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The Most Influential Furniture Styles & How to Tap the Looks

Our comprehensive guide taps into the minds of some of the most skilled and revered designers, who lend their unparalleled knowledge into these movements and reveal exactly how to master the furniture styles that resonate the most with you!
Gretty Garcia Dec 27, 2021
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Take a deep-dive into the design philosophy and aesthetics behind some of the most salient design movements, from Art Deco to Mediterranean and Mid-Century Modern. Our comprehensive guide taps into the minds of some of the most skilled and revered designers, who lend their unparalleled knowledge to translating the design philosophies behind these movements and reveal exactly how to master the furniture styles that resonate the most with you. Here, we speak with Sabrina MacLean of Hinojosa Design Studio, a renowned Miami-based interior design firm and Carola Pimentel, interior design consultant and founder of Assure Interiors. Keep reading for their exclusive takes, and get inspired by their home recommendations now.

Mid-Century Modern

Furniture Styles_1 Mid Century
Photo courtesy of Richard Powers / Designer: Alex Papachristidis

Sabrina MacLean: The mid-century design movement spanned from about 1933 to 1965, and included architecture, interior, and graphic design. This movement is all about simple shapes, clean lines, honest use of materials, and lack of embellishments. During this era, the beauty of the pieces lied in their simplicity and the way they showcase and acknowledge their raw materials. Some easy ways to incorporate mid-century design into your home are through the use of organic materials, bouclè fabrics, natural rosewood and oak, and mixing vibrant, earthy tones. Build the room around a statement piece such as a handsome couch, a pair of bold chairs, or an eye-catching table. Some of these mid-century pieces are very expensive, however, you can find similar items with peg legs or other mid-century references in thrift and vintage shops. Try incorporating furniture styles of different heights to prevent the space from looking too uniform. Our favorite mid-century designers are: Charlotte Perriand, Jean Prouvé, Gio Ponti, Serge Mouille, and Le Corbusier.

Carola Pimentel: This is an enduring design movement brought about in the middle of the 20th century, and consists of clean lines, subtle curves, and functional designs. The introduction of new materials and textures, neutral palettes like black and whites, and bold colors allows for novel ways to express and create unique designs — not just in furniture, but in architecture as well. Some ways to achieve this look are by incorporating sleek, geometric forms consisting of clean lines with minimal or no patterns on the fabrics. Furthermore, the use of different contrasting and nature-oriented materials such as wood, textured stone, acrylic, glass, and metals create a mid-century style that is fresh with great practicality. These materials and sentiments played well into the post WWII era, and embraced the future with efficiency and fun! The timeless quality of mid-century pieces translate to their pervasive popularity today. We need to pay homage to the great visionary designers of yesteryears, such as George Nelson, Eero Saarinen, Charles Eames, Verner Panton, and others. They created pieces that are timeless and still very relevant, even today.


Sabrina MacLean: Minimalism started in the 1960’s. It involves stripping down to the essentials and eliminating everything that is unnecessary, and keeping the basics. This main motto of design is “less is more” to keep the space simple and uncluttered, and to let the attractive architectural features of the space speak for themselves. Every item should be functional and add value to the space. Some ways to incorporate the minimalist look into your home are by uncluttering as much as possible and practicing this less-is-more approach. Another great way this can be achieved is by using a monochromatic palette (stick to a trio of hues per room that are just a few shades apart from each other), and only adding color to accents. Try featuring a wide array of tonal textiles and fabrications for quiet visual plays and for adding layers of warmth and richness. Finally, remember that you’ll need to justify each element’s existence when bringing in new items to keep a tight edit in check.

Carola Pimentel: The notion that “less is more” clearly defined the essence of the Minimalist way of living and decorating in the early 90’s — the philosophy is to function with less. When it comes to decorating a home, often we see the trend of using only two colors, which is great for small spaces as they appear more spacious. Emphasis on architectural accent features — such as staircases, doors, and windows — and the palette of black and whites or cream — with some in-between hues of grey for rugs — encapsulates this way of decorating. Warm hues and clean lines for window treatments, classic elegant furniture that is not trendy, and the use of textiles, such as linens and furs, along with a sparing use of accessories marks this era’s philosophy of eliminating the excesses to just maintain the essentials.


Furniture Styles_3 Industrial

Sabrina MacLean: This refers to an aesthetic trend in interior design that takes cues from old factories and industrial spaces. This style incorporates raw materials to give the space an unfinished feel. Some of the most common components are: exposed bricks and pipes, industrial lighting fixtures, concrete flooring and walls, weathered woods, building systems, and large, open windows. You could incorporate the industrial look by using a lot of weathered woods, as well as metal or stainless steel accents or antique lighting fixtures. Try incorporating some vintage leather furniture styles and pieces that bring back the past. In terms of the ideal color palette to master this look, mix grays with neutrals and rustic colors. You can also achieve the concept of exposed pipes and raw materials by finding furniture such as bookcases that feature metal brackets and tubes.

Carola Pimentel: Industrial style of decorating from the 2000’s refers to renovated old factories, industrial spaces, lofts in urban settings, old barns, industrial warehouses, etc. that needed renovation as living spaces — hence the term industrial. How to best describe this movement is the intentional use of neutral tones and materials, weathered wood, exposed bricks and pipes, concrete, and industrial lighting. Décor and furniture styles are important as well, because if you have a big, open space that includes your living area, a large sectional, kitchen island, and open shelving become staples of your home when decorating. Add light floors or concrete floors with exposed ducts on the ceiling to underscore features that you would normally hide from view that ultimately create that “warehouse” look.

