Furniture styles 101: find the perfect match for your home

In this post: We dive into the most important furniture styles, sharing examples of iconic pieces from each style plus some tips on how to find the right furniture style for your home.

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Introduction to furniture styles

Ever wonder what the difference is between modern and contemporary furniture? Or wonder what style of furniture would work best for your home? In this article, we break down the major styles of furniture you're likely to come across, share examples of the pieces that are the most popular, and give you some tips for selecting furniture for your home.

When it comes to decorating your home, furniture style is an important consideration so it make sense to do a little investigation before you get started. The right furniture can set the tone for your entire space, reflecting your personality and creating a welcoming atmosphere. 

In this article:

The importance of choosing the right furniture style

Choosing the right furniture style goes beyond simply selecting pieces that look good to you (although that is pretty important!). For the best chance at being happy with your final selection, there are a few things to consider. One of the most important is your lifestyle. If you have kids or pets, you'll want to consider them before you choose a furniture style and especially before selecting colors and materials. Some styles of furniture are naturally more forgiving to hard wear. Another important factor to spend some time contemplating is how you want your home to feel since the style of furniture can be a big ingredient in the final aesthetic.

Something to note, too, before we get too far. It's not at all uncommon for a house – or even just one room – to have multiple furniture styles. As with a lot of things, the more you know, the more intentional you can be with your choices. We'll run through some major furniture styles and tips for making it easier to integrate your furniture selections into the overall design of your home. But all rules are made to be broken so treat these as guidelines!

For example, many people like to select a furniture style that complements the architecture, color scheme, and existing decor of their space. That said, playing with contrasts can be a lot of fun. Ultimately, the way you design your home should reflect your personal taste and lifestyle and make you happy to be there.

Finally, the furniture you choose will (hopefully) be a long-term investment, so it's important to choose a style that will stand the test of time. By selecting the right furniture styles, you can create a space that looks great, fits with your lifestyle, and feels right to you. And by choosing high-quality furniture, you can be sure that it could potentially be resold or used by someone else in the future if your needs change.

How to choose the perfect furniture style for your home

Choosing the perfect furniture style for your home can feel like a daunting task, but with a little guidance, you’ll be ready to do some planning. Here are some tips to help you make the right choice:

1. Consider your home's architecture and decor

Take into account the architecture of your home and the existing decor when choosing a furniture style. While there’s an exception to every rule, it’s may be easier to match traditional furniture style with a classic Victorian-era home, for example, while modern and contemporary furniture would work well in a modern loft.

2. Think about your personal taste and lifestyle

Your furniture should reflect your personal taste and lifestyle. Consider how you want people to feel in your space and whether you prefer a more formal or casual look. Perhaps most importantly, think about how you use your space. If you have young children or pets, you might opt for furniture that's durable and easy to clean. Think darker colors, patterns, and slipcovers.

3. Take measurements and consider scale

This tip is not as much fun but so important! Before purchasing furniture, it's important to measure your space and consider scale. Even though a piece might technically fit in a space, it doesn’t mean it will look good – make sure the furniture you choose fits comfortably in your room and allows for easy movement. Oversized furniture can make a small space feel cramped, while too-small furniture can make a large room feel empty. If you’re not sure, consider using painter's tape to outline where a piece will go and if you feel like it will work well in your space. (This works well with rugs, too!)

4. Do a little online browsing

One of the best ways to figure out your personal style is to look at examples – and it’s never been easier to do. Magazines or online interior decorating sites are great spots to peruse for inspiration – one of our favorites is Houzz. Spend some time marking what you like and you’ll probably start to see some patterns. When you see trends in what you are frequently liking,  you'll start to get a sense of a furniture style that’s going to be a good fit for you.

What's trending in furniture?

Before landing on a final design for your home, it's always good to know what's trending and what's here to stay so you can plan your budget accordingly. We reached out to the experts at online furniture retailer, Chairish, for their expert advice on what's hot right now.

