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Design Movements to Know: What is Bauhaus Design?

Love a good lesson in design history? Well, you’ve come to the right place. At Modsy, we love looking back at design movements of the past and exploring how they impact trends and styles today.

One era that we’re seeing continually influence design today is the Bauhaus design movement. What started as a school in Germany quickly became a philosophical approach to design that took the global design world by storm. Interested in learning more about this iconic moment in design history? Read on for the full scoop on Bauhaus interior design, with insights from our resident design historian, Alessandra Wood. Plus, we’re sharing how we’re seeing Bauhaus influences show up in the design world today!

The Bauhaus was a German art school that operated from 1919-1933.

The Bauhaus school in Dessau, Germany.

What is Bauhaus?

So, what exactly is Bauhaus? Is it a design style? A movement? It’s actually a little of both—but before it was either, it was a school. The Bauhaus was a German art school that operated from 1919-1933.

“The school was founded under the principle of unifying all the different art and design disciplines,” says Alessandra. She says it was all about bringing artists and designers together, to learn from and be inspired by each other rather than each field of art being “siloed” on its own. The school sought to elevate craftsmanship to the level of fine art, getting rid of the distinction between craftsman and artist. (Craftsmanship including trades and mediums like architecture, interior design, crafts, and textiles.) As such, the Bauhaus served as a combined architecture school, crafts school, and academy of the arts.

The Bauhaus school of design was established by architect Walter Gropius in Weimar, Germany, where it was until moving to Dessau in 1925. From 1932-33, the school was located in Berlin.

Photo of Walter Gropius taken circa 1919.

Photo of Walter Gropius taken circa 1919.

“Gropius wasn’t the first thinker with this idea of unifying the arts, but the Bauhaus was very formative in changing the trajectory of how we view the arts today,” says Alessandra. “It was revolutionary.” The school became famous for its approach to design and the unification of art, craft, and technology. In this creative space, individual artistic vision was combined with craftsmanship and modern mass manufacturing techniques in an attempt to bring together function and aesthetic.

Alessandra adds, “Gropius was also really interested in design and production. He wanted to create things that were accessible to the masses. He was really driven by ‘good design’ and bringing good design to all people.”

The Bauhaus school was only in existence for 14 years due to pressure from the Nazi regime (they dissaproved of the school and what it stood for, seeing it as an epicenter of communist intellectualism). But the design principles that the school established lived on—as faculty and graduates of the Bauhaus left Germany and found refuge around the world, bringing their design philosophies with them.

Alessandra says that, as instructors and students left Germany, they brought the philosophy of the Bauhaus with them. Many stepped into positions where they were teaching the next generation of architects and designers, which “shaped the whole movement of design, internationally, and eventually became the basis of the Mid-Century Modern design movement.”

What are the main principles of Bauhaus interior design?

The Bauhaus school and subsequent design movement was all about simplicity, which had a major impact on modern furniture and interior design. Bauhaus style focuses on reducing designs down to their most basic elements, resulting in clean, minimalist spaces; streamlined forms; and an absence of ornamentation. The intention is to create harmony between an object’s function and design. 

In the realm of furniture design, this simplicity also lent itself to mass production. Bauhaus artists embraced the industrial technologies of the day, using mass-production techniques to make their designs more accessible.

Read on to learn more about the most iconic and enduring interior design principles of the Bauhaus movement.

Rainbow colored Nesting tables designed by Josef Albers.

Nesting tables designed by Josef Albers.

Form Follows Function

In the world of architecture and interior design, the idea of “form follows function” speaks to the idea that the shape of a building or piece of furniture should primarily relate to its intended purpose. Translation? Keep ornamentation and frills to a minimum, focusing first and foremost on practicality of use. In the Bauhaus philosophy, a sofa is no good if it’s beautiful but not comfortable. A chair is useless if it can’t comfortably support you. A lamp is primarily for adding accent lighting to a room not to make a style statement.

That’s not to say that Bauhaus design is strictly utilitarian. However, the purpose of a piece of furniture or decor should be the starting point for its design. The result is that practicality and functionality were valued by Bauhaus designers more than aesthetics.

“This idea comes out of the early minimalist theory, which negates applied ornamentation,” says Alessandra. “They believed that the function of the piece is so core to its existence, that its aesthetic should merely support the function. Of course, it should be beautiful—but without additives.”

Less is More

The term “less is more” actually originated with Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, the last director of the Bauhaus school. Bauhaus designs were all about simplicity and reducing pieces to their simplest forms while also keeping them accessible, functional, and with some aesthetic value. Sound familiar? This is a major tenant of minimalist design—and Bauhaus is where many of today’s minimalist design ideas originate.

“Instead of adding ornamentation, like gilding, carvings, or design elements that weren’t inherently part of the function of a piece, Bauhaus artists instead created pieces that celebrated the worker and their ability to produce something functional,” says Alessandra.

The “less is more” approach was also practical as Bauhaus artists explored mass production techniques. “If a piece is super decorative, it’s more difficult to mass produce,” notes Alessandra. “When a piece has a simple form, it can be more easily reproduced and therefore be more accessible to more people.”

