Interior Decorating: Definition, Styles & Tips

Instructor: Chelsea Milks

Chelsea holds a masters in Business and a bachelors in Interior Design & Fashion Merchandising. She is an adjunct professor and independent designer.

Are you interested in interior decorating, but unsure what it entails? In this lesson, we define interior decorating and discuss some decorating styles and tips.

Bringing a Room to Life

Is a room or business office lacking function? Is the decor looking drab and outdated? Maybe a space is empty and needs the perfect design to bring it to life? All are reasons to hire an interior decorator. Decorating may seem like an easy task to some, but it requires ample consideration of details and knowledge of design styles.

Interior Decorating

Interior decorating is the art of decorating a residential home or commercial business according to a client's personal preferences and style. It includes selecting color schemes, flooring materials, furniture, artwork, and accessories. It transforms an area into an aesthetically pleasing and budget-friendly design.

Interior Decorating vs. Interior Design

Interior decorating is often associated with Interior design. Though they go hand in hand, interior decorators differ from interior designers. Interior designers perform the same tasks as decorators but must receive formal education and professional certification by the National Council for Interior Design Qualification. On the other hand, interior decorators are not required to receive formal education or professional experience. Both partner with service professionals to accomplish design work, but interior designers may work with contractors to change structural elements. Interior decorators rarely make structural changes and focus on the visuals of a space.

Decorating Styles

Design styles alter and conform to the changing trends. There have been numerous design styles through the years, but let's explore the most popular.


Coastal is the perfect style for those who want to bring the beach and ocean into their daily lives. It incorporates color schemes of white, blue, green, and orange. Accessories include framed ocean reefs, sea shells, wood elements, and casual furniture to create a relaxing atmosphere.

A coastal room filled with white furniture and blue and green accents.


Modern design is a sleek style that highlights simplicity. Decorators utilize white, gray, and black as main color schemes. Designs are clean and non-cluttered. Straight and bold lines are preferred. Natural accessory elements and materials are utilized, such as wood frames, metal decor, and furniture.

An example of modern design with a black and white color scheme, along with straight lines and sleek furniture.
modern design


Contemporary is a softer variation of modern design. It is often confused with modern because it also features a clean appearance with straight lines. It allows for bold, soft, and neutral colors. Contemporary is different from modern design because its style is always changing. It focuses on designs and trends of the present; what defines contemporary design today may not define it in the future.

This kitchen is visually appealing with straight lines, a crisp look and a pop of color.

Modern Glam

Modern Glam elegantly merges contemporary and modern design. Upholstered tufted chairs and ottomans adorn these spaces with luxury feeling fabrics, like velvet. Metallic furniture and accessory pieces are commonly used and paired with bright or neutral color schemes. Soft touches are encouraged, such as white roses in a classic vase. Other features like chandeliers, large mirrors, ruffled materials, and jeweled objects add sophisticated and classy touches.

The chandelier, tufted bed and elegant fabrics characterize this room as Modern Glam style.
This image is a great example of the Modern Glam style.


Country style highlights natural materials and rustic elements to compose an outdoor farm life environment. Red is a predominant color with soft accent colors. Wicker baskets, pallets and white porcelain pieces are popular accessories.

This quaint country kitchen design is a combination of the country design style and farmhouse look.


If a client is a bit unsure of their style, but fond of multiple styles, then they may favor the eclectic look. The rules of eclectic style are undefined. The saying 'anything goes' truly works for the eclectic client! All elements, colors, textures, and materials are utilized to create a distinctive space.

This living room has a variety of bright colors, materials, furniture styles and accessory elements.


There is one word to describe this style: bold! Bohemian style is bright and colorful. The primary colors, red, yellow and blue, are used with accents of pink, deep purple, and orange. Wood furniture pieces covered with plush materials are meshed with striped, geometric, and floral prints. Bohemian style is for individuals who may be inspired by travel and culture.

Bohemian style rooms are bold and colorful.


Vintage can be interchanged with the term, Shabby Chic. Its primary colors are neutral: brown, white, and gray. The vintage style includes contemporary aspects with vintage inspired looks, such as chipped furniture, exposed brick, rusted chairs, and aged wood. It combines the designs of the past with elements of the present to create a timeless, fresh look.

This vintage inspired room combines neutral color tones with accessories of the past, such as the exposed piano and fan.


The Asian design style uses elements of nature for a tranquil feeling. White, green, blues, and neutrals are central color schemes. Natural light is desired with limited window coverings to allow the most sunlight into a room. Asian inspired fabrics and prints are used as accents for chairs, pillows, and other coverings. To add natural touches, small plants are spread throughout.

The living room pictured is an Asian style design with plants, neutral colors, green accents and other natural elements like bamboo wall coverings.

Decorating Tips

There is no right or wrong decorating style, but designing a space can be a timely affair. You may spend hours searching for the perfect color scheme, furniture, and accessories, only to be shot down by a frazzled and disappointed client. There are tips to avoid these problems and create a quality design from the start.

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