft, bright, and cozy atmosphere.