Mies van der Rohe’s Barcelona Pavilion, where marble walls take the place of decoration

Mies van der Rohe’s Barcelona Pavilion, where marble walls take the place of decoration

Truth to Materials & Material as Ornament

A core tenant of Bauhaus design is the belief in “truth to materials,” where materials like steelwork and concrete were used in their most “honest” form, resulting in leaving them exposed and unpainted.

This was intimately connected with the elimination of unnecessary ornamentation and embellishments in favor of functionality. By the intentional use of materials that offer inherent ornamentation (which gets at the idea of “material as ornament”), buildings and furniture were kept visually interesting. In the 1920s and 30s, Bauhaus-era designers used materials like tubular steel, glass, wicker, and concrete to bring visual interest without adding additional ornamentation. Today, we see that same philosophy applied through the use of ornamental materials like marble and granite.

“The Bauhaus designers weren’t trying to mask materials they were using,” says Alessandra. “This often came through in the use of natural materials—like stone with rich patterns, leather, or woven materials in a natural colorway, all of which use color and texture to create depth in a design.”

Other notable features of Bauhaus designs:

  • Simple geometric shapes, like rectangles and spheres
  • Buildings, furniture, and fonts with rounded corners
  • Furniture featuring curved chrome metal pipes
  • The use of primary colors
  • The innovative use of materials

Iconic Bauhaus Designs

Some of the most iconic designs from the Bauhaus school and movement are still in production today (both the original designs as well as replicas). Here are a few of the most iconic Bauhaus designs.

Leather and steal Wassily Chair by Marcel Breuer

The Wassily Chair by Marcel Breuer

Also known as the Model B3 Chair, it was designed from 1925-26 by Hungarian modernist architect and furniture designer Marcel Breuer. He was one of the first and youngest students at the Bauhaus. The chair design was inspired by bicycle handlebars; he used the same tubular steel that’s used on bicycle handlebars as the frame of the chair. The form was inspired by an overstuffed club chair, but Breuer significantly simplified the form, then used canvas for the seat, backrest, and arms.

The Barcelona Chair by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Lilly Reich

Bauhaus school director Ludwig Mies van der Rohe designed the Barcelona chair in conjunction with architect Lilly Reich for the Barcelona International Exhibition in 1929. The simplistic form of this low lounge chair features two slim cushions over a light, X-shaped stainless steel frame.

“This chair was re-popularized in the mid-century and was used in a ton of Mid-Century Modern designs,” says Alessandra.

The Brno Chair by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe

The Brno Chair, also known as a cantilever chair, is a great example of an object being reduced to its most basic elements and form. Designed by van der Rohe in the late 1920s, he was playing around with the idea that a chair doesn’t necessarily have to have four legs. Instead, he designed the Brno Chair in a cantilever style, with the seat being supported by a single C-shaped bar.

“A lot of Bauhaus designers experimented with this shape of chair,” says Alessandra. “In a production setting, you’re bending one piece of metal to get the shape instead of assembling multiple pieces—making mass-production easier. As we think about the Bauhaus philosophy of designing for ease of production, this is part of that ideal coming to life.”

One example of a similar design that has stood the test of time? The Cesca chair, which was designed by Breuer in 1928. The notable difference between the Cesca and Brno chairs is that the Cesca chair was made with tubular steel, while the frame of the Brno chair was made with a flatter steel. However, both used really modern, industrial-first materials and production methods.

The MT8 Lamp (aka the Wagenfeld Table Lamp) by William Wagenfeld and Carl Jakob Jucker

The MT8 Lamp, also known as the Wagenfeld Table Lamp, was designed by Bauhaus students William Wagenfeld and Carl Jakob Jucker in 1923. It later became known as “the Bauhaus Lamp” for the way that it so beautifully embodies the Bauhaus principle of “form follows function.” With a simple circular base, a cylindrical shaft, and a spherical shade, it has a minimalist, geometric shape. It was very economical in its use of materials and the industrial techniques used to produce this lamp.

The Bauhaus Bauspiel by Alma Siedhoff-Buscher

A set of wooden blocks for children, Alma Siedhoff-Buscher (a student in the woodcarving department) designed the Bauhaus Bauspiel as part of an exhibition at the Bauhaus in 1923. The assortment of 22 colorful wooden blocks can be stacked together to create a ship. The design highlights the colors and shapes of the Bauhaus and most certainly follow the “less is more” design principle. Immediately becoming popular, the Bauhaus produced and distributed various versions of this play set, and a replica of this set is still produced today by the Swiss company Naef.

Household Objects by Marianne Brandt

While not one specific design, today Marianne Brandt is known more for her body of work—which includes metal household objects such as lamps, ashtrays and teapots. A German painter, sculptor, photographer, metalsmith, and designer, Brandt studied and later taught at the Bauhaus. She designed her pieces with mass production in mind, and many reproductions are still available today.