“An evergreen trend that will never burn out is vintage furniture with showstopping designer favorite upholstery, like Schumacher, Scalamandre, Pierre Frey, Brunshwig and Fils and more. We are also seeing a focus on decorative details when it comes to seating & tables. Neoclassical-inspired scroll accents and skirted & fringe sofas are the two that stand out most to us.  

The Chairish shopper is also no stranger to blending form and function, and a trend we have highlighted there is origami-inspired pieces that are just as much a sculptural art piece as a useful furniture item. Lastly, let’s talk storage. An affinity towards palette cleansing pieces like cerused and bleached oak, which can be nicely incorporated into spaces of any style.”

– Mugs Buckley, VP of Marketing, Chairish

Popular furniture styles and their characteristics

Traditional furniture

Traditional furniture is known for its timeless elegance and classic appeal. It often features ornate details, such as carved woodwork, tufted upholstery, and rich fabrics. Traditional furniture is typically made from high-quality materials like solid wood and leather. Some popular traditional furniture styles include Victorian, Georgian, and Colonial.

The most iconic traditional furniture pieces

  • Chesterfield sofa: The Chesterfield Sofa is known for its distinctive deep button tufting, rolled arms, and nailhead trim. 
  • Queen Anne chair: A Queen Anne chair is characterized by its cabriole legs, curved back, and often features upholstered seats and backs. (Queen Anne chair below available at VintageGrindHouse
  • Chippendale chair: Chippendale chairs are named after the 18th-century English cabinet maker Thomas Chippendale, Chippendale chairs feature intricate and ornate designs, including carved backs, claw-and-ball feet, and rich upholstery. (Chippendale chair below available at ModSquadHome)
  • Canopy bed: Canopy beds have a long history dating back to medieval times, featuring four tall posts at each corner with a frame overhead for hanging curtains or fabric. (Canopy bed below available at Stenella Antiques)
  • Windsor chairs: Originating in the 18th century, Windsor chairs are known for their simple yet sturdy construction, with a solid wooden seat and spindle back. In addition to being a traditional staple, they're often associated with rustic or farmhouse-style decor. (Windsor chair below available at MadModWorld)
  • Secretary desk: A secretary desk combines a writing surface with drawers and compartments for storage, typically featuring a hinged desktop that can be folded down when not in use. They're classic pieces that add both functionality and elegance to a room. (Secretary desk available from HighEndUsedFurniture)
  • Wingback chair: Wingback chairs, with their high backs and “wings” protruding from the sides, were originally designed to protect the sitter from drafts in old houses. Today, they're valued for their comfort and classic silhouette. (Wingback chair below available from Stenella Antiques)
  • Chaise lounge: A chaise lounge is a long, upholstered chair with a backrest at one end and a raised platform for leg support. It's a luxurious piece often found in traditional living rooms or bedrooms. (Chaise lounge below available from Stenella Antiques)

Modern furniture style

Modern furniture, often referred to as mid-century modern, emphasizes simplicity, functionality, and a sleek aesthetic. Clean lines and geometric shapes are prevalent, with an emphasis on minimal ornamentation and clutter-free design. Materials such as metal, glass, and wood are often used, with a focus on showcasing their natural beauty and structural integrity. 

With modern furniture styles, comfort is not sacrificed for style, with ergonomic considerations often integrated seamlessly into the overall design. Mid-century modern icons like the Eames Lounge Chair or the Barcelona Chair epitomize the timeless elegance and functionality of modern furniture styles, continuing to inspire contemporary designers and homeowners alike. If it's hard to believe that this style originated 70ish years ago it's because it's still so popular today.

To learn more about mid-century modern interior design, check out our full article here.

