Choosing a Furniture Style

September 26, 2014

Choosing a Furniture Style for Your Home

When selecting furniture for your home, you should first decide upon a style that suits your personality and tastes. You may enjoy a contemporary, cottage, or traditional style of furniture. This article will help you identify the qualities of each of these looks so that you can decide which style or combination of styles are perfect for you.

Traditional Furniture

This broad category encompasses a variety of styles including English inspired designs such as Regency, Federalist, Queen Anne and Chippendale. Richly toned woods like mahogany and cherry wood are staples of traditional style. Traditional designs may feature burl veneers, carvings, and details such as marquetry. Formal fabrics such as damask, jacquard and tapestry, in jewel-tone or muted shades are the upholstery of choice for traditional furniture.

Country or Cottage Furniture

A broad range of designs, varying by region, makes up the country and cottage furniture styles. American Colonial, English, French and Italian styles are very influential in this category. Rural touches and inviting comfort prevail in country and cottage furniture, which usually features simple lines and minimal adornment. Pine and oak woods are washed, pickled, or antiqued woods sometimes feature hand-painted details. Wicker and iron elements are often incorporated, and painted pieces may be one color or two-tone combinations. Cotton and linen fabrics with floral patterns, stripes and checks are combined for a casual, comfortable look.

If you’re looking for a more formal look, then English Country may be for you. Originating from England’s Windsor Castle, the Windsor chair is one of the most recognizable examples of country style, characterized by a spindle back, turned legs and a saddle-shaped seat. Typical English country upholstery is Chintz fabric, in elegant floral, striped, gingham and plaid mixtures.

American Colonial silhouettes in whitewashed or distressed black finishes are the basis of Cottage furniture. Similar to French Country style, Cottage upholstery varies from pastel colors to brighter hues, combining floral, striped and solid fabrics for layers of visual appeal.

Modern and Contemporary Furniture

Modern style echoes the streamlined silhouettes of the industrial design of early 20th Century inventions, architecture and transportation. Efficiency and speed were symbolized in these designs with rounded corners and sweeping horizontal designs. Art Deco, inspired by French and American design, uses new materials to construct home furnishings such as plastics, steel, tinted glass and chrome to accent pale or dark wood furnishings. The look is complemented by sleek, monochromatic upholstery in fabric or leather.

The phrases “contemporary” and “modern” are not actually interchangeable; these styles have distinct differences. Reflecting current trends, contemporary style incorporates convenient elements, such as chairs with casters or sofas with built-in drink holders, into the furnishing. The gently curved lines of contemporary furnishings are created with minimally grained woods of light or dark, such as maple or birch. Clear or frosted glass and metals such as stainless steel or chrome provide accents. The upholstery of contemporary style conveys the natural textures and neutral tones of cotton, wool, silk, linen and leather. Geometric patterns and vibrant colors are also used in accessories such as rugs or accent pillows.

Eclectic Furniture Design

If the typical styles are not of interest, explore the endless possibilities of combining different furniture styles. A successful eclectic design does not mix styles equally, but aims for a 2/3 to 1/3 mixture. Many combinations of contemporary and classic furniture can create interesting contrasts and complement each other in unique ways. For example, a piece of classic styled furniture in an otherwise contemporary room can create a dramatic point of interest. Eclectic style can also be a great way to incorporate family heirlooms into your design without sacrificing your personal style. Likewise, a rustic French country armoire or cottage-style chest might look great with a refined traditional piece such as a Queen Anne or Chippendale. By balancing one or two colors as a common element, you can unite these different styles.

Transitional Furniture

Blending designs of the past with fresh, contemporary furnishings, transitional style creates an attractive and comfortable style. Understated form and restrained approach to material and line are key elements of transitional style, making it easily adaptable to different decors. Transitional furniture can be casually accented to suit a contemporary room, or dressed up to complement a more formal environment.

Transitional furniture features warm toned or dark woods with minimal ornamentation and carving. Upholstery features simple patterns or solid colors that are easy to coordinate.

Perhaps the best example of transitional wooden furniture is Shaker styling, with its straightforward, unadorned lines, exemplifies transitional wooden furniture. Featuring heavily squared forms, exposed joinery and wrought iron accents, Mission or Arts & Crafts are also suited to transitional décor.

Transitional furniture works well in open rooms which flow into one another, such as a kitchen that runs into a family room, or in rooms that serve dual purposes, like a living room that doubles as a home office. This style can provide a sense of continuity between dissimilar rooms.


An overall style establishes harmony and unity throughout your home, however you can still create a custom look through different color schemes and with accents such as artwork, themes from nature, sports or even a favorite hobby. Choosing an overall style is the first step toward creating a decorating plan for your home.

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