Bauhaus-Inspired Designs Today

The philosophies and impact of the Bauhaus are far from in the past. “Today, we see a lot of pieces that were designed by Bauhaus designers continuing to be produced and popular today,” says Alessandra. “People are still using these designs.”

And beyond literal design, Alessandra says the design philosophies of the Bauhaus school are still being practiced today by many designers. “Minimalism is still very popular, as is the idea of creating pieces and homes with a ‘less is more’ approach.” We’re also continuing to see a lot of “material as ornament” in the re-popularization of natural materials in interior design. “Designers today are still leveraging beautiful natural materials like marble, leather, and caning to create that sense of ornamentation without added ornamentation,” says Alessandra.

Alessandra also notes that, in the past several years, there have been a lot of furniture and home decor brands emerging that are trying to create “good design for the masses,” with pieces that can be easily and affordably reproduced. “A lot of the pieces we carry here at Modsy follow that same sentiment—we carry pieces that are beautiful, well-designed, and affordable while also making interior design accessible to more people.”

Want to actually see how our Modsy designers are using the principles, shapes, and materials or the Bauhaus design movement in their designs today? Scroll down for some beautiful examples.

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Understated and Functional

For this living room inspired by the Bauhaus, we kept things pure and true to the philosophy of this movement: form follows function. This was the primary motivating factor behind the design. The furniture itself is simple; however, each piece is shapely, featuring interesting frames and solid textile surfaces. The interest and movement comes from the primary colors in this space—which were widely used when color was used in the original Bauhaus era. And the marble-top coffee table? Material as ornament at its finest. The overall design is understated from today’s perspective of style, but it’s functional and welcoming all the same.

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A Timeless Classic

The iconic forms of Bauhaus furniture (and Bauhaus-inspired pieces) are truly timeless. Exhibit A: the cantilever chairs. Their form is so striking—an art piece in and of themselves. We centered the design of this dining room around the chairs, creating a space that is inspired by the Bauhaus movement but could easily be in a millennial’s home today. By keeping the decor minimal but layering some texture with artwork, the rattan-clad chairs, and the faux hide rug, this space is simplistic in each piece individually. But together, it creates a rich and unique look that spans many decades!

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Sweet Simplicity

Simplicity reigns supreme here! This minimalist bedroom puts function on par with style. In classic Bauhaus fashion, there is little-to-no ornament, save a single piece of art, a few vases, and the spotted rug. But these pieces take a back seat to the sculptural forms of the foundational furniture. Another layer of decoration comes through from the saturated colors in the design. The deep rust bed, gray walls and chair, and blue rug all create a striking visual impact in the space. Modern Bauhaus style at its finest!

Want to try Bauhaus style in your own home?

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Scandi Style: This Home is a Perfect Specimen of Scandinavian Interior Design Style

If you love a minimalist aesthetic but want something that’s a little more warm and organic, then Scandinavian design might be just the thing.

What is Scandinavian Design?

Scandinavian design is an interior design and furniture style hallmarked by clean lines, minimalist features, and warm, light woods contrasted with darker-toned woods or metals such as iron. A mix of mid-century forms with minimalist, curated styling, Scandinavian design is definitely a less-is-more style. It’s all about a clean and minimal aesthetic with an organized and styled vibe. Functionality is also key in Scandinavian design. This no-frills style, while it tends to have a beautiful aesthetic, values function over form. So, in a Scandinavian home, everything should have a purpose—even the decor!

In terms of color palettes, Scandinavian interiors tend to have a black and white color scheme. They feature a neutral base, with a lot of whites and creams. But there’s almost always some dark contrast in a Scandinavian space, which—combined with the use of natural materials—helps keep the look from feeling sterile. Scandi design also celebrates the use of natural light whenever possible. Fabric curtains and layered lighting keep the look cozy at night, but during the day a Scandinavian space should be bathed in sunlight!

scandinavian interior designThe Origins of Scandinavian Design

As the name suggests, this look has its roots in Scandinavian countries like Sweden, Norway, and Denmark. So, it’s no surprise that this interior design style celebrates nature—which is embraced in all its forms in Scandinavia. This is done by bringing natural-toned and raw-edge woods indoors, giving the look a more organic vibe.

Scandinavian design as an interior design style hit the scene in the mid-1950s, around the same time as Mid-Century Modern design began to rise in popularity. While there are a ton of similarities between these two styles, there are some distinct differences, especially in the materials used.

Learn more about the differences between Mid-Century and Scandinavian design styles on our podcast episode that’s all about Mid-Century Modern design!

scandinavian interior designThe Popularity of Scandinavian Design

Today, this Nordic style continues to grow in popularity for its calming nature and aesthetic appeal. People are drawn to the clean lines, simple storage solutions (see: IKEA), and the appeal of neutral base furniture crafted in light woods and whites. Nothing about this style is too “in your face,” which means it can be personalized in terms of colors, patterns, and decorative accessories.