The most iconic modern furniture pieces

  • Eames Chair: The Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman, designed by Charles and Ray Eames in 1956, is celebrated for its iconic mid-century modern design, featuring molded plywood shells and plush leather upholstery. 
  • Barcelona Chair: Designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Lilly Reich for the German Pavilion at the 1929 International Exposition in Barcelona, Spain, the Barcelona Chair is a masterpiece of modernist design, with its sleek stainless steel frame and leather upholstery. 
  • Wassily Chair: Designed by Marcel Breuer in 1925, the Wassily Chair is one of the first tubular steel furniture designs. Its unique frame and canvas or leather seat make it a classic example of Bauhaus design. (Image of Wassily chair courtesy of Vintage Grind House).
  • Noguchi Coffee Table: Designed by Isamu Noguchi in the 1940s, the “Noguchi Coffee Table” is characterized by its sculptural base made of two interlocking wooden elements supporting a glass top. (Noguchi coffee table available at Vintage Grind House)
  • The Tulip Table was designed by Eero Saarinen in the 1950s and features a minimalist pedestal base and a round or oval tabletop.

Contemporary furniture 

While the terms “modern” and “contemporary” are often used interchangeably in discussions of interior design and furniture, there are nuances between them. “Modern” typically denotes a design style influenced by a specific era in the mid-20th century. On the other hand, describing furniture as “contemporary” indicates that it reflects current trends and design styles. Consequently, while the modern design style tends to remain relatively consistent, what is considered contemporary evolves to reflect the latest design trends of the day.

One of the things that can make the line between modern and contemporary furniture blurry is that many modern pieces have become contemporary fixtures. Both modern and contemporary designs draw on the same principles of clean lines, minimalism, and functionality. Since the modern style is the basis for the evolution of contemporary furniture, it makes sense that there is some overlap between the two styles of furniture.

The most iconic contemporary furniture pieces

Contemporary furniture pieces often blend elements of modern and traditional design while incorporating innovative materials and technology. Here are some iconic examples as well as classic elements that are often a part of contemporary style:

  • Noguchi Coffee Table: In addition to being an icon of modern style, the “Noguchi Coffee Table” is also a popular piece in contemporary interiors. (Noguchi coffee table available from Vintage Grind House)
  • Eames molded plastic chair: Continuing the legacy of Charles and Ray Eames, the Eames Molded Plastic Chair reimagines the classic shell chair with a molded plastic seat and a range of base options. It's a versatile and iconic piece that fits seamlessly into contemporary interiors.
  • Togo sofa: The Togo Sofa was designed by Michel Ducaroy for Ligne Roset in 1973, the Togo Sofa is a revolutionary piece of furniture characterized by its modular design and low, inviting profile. Its overstuffed cushions and ergonomic shape make it both comfortable and stylish.
  • Clean Lines: Simple, straight lines and geometric shapes are common in contemporary furniture.
  • Neutral base color: These days, many contemporary furniture pieces start with a neutral color palette such as white, beige, black, or grey. These versatile hues create the perfect backdrop that won't compete with bold accents.
  • Bold artwork: Striking and colorful artwork can often become the focal point of a contemporary room. The clean minimalism and neutral colors of the furniture in a contemporary space create a perfect backdrop for artwork to shine.
  • Environmental Consciousness: With a growing focus on sustainability, many contemporary furniture designers prioritize eco-friendly materials and production methods.

Industrial furniture style

Industrial furniture draws inspiration from old factories and warehouses. It features raw and unfinished materials like wood, metal, and exposed brick. Industrial furniture often has a utilitarian look with a focus on functionality. It's characterized by its sturdy construction, simple design, and distressed finishes. This style calls to mind loft apartments, trendy restaurants, and coffee shops and can be mixed with other design styles to create interesting contrasts.

