Posted Jul 9, 2015

A Guide to 6 Popular Decorating Styles

Once moving day is over and you have all of your appliances set up, the fun part begins: decorating your apartment! Deciding what types of design details you want to include in your apartment decor lets you showcase your personal decorating style in a functional way. Who doesn’t love that?

A Guide to 6 Popular Decorating Styles

I remember that around three years ago when I decided to make the move to Chicago, I wanted to splurge on a new sofa– and I went with a sleek modern design. Looking at the way my apartment is set up now, it’s amazing how that one piece of furniture ended up influencing the overall look of the apartment.

There are so many decorating styles to choose from when decorating your apartment, so there’s bound to be an aesthetic that suits your tastes and personality. Here are a few types I’ve come across that will look great in apartments large and small:

Mid-Century Modern

We’ll start with my favorite look– mid-century modern. Design elements associated with this style began in the 1950s with legendary interior designers Eames and Le Corbusier, completely revolutionizing the way the home and office looked and operated. Think Don Draper’s office a la “Mad Men.”

A Guide to 6 Popular Decorating Styles - Mid-Century Modern

Simplicity, beauty and organization all come together with a scaled-back theme, and you can make it as colorful or minimal as you like. However, less is more with the mid-century modern style, so expect sleek countertops, clean lines and straightforward, industrial materials like stainless steel, molded plastic and natural wood.

This style has stood the test of time and is still mimicked in many contemporary designs today. The best part about mid-century modern? You can find many pieces in this decorating style at your local vintage shop and get some serious bargains!


For those who enjoy a carefree and elegantly messy ambiance, boho is definitely a great match. Although it stems from Eastern Europe and the hippie movement in the 1960s and 70s, the decorating style has made a serious comeback with stores like Anthropologie and Urban Outfitters selling boho crafts, furniture and kitchenware. 

A Guide to 6 Popular Decorating Styles - Bohemian

Don’t shy away from bold prints that feature orange, red and purple, and be sure to include fresh plants in every room. Also incorporate throw pillows, colorful rugs, tapestries and various textiles to create an organized yet messy decorating style. Many people who embrace the boho style are laid-back and love ethnic influences in their design pieces.

Shabby Chic

This is a casual decorating style that is made for comfort, so if you are planning on throwing a lot of parties or having guests often, this is an excellent aesthetic to consider. Similar to boho, shabby chic takes a lot of retro pieces from way back when, and with a fresh coat of paint or a little cleaning, sanding or staining, the vintage pieces look like new.

A Guide to 6 Popular Decorating Styles - Shabby Chic

This is definitely one of the more fun and friendly looks, and pastel colors and creative prints like polka dot, chevron and stripes are often found in shabby chic decor. Don’t be afraid to mix and match different textiles, prints and patterns too. Shabby chic’s messiness is part of its charm!

However, realize that there’s a fine line between shabby chic and tacky– don’t incorporate more than three patterns or textiles in one room, otherwise the look might feel a bit crowded and overwhelming.


The great thing about the cottage/coastal decorating style is that it is very versatile. It’s not just for vacation homes by the sea, either– many renters love the calm a nautical look brings to their home, hence the popularity of Pier 1 and Pottery Barn, both of which are known to carry pieces that emulate this look.

A Guide to 6 Popular Decorating Styles - Cottage/Coastal

Navy blue hues, sea shells, New England-style furniture, unfinished wood and even rope are often used in this decorating style. Beige and seafoam green are often used in this style– pretty much anything that resembles the sea. If you really want to go all out, you can even purchase pieces that include lighthouses, fish and turtles.


Contemporary is a look you’ll find in a lot of city apartments, as this decorating style features industrial pieces and furniture and exposed brick. Because such a great influx of young people are moving to cities, a lot of old warehouses are being converted into apartments, lending to the contemporary, industrial feel even more.

A Guide to 6 Popular Decorating Styles - Contemporary

Although it might sound like a harsh aesthetic at first, many renters soften up the look with rustic colors and soft accents. For instance, a vibrant art piece with many different colors might hang against an exposed brick wall, or soft overhead lighting will accommodate raw steel frames.

In the end, a contemporary decorating style is all about balance (hence the feng shui movement), so if you feel a room is too stark or industrial, make sure to include something a bit more homey, such as fresh flowers in the dining room, a warm throw blanket in the living room or bowls of fresh fruit in the kitchen.


Thanks to IKEA, many renters have fallen in love with the simplicity, cheerfulness and streamlined look of the Scandinavian decorating style, and for good reason. Even in the smallest of apartments, a Scandinavian look will work, as smart organizational design is what it’s all about.

A Guide to 6 Popular Decorating Styles - Scandinavian

Scandinavian furniture is very versatile and minimalist, making it great for young families or couples– even if you move to a bigger place, there’s a chance your Scandinavian furniture will fit into the space! Scandinavian furniture is also thoughtfully designed– rounded contours for comfort and ergonomic accessories are a big part of why this decorating style has become so successful worldwide.
With all of these excellent choices, there’s bound to be a decorating style that fits your personality and tastes. Happy decorating!

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Rachel LaCroix


Rachel LaCroix is from the Music City, but she now calls the Windy City home. In her spare time, Rachel enjoys writing, reading, seeing local bands, frequenting Chicago eateries, playing with her adorable schnauzer and, most of all, traveling. She's seen Costa Rica to Copenhagen and loves it all!

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