We’re seeing Scandi styles being reimagined across the design world today. You’ll see a lot of Scandinavian-inspired design elements in the popular Hygge design style—which makes sense since hygge is a Danish concept! In fact, it’s really a mix of the coziness and approachability of rustic interior design ideas with the minimal forms and organic materials of Scandinavian design. And then there’s “Japandi” style, which is a mix of design influences from Japan-inspired rustic minimalism and furniture forms, but with a focus on that Scandi functionality. There are so many ways to personalize this design style, whether you go for straight-up Scandinavian design or mix it with other design styles.

Want to see this look brought to life? Keep reading for a room-by-room tour of a home designed with a Scandinavian interior design style.

scandinavian interior design

Scandinavian Entryway

This entryway is all about minimalist function. There is no clutter and no unnecessary objects in this space. It’s all about optimizing functionality—but doing so with beautiful furniture. This bench is a lovely combination of Scandinavian-inspired materials, with its warm wood finish and iron base.

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The Key Elements:

Embrace minimalist styling. When it comes to a Scandinavian-inspired entryway, you don’t need much to complete the look. Take a no-frills approach with your Scandinavian decor and just include the basics—some hooks to hang your coat, a place to set your shoes, and perhaps a surface for your wallet, purse, or keys.

Opt for function over form. While this entryway is beautiful, it’s functional above all else. The bench gives you a place to sit down as you come and go from the house, gather your belongings, and put your shoes on or take them off. The hooks give you an easy place to hang your coat, with a mirror right beneath to check your look before heading out the door!

Incorporate moments of warmth. A minimalist space can easily feel cold. But, as the welcoming space of your home, you want this area to feel inviting! So, we made sure to incorporate some visual warmth through the warm wood of the bench, the layered sheepskin rug (giving your feet a soft place to land when you take off your shoes!), and the textural pampas grass.scandinavian interior design

Scandinavian Living Room

Warm, cozy, and welcoming, this Scandinavian living room is both functional and relaxing. Everything in this room has a place and function—which helps it from feeling overcrowded or overwhelming. Yet it also feels like a space you can easily unwind and relax in.

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The Key Elements:

Look for minimalist-inspired furniture. In this living room, Scandi style comes alive through the accent furniture. The chair has a spindle design which is very common in trendy Scandinavian styles. The minimal design of the cabinet and the no-frills sofa keep the overall look simple and streamlined.

Layer in comfortable accents. The textiles in this space—from the plush rugs to the pillows and throw blankets—are what make this living room feel extra inviting. They all add touches of warmth and contrasting textures throughout this neutral space.

Add in high-contrast elements. Dark accents, such as the pendant, accent chair, and cabinet, offer a nice contrast to this neutral space. These high-contrast elements help offset the neutral base and add visual interest to the room.scandinavian interior design

Scandinavian Dining Room

This sleek, organized, and minimal dining room is discerningly styled. Even so, the vibe in this space is warm and welcoming because of the wood tones and textures that are used. Scandinavian design style shows up in this space particularly in the furniture itself. The dining set is a classic Scandi design with streamlined, minimalist legs that have a slight taper to them—though not enough to be classified as super Mid-Century.

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The Key Elements:

Embrace warmer wood tones. In your base furniture—the dining table, chairs, and a credenza or sideboard—look for wood pieces with warmer finishes. You could also go for a light natural finish which is still very Scandinavian but would give your space a slightly different vibe! For a Scandi dining room, you’ll also want to look for furniture with softly tapered legs—but nothing that’s too loud or mid-century modern.

Layer in touches of contrast. In this space, the accent decor, light fixture, and sheepskin rug bring some visual contrast to the space. Without these darker elements, the space would just be light neutrals and wood tones, which would make it lose that inviting warmth. Speaking of which…

Bring in elements of textural warmth as well. Unexpected textiles like the layered rugs, along with the fabric drapes, help offset the visual monotony that can come from wood-on-wood styling.

scandinavian interior design

Scandinavian Bedroom

Can you say cozy?? This space is all about softness and plush textures with a refined and relaxed vibe. Natural textures like cane, jute, and rattan mix together with warm wood tones to create an inviting warmth in the space. The Scandi vibe comes alive in this space through the furniture shapes, the metal finish of the light sconce, and the visual contrast in the decorative accents.

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The Key Elements:

Start with a plush base. A Scandinavian-inspired bedroom is all about comfort. An upholstered bed offers an element of warmth and comfort to the base layer furniture, which is complemented by a plush rug and cozy Scandinavian-inspired bedding. (Of course, you could also go with a minimal light wood bed frame and just add a couple extra pillows for added comfort!)

Use natural materials to bring in texture. The wood nightstands, dresser, and bench contrast nicely with the plush bed and rug. This helps incorporate that organic element to the space, with the clean-lined furniture supporting the Scandi vibe. Natural textures like pampas grass and a woven pendant light add visual warmth to the space, which adds to the feeling of coziness.

Incorporate subtle pops of color. To give this space a little more personality, we added small pops of earthy blue through the throw and Scandinavian decor on the nightstand. Since there’s less contrast in this room than other spaces of this home, the pops of blue help bring a little more life to the space!