The most iconic industrial furniture pieces

Industrial furniture pieces often feature raw materials like metal and reclaimed wood, with designs inspired by factories and warehouses. Here are some iconic examples:

  • Tolix Chair: Designed by Xavier Pauchard in the 1930s, the Tolix Chair is an iconic piece of industrial furniture made from galvanized steel. Its simple, practical design and durability have made it a staple in cafes, restaurants, and homes worldwide. (Tolix chair below available at FORETLDN)
  • Factory Cart Coffee Table: Originally used to transport goods around factories and warehouses, factory cart coffee tables feature large metal wheels, a wooden top, and often a distressed finish for a vintage industrial look. (Coffee cart available at VintageGrindHouse)
  • Hairpin leg table: Hairpin legs are a hallmark of industrial design, featuring thin metal legs bent into a distinctive hairpin shape. They're often used on tables, chairs, and desks, adding a touch of mid-century modern flair to industrial-style furniture. (Hairpin table legs below available at FORETLDN)
  • Steel locker cabinets: Inspired by the lockers found in factories and gymnasiums, steel locker cabinets are durable storage solutions with multiple compartments and metal doors. They're perfect for adding a touch of industrial style to entryways, mudrooms, or offices.
  • Industrial shelving units are characterized by their rugged metal frames and wooden or metal shelves. They're inspired by warehouse shelving systems and can be a great way to store things in your space. (Shelf available at FORETLDN)
  • Industrial bar stools typically feature metal frames with a distressed finish and wooden or metal seats. They're inspired by the stools found in old factories and workshops and are perfect for adding an industrial touch to kitchen islands or home bars.
  • Pipe Furniture: Pipe furniture incorporates industrial piping as the main structural element, often combined with reclaimed wood or other materials for tabletops, shelves, or seating.

Rustic furniture

Rustic furniture style embraces a cozy and natural aesthetic – think cozy cottage or farmhouse. It often features distressed or reclaimed wood, earthy colors, black accents, and textured fabrics. Rustic furniture is known for its warm and inviting feel, perfect for creating a charming and relaxed atmosphere in your home.

Iconic rustic furniture

Rustic furniture pieces often evoke a sense of warmth, comfort, and natural beauty. Here are some iconic examples:

  • Adirondack chair: Originating in the Adirondack Mountains of New York in the early 20th century, the Adirondack chair is a classic rustic piece featuring a slanted back and wide armrests. Today, you’ll notice that brands like Polywood make Adirondack furniture out of HDPE, a type of recycled plastic that is even more durable than wood. 
  • Farmhouse or harvest table: Rustic farmhouse tables are characterized by their sturdy construction, often made of solid wood with thick, chunky legs and a distressed finish. They're perfect for gathering family and friends for meals and gatherings. (Farmhouse Table image courtesy of The Farmhouse Finds)
  • Rustic Bench: Rustic benches are simple yet sturdy seating options often made of wood or reclaimed materials like barnwood or driftwood. They're perfect for entryways, dining rooms, or outdoor spaces, adding a touch of rustic charm and providing extra seating when needed. (Rustic bench image courtesy of The Farmhouse Finds)
  • Barnwood and reclaimed wood furniture is made from reclaimed wood salvaged from old barns and buildings. Pieces like barnwood dining tables, bed frames, and cabinets retain the weathered patina and character of the wood, adding rustic charm to any space. (Image of reclaimed wood coffee table courtesy of Custom Wood Interiors, Santa Fe reclaimed wood bed image below courtesy of Fox Den Boutique)

Bohemian furniture

Bohemian furniture style is all about embracing a free-spirited and eclectic look. It combines different patterns, textures, and colors to create a vibrant and bohemian vibe. Bohemian furniture often features eclectic pieces, vintage elements, natural fibers like jute and rattan, and handmade items. This style is perfect for those who love a laid-back and artistic aesthetic and is especially conducive to decorating sustainably.

