Comparing and contrasting similar styles of interior design

A person who is not involved in the world of design can find it difficult to choose a suitable style for interior decoration, because some of them have points of commonality with each other, which is why confusion arises: materials need to be matched correctly and colours must not be too flashy as this recalls another, similar approach.

Taking living rooms as an example, we’ll compare the features of various interior styles which can be confused with each other and also tell you how to learn to distinguish loft from grunge or eclecticism from the Bohemian style.

Learning to distinguish between similar interior styles

Minimalism and Contemporary

These modern styles have become widespread in different countries due to the fact that they are accessible to people on all levels of income. They provide the foundation for a simple and comfortable environment without complicated details, colour transitions or rare materials.

Common features:

Minimalism and contemporary have similar features, for example, the interior is furnished with furniture in simple geometric shapes of a fairly large size, inexpensive materials are used for the lining and the basic furnishings are all in neutral shades.


Minimalism implies a laconic style and extreme simplicity in everything. The restraint of the silhouettes can be counterbalanced by good texture and contrasting combinations of pure colours: white and black, grey and red. Decorative accessories are almost never used in a minimalist interior, leaving free space is part of the ascetic.

Contemporary, unlike minimalism, welcomes the use of different décor: vases, candlesticks, lamps and paintings on stretcher bars can and should be used, not chaotically, but in certain functional areas. The colour scheme is more diverse, however, bold contrasts are quite rare.

Classic and neoclassic

Since these styles are classified as historical, their admirers tend to be people with high incomes, and more often, older than middle age.

Common features:

Both classic and neoclassic interiors are only feasible in spacious rooms. The best features of these styles are manifested in their fullness and grandeur only in a large-scale space.

Both styles are characterized by the presence of a large number of luxury items which fill the room evenly, forming an atmosphere of respectability and solemnity.

A notable feature of the styles are columns, stucco moulding, pilasters, large chandeliers with crystal pendants, framed landscapes and portraits, vases, statues and so on.


The ambience of a classic interior conveys and entirely different mood, in general: if there is stucco, then it is used plentifully in the form of rosettes, mouldings, cornices, medallions and gables, if there are curtains, then with lambrequins, swags and ruffles, if there are sofas, then they have a lot of decorative pillows.

Furniture can be covered with throws, the fireplace is always decorated with a luxurious mirror, and picture frames need to be wooden, with carvings and gilding.

The neoclassical interior is also luxurious, but it also looks more modern and delicate. Support elements such as columns, pilasters and arches are devoid of abundant décor, furniture is almost always raised on its legs and has a different, more slender, silhouette as though it had been pulled closer together.

Picturesque canvases and mirrors are enclosed in laconic, rather thin frames, and the stucco elements are used less and are not as abundant as in the classical interior.

To summarize, we note: the neoclassical interior is universal, elegant and very aesthetic, its forms, while lighter, are clean and elegant.

Provence and shabby-chic

Often these styles are confused by people, and it is not surprising, because they are very similar in many respects and bear the mark of a measured, romanticized life.

Common features:

Light pastel shades formed the basis of both styles along with natural materials which have a touch of patina. In both Provence and shabby chic, interiors are filled with various pretty decorative accessories: vases, woven kerchiefs, living plants in ceramic pots, family photos in a fishnet framework.

The textile accompaniment of both styles of interior deserves its own mention. It is customary to use flax, cotton mat and chintz with a delicate floral pattern or in a single colour.


Provence is differentiated by: elegant light furniture with a carved wooden frame, often marked with a patina; it uses all of pastel shades from sand to soft blue and lavender; it brings the outdoors in (dry grass, paintings with lavender and wheat fields, accessories from vines, forged items (shelves, tables).

Shabby chic ​​is distinguished by creating an atmosphere in which older items are given a second lease of life and the entire interior looks very feminine and cute. Here we use vintage, retro, eco and boho furniture, which is artificially aged and shows cracks, chips and uneven layers of paint.

Spaces decorated in a shabby chic style tend to use very light colours – mostly white, cream, light grey, powdery, pale pink and peachy hues. Patterns such as roses, buds and garden flowers are often used for cotton covers, tablecloths and napkins, which are abundant in this kind of room design.

Vintage and retro

The mention of these styles tends to evoke images of old objects, rustling curtains, varnished parquet and desktop radios. Nevertheless, it is worth taking the time to understand in more detail, in what specific ways retro and vintage are similar to and different from each other.

Common features:

In both cases, the atmosphere is created through the use of objects from past eras, experienced life’s ups and downs and are original emblems of their time.

In terms of the general approach to these styles, they both tend to include parquet floors, carpets with a floral pattern, floor lamps and shelves with books.


Vintage-style interiors make use of antiques (Chippendale chairs, Windsor chairs, classic consoles). Vintage style can also be created by curtains with lambrequins, the use of well-chosen upholstery for sofas or covers for chairs in the dining room and appliances and utensils made of silver and copper.

Retro style relates to the beginning to the middle of the last century, which means that it often includes mass-market consumer goods, such as wall clocks with a round dial, low tables and coffee tables, furniture on thin cylindrical legs and upholstery with shaped stitches

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