Feeling inspired? Check out more of our home tours series on the blog, or browse our interior design ideas feed!

Want to bring some minimal and functional Scandinavian style into your home?

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Interior Design & You: Unboxing Your Interior Design Tool Kit

Welcome to Interior Design & You, a virtual design seminar led by Alessandra Wood, Modsy’s VP of Style. In this series, you’ll learn some of the basics of interior design, as well as how to personalize your own home. Watch session one, Unboxing Your Interior Design Toolkit, below—or scroll through the post for a recap!

Today, we’re digging into some interior design basics, which are some of the key things that interior designers think about when they’re designing a space. These five basic elements—color, pattern, scale and proportion, materials, and texture—are what designers use to create amazing spaces.

These interior design basics create something of a toolkit that gives you everything you need to think about your space in the way an interior designer does. And, armed with some knowledge about these interior design principles, hopefully, you’ll have a better understanding of the basics of interior design! So, let’s get to it and unbox your design toolkit!

Interior design basics

Color

Color is one of the greatest ways to make an impact in your space. But deciding what colors to use can be a really tricky process! We’re all drawn to certain colors, and different colors may create different feelings within you. So, when thinking through how to decorate a room and what colors to include, there are a couple questions you can ask yourself, like how you’ll be using your space, what colors you’re naturally drawn to, and how you can align your color palette with your needs for the space—on a practical level, but also a mental and emotional level. Thinking about this can help guide your basic color choices.

3 Different Ways to Think About Color

From there, you’ll want to think about the amount of color you want in a space. Ask yourself about the amount and intensity of color you want in your space. The three levels of color we tend to think about are neutrals, pops of color, and bold use of color. A neutral space will, like it sounds, use mostly neutral. In a room with pops of color, you’ll choose one or two colors, and “pop” them in small ways through decorative accents and art, or in bigger ways through a larger piece of furniture or accent wall.

Creating a Color Palette

After deciding if you want your space to be neutral, bold, or simply have pops of color, you can create an overall color palette for your space. A simple, foolproof way to choose a color palette that works is to look at a color wheel and choose complementary colors (colors on the opposite sides of the color wheel. But, if you want a more bold look, you could also go for a monochromatic palette, which uses multiple shades of one hue in a space. So, while technically the whole room relies on a single color, using different shades gives it visual depth.

You can also think about color intensity and the color families that go together. On the softer end of the spectrum are pastels. You then move into primary and earth tones. And on the more highly saturated end of the color spectrum are jewel tones.

Need some extra help with colors? Check out our guide to decorating with jewel tones, designer tips for decorating with white, our designers’ favorite neutral paint colors, and some foolproof color schemes for blue rooms.

Interior design basics

Pattern

Pattern is definitely related to color, but in interior design, it’s a category all its own. Patterns often use a broad mix of colors and they’re a way to bring a lot of personality into your space. And the surfaces on which you can use patterns really are endless.

Where and How to Incorporate Pattern

Interior design basics

“Safe” Use of Pattern

If you’re someone who likes to use patterns but doesn’t want anything too bold, you can introduce patterns into your space in a way that feels more subtle and soft. We call this a “safe” use of patterns. Often, this looks like incorporating patterns in smaller moments around your space—in textiles like pillows, throws, rugs, and drapery; in decorative accessories and wall art; and sometimes even accent furniture like a chair or ottoman. This is a great way to introduce depth and pops of excitement to your space without feeling like you’re going overboard.

Interior design basics

Bold Use of Pattern

If you’re bold at heart and love to make a big statement, you might want to try a bold use of pattern. This means incorporating patterns in larger furniture like sofas, in wallpaper, through flooring. To go really bold, you can also layer patterns and mix patterns on your walls and furniture, in addition to decorative accents, textiles, and artwork!

Interior design basics

How to Mix Patterns

If you’re wondering how to mix patterns, you’ll want to think about scale, color, and style. A great way to think about this on a small scale is through the arrangement of throw pillows on a sofa. Think about it: you want them to coordinate without completely matching. To pull off pattern mixing, you’ll want to first land on a color palette, which will create a through-line for all the patterns. And you’ll definitely want to anchor your patterns with some solid colors to help ground the look. From there, play with scale by mixing larger and smaller prints together.

Interior design basics

Scale & Proportion

Scale and proportion are all about how pieces physically fit in a space and how those pieces relate to each other; together, they help create a sense of symmetry and visual balance in a room. Technically, scale and proportion are different things—but colloquially these terms are often used interchangeably. Scale most often refers to the size of a piece within a specific space and its architecture, whereas proportion is often used when describing the size and shape of one object in relation to another in the space. But, for our purposes today, we’ll just use the two terms interchangeably.

Below are some different ways and times to think about scale and proportion within a space.