Iconic Bohemian pieces

Bohemian furniture pieces often embrace eclectic styles, vibrant colors, and a mix of cultural influences. Here are some iconic elements that can be mixed and match to create a bohemian look:

  • Vintage Rug: Vintage Persian and Kilim rugs are prized for their intricate patterns, rich colors, and luxurious textures. They add warmth and personality to Bohemian spaces, whether used as area rugs, wall hangings, or draped over furniture.
  • Moroccan Mosaic Table: Moroccan mosaic tables feature intricate tile patterns and ornate metalwork, reflecting the craftsmanship and cultural heritage of Morocco. They're perfect as side tables or coffee tables, adding a touch of exotic elegance to Bohemian interiors.
  • Pouf: Moroccan poufs are versatile pieces of furniture typically made of leather or fabric and filled with stuffing. They come in vibrant colors and intricate patterns, adding a touch of Bohemian flair to any room as extra seating or as a footrest. (Upcycled denim pouf available from LoominaireHome)
  • Bohemian Canopy Bed: Bohemian canopy beds feature flowing fabrics, vibrant colors, and eclectic patterns draped over a traditional bed frame. They create a romantic and whimsical atmosphere in bedrooms, serving as a focal point and sanctuary for relaxation
  • Rattan Hanging Chair: Rattan hanging chairs are suspended from the ceiling or a sturdy stand, providing a cozy and stylish spot for lounging or reading. Their natural materials and organic shapes add a bohemian touch to indoor and outdoor spaces alike.

Eclectic furniture style

Eclectic furniture style is all about mixing and matching different furniture styles and eras and many homes fall into this camp in one way or another since it can be a little boring to stick exclusively to only one style. An ecclectic style is also appealing because it celebrates individuality and personal taste. Eclectic furniture often features a combination of modern and vintage pieces, creating a unique and visually interesting space.

Iconic pieces to create an eclectic look

Eclectic furniture pieces embrace a mix of styles, materials, and periods, creating a unique and personalized look. Here are some iconic examples:

  • Antique Trunk: Antique trunks are versatile pieces of furniture that add character and storage to eclectic interiors. Whether used as a coffee table, side table, or storage chest, their aged patina and decorative details contribute to the eclectic charm
  • Eames Lounge Chair: The Eames Lounge Chair, designed by Charles and Ray Eames in 1956, is a classic example of mid-century modern design. Its combination of molded plywood, leather upholstery, and sleek lines makes it a versatile and timeless piece that fits seamlessly into eclectic interiors.
  • Vintage Chesterfield Sofa: The Chesterfield sofa is a classic piece of furniture known for its tufted upholstery, rolled arms, and timeless design. A vintage Chesterfield adds a touch of elegance and sophistication to eclectic living rooms, blending seamlessly with a variety of styles and decor.
  • Vintage Velvet Armchair: Vintage velvet armchairs add a touch of luxury and opulence to eclectic interiors. Their sumptuous upholstery, curved lines, and ornate details create a sense of coziness and sophistication, making them perfect statement pieces in eclectic living rooms or bedrooms.
  • Statement Chandelier: A statement chandelier can instantly elevate the look of an eclectic space, adding drama, glamour, or whimsy depending on its style and design. Whether modern, vintage, or bohemian-inspired, a striking chandelier adds personality and visual interest to any room.
  • Eclectic Bookshelf: An eclectic bookshelf showcases a mix of books, decorative objects, artwork, and collections, creating a visually dynamic display that reflects the homeowner's personality and interests. Whether vintage, modern, or whimsical, an eclectic bookshelf adds character and charm to any room.

How to mix different furniture styles: tips for your home decor

Now that you’ve mastered the major furniture styles, it’s time to break the rules! Some of the most interesting spaces mix and match different furniture styles, so if you’re having trouble sticking to just one style, no worries! Mixing and matching different furniture styles can create a visually interesting and unique look in your home and can better reflect your personality. While it can be a little more of a challenge, we have some tips for successfully mixing furniture styles:

1. Stick to a cohesive color palette

To create a harmonious look, choose furniture pieces that share a common color palette. This doesn’t mean you have to stick to just one color, though! It just means that if you decorate your home with every color in the rainbow it can start to look a little haphazard. Try looking at design magazines, look up color palettes on Etsy, or consider a consultation with an interior designer. Limiting the number of colors you use in your space will help tie different styles together and create a cohesive look. 