Art Deco

Furniture Styles_4 Art Deco
Designer: India Mahdavi

Sabrina MacLean: Art Deco is a period that started in Paris in 1925, and expanded until the 1930’s. This style is all about making a big statement. The era was characterized by the use of bold, geometric patterns with hard angles and a preference for symmetry in design. This style used a generous amount of gold, steel, and other expensive, exotic materials, and linear decorations. The Art Deco movement remains very popular today and can be easily achieved by way of some of the following recommendations: try mixing a striking and bold color palette with lots of contrast; choose strong furniture styles crafted with exotic woods that have decadent, polished, high-shine finishes such as high-gloss lacquer; use a lot of accents that have metallic touches in brass, gold, or chrome; try reupholstering furniture with fabrics that are either solid colors or have geometric design, and highlight them with cushions with contrasting blocks of color; or buy a mirror with clean lines, geometric forms, and polished metal that brings the natural light into the apartment. Finally, an amazing way to get that Art Deco look is by using eye-catching embossed leather or vinyl to create a pop of texture and color.

Carola Pimentel: Glamour comes to mind when thinking about the Art Deco movement, which spanned from the 20’s to the 40’s, and was immersed in rich colors and geometric forms. Materials varied from high-gloss-finished woods to brass and chrome details, and the use of horn. Colors are vibrant hues of yellow, red, and greens. Softer hues of pink and cream were commonly used as well. Dark walls with light furniture styles and accessory pieces for smaller spaces, such as dining or living rooms, were in fashion, and larger, open spaces had light walls with darker high-gloss pieces, and light upholstery. As far as accent designs go, the sunburst motif and chevron pattern could be added throughout to evoke boldness and luxury.


Furniture Styles_5 Mediterranean
Designer: Martyn Lawrence Bullard

Sabrina MacLean: This style is characterized by a simple and romantic aesthetic, such as: light and warm tones, and the extensive use of natural materials such as ceramics, wood, forged and stone décor elements, wrought iron, and cotton. The main objective is to reflect an unpretentious sense of beauty, functionality, and conciseness.  Some ways to achieve the Mediterranean look are by the use of natural and reliable materials such as wood, wrought iron, glass and stone. Their natural, cold tones need to be diluted with bright textiles, such as cushions, rugs, and bedding. Try changing the flooring of certain areas and using ceramic tiles in a color scheme that create a serene and playful look. Use an earthy color palette inspired by the sun and the atmosphere of the Mediterranean that mixes white, blue, olive, light terracotta, sand, and gray. Use light, airy fabrics such as linen that will soften the rudeness of the natural furniture styles. Finally, a beautiful way to make this look complete is by adding a mosaic element or accent. It can be a mirror, a vase, or even a table.

Carola Pimentel: This design form originated in the 1920’s. It is rooted in simple and romantic styles from Italy and Spain that capture all the light and sunny warm tones of those lands. When it comes to materials, everything natural such as wood, iron, and cotton can be appreciated. In decorating, the use of symmetry is key — case in point? Using pairs of sofas, reading chairs, light fixtures, etc. Also, the use of warm woods and lovely neutral tones for main pieces with a pop of colors on the art pieces defines this look.


Furniture Styles_6 Coastal
Photo courtesy of Annie Schlechter / Designer: Jennifer Cain Defoe

Sabrina MacLean: A style characterized by the use of natural light, soft tones, a clean aesthetic, and a coastal design evokes a relaxed, easy vibe by way of furniture often made of wicker, rattan, or light-weathered woods and fabrics. When one thinks of coastal design, the image of a crisp, white interior with accents in bold blue and natural woods is often conjured. However, one could also use accents in other color palettes, such as earth tones, greys, and greens. This aesthetic is considered to be very neutral and minimal. One touch that definitely defines this design is the use of slipcovered furniture in light cotton and linen that effortlessly masters a casual, comfortable, and relaxed feel. Try changing the rugs to a jute, sea grass, or straw option to further perfect the aesthetic. Instead of having thick drapery, consider making the switch to a sheer curtain panel that emulates an ocean breeze movement and feel. The presence of wood is also very common, however, it is usually whitewashed, blond, maple, or ash.

Carola Pimentel: This aesthetic can be summed by the following words: calming, tranquil, relaxed. Consider beach colors or neutrals as your starting point, and punctuate layers of sea colors like soft yellow, coral, and turquoise for standout effect. Mix neutral colors in accessories with the use of breezy upholstery materials such as cotton or linen in furniture pieces. Also consider adding seaside elements — like hanging benches or swings, natural grass rugs, and driftwood — to add to the ambience of Coastal design. Light, linen window treatments and an open floor plan with a ton of natural light also help to tie in elements of the sand, sea, and sky into your home.

Gretty Garcia
Gretty Garcia handles features and special projects at Editorialist, and covers all things from exciting new releases to profiles on prolific figures across multiple industries. After studying at Harvard College, she began working at Editorialist and is now simultaneously pursuing her master’s degree from the Columbia School of Journalism. When she’s not covering this season’s must-have accessories, she’s adding to her book collection or listening to culture podcasts.
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