Interior design basics

Scale Within a Space: Footprint

Think about scale within your space when you’re thinking about the footprint—so, the actual size of the space. This is a determining factor in how you design the floor plan and what pieces of furniture you pick out. Here’s how this works: Larger spaces can handle larger pieces of furniture and more zoned floor plans, while smaller spaces should have smaller pieces. Scale is the reason why you don’t want to cram a huge sofa in a small living room or an apartment-sized sofa in a large or long living room. This might seem obvious, but it’s important to think through. How do your pieces fit within the footprint of the space? You want to pick out pieces that will create balance and make the room feel thoughtfully full, but not too full.

Scale Within a Space: Decorative Accents

You can also think about scale within a space in how you use decorative accents. This gets into the idea of how a piece is used in relation to other pieces within a space, and how they create balance.

Rugs are a great example of this. This is a place where a lot of people get it wrong. Rugs not only have to fit with the scale of a room but also with the furniture that it’s arranged with. This makes it more of a challenge! So, you want to make sure your rug is the right scale for both your room and furniture. If this idea feels overwhelming, check out our guide on how to find the right rug size for your living space and our bedroom rug size guide. Layering rugs is another great way to visually play with scale if you’ve discovered your current rug is too small but you don’t want to get rid of it!

Accent tables and lamps are another realm where scale and proportion can feel challenging—whether that’s a floor lamp or accent table in relation to a chair or sofa, or even a table lamp in relation to the accent table it sits upon. You can dig deeper into this topic with our guide to scale and proportion!

Interior design basics

Materials

When designing a room, a designer always considers a mix of materials. This is an easier concept to grasp, as it refers to what each piece in a room is made of. Look around your space. You’re probably surrounded by quite a mix of materials! Maybe wood, leather, textiles like wool or cashmere, fur, metal. Each material in a room brings in different colors, textures, and reflects light differently, which creates visual drama and intrigue to your space.

A room with only one material would feel pretty flat. It may even begin to feel institutional, evoking visions of white padded rooms. And no one wants that in their home! When you have a room that’s layered with a lot of different materials, you have a lot of different ways that light is playing with and interacting with a space, which creates a lot more visual interest.

Interior design basics

Texture

A close cousin of materials is texture. Texture is the tactile feeling of all those materials in a space. It’s really reactive to how light reflects and streams through your space. Mixing materials is the key to creating a space with layers of texture. Bringing in multiple textures and layering within your space keeps it from feeling one-note and creates depth and warmth.

Some simple ways to incorporate texture into your space are through layering materials like weathered wood, lacquer, marble, and metals; upholstery like wool, velvet, cotton, and linen; or woven natural materials like jute, rattan, or seagrass. You can have natural or manmade materials. But all of these different materials, when combined, create different touchpoints in the space that reflect light differently and keep your room feeling dynamic.

And there you have it! These interior design basics have hopefully given you a starting point to think about how your space works together and can transform into something really special! We know all this can feel a little daunting to get right. But here’s the good news: you don’t have to figure this all out on your own. With Modsy’s online interior design services, you can work with an expert designer to figure out everything from your floor plan and color scheme to designing the space with furniture and decor.

And if you’re feeling energized and want to dig a little deeper into the world of interior design, learn more with our interior design 101 guides, discover how to decorate a room in 10 easy steps, and get inspired with some interior design ideas! And don’t forget to check out session 2 and session 3 of Interior Design & You!

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The Render (Episode 1): Discovering Your Personal Interior Design Style and What It Says About You

Welcome to the visual companion to the first episode of Modsy’s new podcast, The Render. The Render is a podcast hosted by Modsy’s very own Alessandra Wood and Maddy Warner, and is all about the untold stories from the world of interior design.

Tune in to the very first episode where Maddy and Alessandra break down 9 popular interior design styles. Together, they’ll chat about how you can spot these different interior design styles in the wild, unpack the history behind them, and give you tips on how you can start to define your own personal style and bring it to life.

Listen Now

The Render is available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen to your podcasts!

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If you’ve ever taken an online style quiz, you’ve probably been told your style is Mid-Century Modern, Rustic, or maybe even Traditional. And while those descriptions are a great starting point, unless you’re on the design savvier side it can be difficult to translate that description into a cohesive design for your home.

Not to mention, a one-word style description doesn’t leave a whole lot of wiggle room for your individuality. Can we really say that there are only a few styles to choose from and everyone fits perfectly into one? We don’t think so.

Instead, at Modsy we like to think about personal style as a recipe—you’ve got your ingredients but it’s up to you to mix and match them to suit your unique tastes. Read on for our complete tour of 9 pure interior design styles. Be sure to tune into the first episode of the Render for the complete behind the scenes take on each style!

classic formal designClassic Formal Design

In the words of Alessandra, if you grew up with a grandmother that wouldn’t let you go in the living room, it was probably decorated in classic style. A style that “is what it sounds like,” classic formal design is refined, formal, rich, and polished.

This design style is based on French and European antiques and you’ll find a strong emphasis on symmetry and proportion along with decorative elements like toile and chinoiserie patterns, furniture with ball and claw feet, dark woods, gilded materials, and pieces in perfect, pristine condition.