2. Limit the number of styles you include

If you’re new to mixing furniture styles, it can help not to take on too much. Pick two styles that you like and try to keep your selections within those core styles. The most successful and harmonious-looking spaces often have one dominant style with accents, maybe 20-25%, from the secondary style to keep things interesting.

3. Use contrasting shapes and textures

Experiment with contrasting shapes, such as pairing a sleek contemporary sofa with a curvy traditional armchair. You can also mix different textures, like pairing a rustic wooden coffee table with a sleek metal lamp. Sometimes creating a virtual design board or mood board can help you better visualize different pieces together. There are lots of programs that can help you but it can also be as easy as opening a power point slide and doing a little image cutting and pasting.

4. Create a focal point

When mixing furniture styles, it can be helpful to create a focal point that draws the eye and anchors the space. This could be a statement piece of furniture, a bold piece of artwork, or a unique lighting fixture. Focusing on color and contrast are key ways to identify what might become the focal point in your space.

5. Use accessories to tie different styles together

Accessories, like throw pillows, rugs, and artwork can help tie different furniture styles together. Accessories can also be a less risky way to experiment. It’s a lot easier to switch out bold throw pillows or artwork than it is to buy or reupholster a sofa, for example, which makes accessories a great place to try something new. 

6. Experiment with different furniture arrangements

Don't be afraid to experiment with different arrangements to find the perfect balance between various furniture styles. Move furniture around and try different combinations until you find a layout that feels right to you.

Tips for furniture shopping

When it comes to finding that just-right-piece for your home, it might take a little patience and perseverance. Noel Fahden, VP of Merchandising at Chairish, has some tips to make your search more successful.

“Our first tip for buying furniture is to start sourcing vintage first. Buying vintage or gently used furniture is smart, chic, and kinder to the Earth. In many cases, vintage furniture costs significantly less, tends to be better made, and vintage brings character, uniqueness, and style to any room.

 
The next tip is to minimize the uncertainty of whether an item fits in your home in terms of size and aesthetic. So, firstly, meticulously measure your space (and then double check it again). Then, to gauge how it looks, Chairish offers a convenient “View in Your Space” feature in our iPhone app, allowing you to virtually see the item in your space before making a purchase. These two steps help you shop with more confidence.”

Noel Fahden, VP of Merchandising, Chairish

Where to find beautiful, sustainable furniture in a variety of styles

There’s no reason that your home’s furniture has to break the bank or harm the planet. Finding furniture in different styles from sustainable sources is easier than ever thanks to the wide range of options available. Here are some great places to look for furniture in different styles:

1. New furniture stores

Check out our review of sustainable furniture brands to find a furniture manufacturer or seller that aligns with your aesthetic preferences and personal values.

2. Online furniture resellers

Online resellers offer a vast selection of furniture styles, often at competitive prices. Some of our favorites include Kaiyo, AptDeco, and Chairish. 

3. Antique & thrift stores

Local antique markets and thrift stores can be treasure troves for finding unique and vintage furniture pieces. Keep an open mind and be prepared to do some digging to find hidden gems.

4. Online marketplaces

Those devoted to the hunt can find great deals on places like Facebook Marketplace or buy-nothing groups.

5. Via an interior designer

Sustainable interior designers can also help you source furniture from direct-to-trade sellers with great sustainability policies. 

Conclusion

Choosing the right furniture style is an important aspect of creating a home that reflects your personality and makes you feel at ease. By understanding the different furniture styles and considering your personal taste and lifestyle, you can find the perfect match for your space. Remember to mix and match different styles thoughtfully, and don't be afraid to experiment and have fun with your home decor. So, check out our favorite furniture pieces available for sale and start creating the perfect space that truly feels like home.

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