Explore Classic Design Ideas

 

 

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Chinoiserie Pattern

A look that was inspired by Asian patterns including pagodas and pastoral scenes. Beginning during the Rococo era, French people were looking toward China and getting inspired by their textiles and pottery.

 

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Toile Pattern

Similar to chinoiserie, toile is a pattern that showcases pastoral vignettes. You’ve probably seen it in wallpaper or fabric designs, or even in an IKEA shower curtain!

Classic formal design in popular culture

Have you seen classic formal style used to decorate the homes of your favorite movie or TV characters? Chances are those people are high-powered, wealthy, and aligned with more “traditional” values. Here are some of the places we see classic formal style in popular culture!

downton abbey interior designDownton Abbey

A great example of classic formal style in period, Downton Abbey, showcases the color palette, shapes and silhouettes, and the overall vibe of how a space designed in classic formal style makes us feel.

Olivia Pope’s Apartment, Scandal

Learn more on how to get Olivia’s look from Scandal. And don’t forget to check out that valance!

Charlotte York’s Apartment, Sex and The City

See how we think Charlotte might have designed Carrie Bradshaw’s apartment.

traditional interior designTraditional Design

Not to be confused with classic formal, traditional style is rooted in early American design and is a less formal and more livable design style. In these interiors you’ll find an emphasis on the beauty of raw materials (mostly dark woods like mahogany and walnut) and excellent craftsmanship.

This style is synonymous with the White House and George Washington, and the greatest difference between classic and traditional design lies in their motives. Our Founding Fathers wanted to align themselves with “the people” and they used this design style, which was inspired by the puritan roots of America, to differentiate themselves from the regimes of Europe (think Marie Antoinette).

Explore Traditional Design Ideas

Traditional design in popular culture

Calling all Hamilton fans, this is the style that would have made Alexander proud. But where else do we see traditional design in TV shows and movies? This style is rooted in comfort and to us is synonymous with the designs of the 90s—think all your favorite 90s sitcoms!

Ross’ Apartment, Friends

Ross’s apartment from Friends was chock-full of traditional design. Peek how we think his space might look today!

Minimalist Design

Ever heard the adage “form follows function?” Or how about “less is more.” Both of those ideas were born out of the Minimalist Movement! Another style that is exactly what it sounds like, minimalist design is understated, not superfluous, and all about committing to this idea of how do we design and create things that give you just what you need?

In these spaces you’ll find little ornamentation, lots of sleek and streamlined forms, and raw materials. The Minimalist designers were reacting to a cluttered life and wanted to bring “good design” (something that was beautiful and useful) to masses of people through industrial production.

Explore Minimalist Design Ideas

Minimalist design in popular culture

Funnily enough, minimalist design is commonly used to decorate interiors of futuristic spaces and the homes of serial killers.

Patrick Bateman’s Apartment, American Psycho

What he lacks in moral conscience, he makes up for in style. Just look at those Barcelona chairs, which were an iconic design of the Minimalist Movement. GQ even agrees with our theory that serial killers love minimalism.

2001: A Space Odyssey

Stanley Kubrick’s vision of the future is all about less is more!

Marie Kondo

We’ve all heard the idea of sparking joy! Marie Kondo has put minimalism back on trend with her popular book (and Netflix series) on The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.

mid-century modern designMid-Century Modern Design

The style we hear people asking for the most, mid-century modern has been the “It” style that people want in their homes for a number of years. But what is this style? Mid-Century Modern is referencing a specific time period (generally from the 40s to the 60s) that was known for a specific form of modernism.

In these spaces you’ll find a lot of blonde and teak woods, primary colors, tapered legs, hairpins, an organic approach to forms and shapes, and a strong emphasis on geometry. During this time period, we see designers taking principles of the Minimalist Movement and rethinking them in a way that puts comfort more front and center.

Explore Mid-Century Modern Design Ideas

Mid-century modern design in popular culture

These days you can’t throw a stick without hitting an Eames lounge chair in pop culture. Probably more than any other style, mid-century modern is the star of many movies and TV shows. Here are a few of our favorites that showcase this iconic style!

Mad Men

Our favorite mid-century bachelor, Don Draper’s office from the AMC hit show Mad Men sure had style. Bonus points if you can hit the Eames lounge chair with a stick!

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

The elegant interiors of Amazon’s original series are almost as marvelous as the main character, Midge Maisel.

The Incredibles

One of our favorite Pixar film series, The Incredibles 2 features an iconic mid-century home complete with a sputnik chandelier and conversation pit that would make Don Draper jealous.

Hollywood Glam Design

Traveling west to the golden coast, we find the style Hollywood Glam. Also known as glam, Hollywood regency, or even chic, this style is bold, dramatic, and over the top. And while this style couldn’t look any different from the retro interiors of mid-century modern spaces, this style actually came on to the scene during the same era!

In these spaces you’ll find a lot of gold, brass, velvet, furs, mirrored surfaces, and animal prints galore. It’s a luxurious, quirky, and fun style that mixes different elements in a way that adds surprise and delight to a space.

Explore Hollywood Glam Design Ideas

 

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Dorothy Draper’s Greenbrier Hotel

Iconic designer, Dorothy Draper, is considered to be “the mother of Hollywood glam style.” Her designs for the Greenbrier hotel (what Maddy calls the “original Instagram museum”) showcase this love of eccentric patterns, bright colors, and all around over-the-top designs.

Hollywood glam in popular culture

A style meant to be photographed and filmed, this look loves the spotlight! So it’s no surprise we see it in the interiors of some of our favorite pop culture interiors.

Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antionette

Talk about luxury, Sofia Coppola’s 2006 depiction of Marie Antionette’s life is full of glamorous style fit for a queen.

 

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Blanche’s Bedroom, The Golden Girls

Some of our favorite style icons, see how we reimagined the interior of The Golden Girls’ house for today!

Global Eclectic Design

The word “eclectic” can mean multiple things. In one sense it describes an approach to style that’s about mixing different elements together. But in regards to a style type, eclectic (or bohemian/boho) is all about a collected, globally-inspired space that is informal and approachable.

This is the look for the world traveler and the flea market lover. In this style, you’ll find a mix of colors, patterns, furniture styles, asymmetrical layouts, and unexpected decorative touches. Out of all these styles, it’s the absolute least formal and all about breaking the rules of traditional interior design.

Explore Eclectic Design Ideas

Global eclectic design in popular culture

A popular style for creating a relaxed vibe or for a young person’s space, here are a few places we’re seeing eclectic design used in movies and TV shows.

The Bachelor Mansion

Ever notice the design of ABC’s The Bachelor mansion? There are colors, patterns, and plants galore, along with design choices that create a relaxed and informal vibe like casual layouts, floor poufs, and daybeds.

 

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Lara Jean’s Bedroom, To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before

A youthful take on eclectic style, we’re obsessed with Lara Jean’s wall mural.

 

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Nancy Meyers’ Home Again

In contrast to Lara Jean’s bedroom, the interior of Alice Kinney’s (played by Reese Witherspoon) home is the adult version of eclectic style.

transitional interior designTransitional Design

A timeless style, transitional interior design (also sometimes called contemporary) is unfussy and approachable. In these interiors, you’ll find a lot of neutral upholstery, dark woods, streamlined shapes, chrome finishes, and a strong emphasis on comfort.

Transitional is a great base style that you can layer other design aesthetics on top of. It’s definitely a “safer” style that’s hard to dislike because, as Alessandra notes, it’s a “style-less” style that’s really the bread and butter of so many homes.

Explore Transitional Design Ideas

Hotel furniture

The quintessential example of transitional style? Furniture in hotels. Nothing to be offended by here!

Transitional design in popular culture

Since this style is such a chameleon it can be hard to spot in the wild. Here are a few places we see it crop up in popular culture.

Amanda Woods’ Home, The Holiday

Amanda’s house from The Holiday is a great example of transitional design mixed with traditional influences. Peek our designs for the two homes featured in The Holiday and learn how to get the looks!

rustic interior designRustic Design

Another incredibly popular style, rustic design is a look that is comfortable, warm, and inviting. Inside rustic spaces you’ll find lots of texturous materials, like reclaimed wood, leather with a patina, sheepskins, sisal and jute, architectural fragments, and unfinished metals.

This is a style that can be spun in so many ways depending on your individual tastes. You can go log cabin rustic, farmhouse, modern rustic… the list goes on! But at their core, all of these styles are centered around creature comforts and a love of natural materials.

Explore Rustic Design Ideas

Rustic design in popular culture

When we think about how design makes you feel when you’re experiencing it, rustic is a style that makes you feel comfortable, supported, warm, and cozy. Not a bad place to be. Here are some places we’re seeing rustic design on the big screen!

Winterfell Castle, Game of Thrones

It doesn’t get cozier than this! Want to get the style of your favorite Game of Thrones character? Peek our designs for the most-popular Game of Thrones houses.

 

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Chip and Joanna Gaines’ Fixer Upper Style

Joanna Gaines is without a doubt our idea of the quintessential rustic style icon.

industrial interior designIndustrial Design

A close cousin of rustic, both industrial and rustic design are into a vintage and rugged past, but industrial is more about the warehouse look. Spaces designed in this style embrace the use of industrial materials (what you’d see in an old-timey factory setting) like edison bulbs, exposed ductwork, pipes, unfinished woods and metals, and leather.

Historically, the industrial style comes from loft spaces. As warehouses were converted into lofts, many of which were lived in by artists like Andy Warhol, they were designed with the space’s history in mind.

Explore Industrial Design Ideas

Andy Warhol’s Loft

Industrial design in popular culture

Does your favorite movie character live the loft life? Some of ours do! Here are a few places we see industrial design in popular TV shows.

 

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New Girl Loft

Jess and co. live in this trendy, urban loft in LA. It’s a cheery take on industrial style.

 

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Queer Eye Loft

Warmed up with pops of brass and leather, the Queer Eye loft is a great interpretation of industrial style with an infusion of comfort.

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