The clean lines and the warm color maximize the available space and give the room a loft-like feel.

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Decorating Styles Introduction

Fortunately, we've compiled a number of decorating ideas for home's interior, including the kitchen, dining room, bedroom, bathroom, home office, and auxiliary spaces such as the entranceway, hallways, and attic. We also have ideas for outdoor living spaces such as the deck and patio. And if you have kids, you'll want to see our articles on decorating for infants, toddlers, children and teens. The links below will take you to decorating ideas that will inspire your own creative designs. You just may end up with the home of your dreams!

Every decorating style includes distinguishing elements: brass candlesticks and highboys, for instance, translate Colonial; curvaceous side chairs and wall-hung porcelain dishes speak to French provincial. If you're searching for a style, compile a list of favorite rooms.

Maybe you like your grandmother's kitchen or a friend's library? What can you borrow from those rooms to forge your own perfect space? Finding a style that suits your lifestyle and setting doesn't mean starting over so don't panic.

Furnishings are recyclable; heirlooms blend. The rigid rules of the past are gone. Have the style you want your way. Familiarizing yourself with popular modes of decoration will jump-start those creative juices.

Traditional Home Decorating

Traditional home decorating -- frequently associated with older generations -- has been updated with a look that young families can embrace. Learn how to create a cozy room in the traditional style.

Country Decorating Style

Whether you like simple American country or the more elaborate French provincial design, there's a country style for you. Learn more about the widely varied country styles.

Cool Contemporary Decorating

No longer strictly cold and austere, contemporary decorating still embraces clean lines but can be warm and welcoming, too. Learn more about how contemporary designs have pushed into the environmental arena as well.

Eclectic Decorating

Do you already have a number of objects and pieces of furniture you love but don't fit into one coherent design style? Find out how to combine your favorites and create a style that reflects you!

Decorating Retro-Style

A room can provide the perfect platform for vintage collectors and flea-market shoppers to display their most treasured finds. Discover how to decorate a room retro-style.

Decorating with a World Flair

African, Indian, Asian, Scandinavian...styles throughout the world are as varied as the countries and their unique cultures. Find out how to create an interior design plan that celebrates the world in your own home.

Arts and Crafts Decorating

The natural colors and patterns of wood and stone are the inspiration for Arts and Crafts Decorating. Simple and clean lines give rooms a sleek yet warm look. Find inspiration in an Arts and Crafts design.

Casual Chic Decorating

This country style is a blend of patterns and colors that is inviting and homey. A mix of patterns and textures make a room rich and welcoming. Learn how to create a comfortable, casual, and chic design.

Southwestern Decorating

The wide-open spaces and spare look of the Southwestern landscape inspire Southwestern design. The furnishings may be minimal, but a Southwestern room is filled with character. Find out how to incorporate your favorite aspects of this style into your own home.

Spacious Decorating

A spacious and elegant design can unify areas of a home with an open floor plan that are used for different purposes. The design flows easily from seating areas, to the dining room, and even into the kitchen. Get tips on how to give your own space a feeling of spacious unity.

To learn more about interior design and get tips and information on decorating your home, visit:

  • Interior Decorating: Get tips on how to decorate your home and read about organizing a project and selecting an interior design that fits your lifestyle.
  • Home Decorating Tips: Learn about home decorating styles and get tips on how to plan and complete decorating projects.
  • Decorating a Room: Find out how to decorate a room from floor-to-ceiling.
  • How to Design a Kitchen: Create a kitchen that works for you and get tips on how to choose and place appliances and create a decorating scheme.
  • Kids Rooms: Get tips on decorating your child’s room, with information on colors, smart strategies, and money-saving tips.

The crown molding, patterned fabric, and wall sconces create a traditional style.

Traditional Home Decorating

In the strictest sense, traditional home decorating adheres to a certain period of history such as Georgian or neoclassical. In general terms, however, traditional style has come to translate a generous mix of highly polished pieces from any number of periods and countries (or good quality reproductions) and luxurious accouterments.

Cary Grant and Grace Kelly would look as if they were at home in a traditional-style living room. Today, however, thanks to a newer, fresher take, so would many young families.

Older homes frequently have decorative trim and detailing that partner perfectly with such a refined decor. In a newer house, adding architectural em­bellishments and applying decorative paint techniques (stippling and combing are two examples) will help foster background elegance.

Thick Oriental rugs resting on gleaming hardwood floors, skirted tables, and gilt-framed mirrors are typical in traditional rooms. So are elaborate window treatments such as tassel-trimmed swags and jabots.

A fresher modern approach, however, shifts these classic-looking rooms to a lighter palette. As opposed to rich warm tones like red and yellow, walls are washed in taupe, cream, or pale lavender. Window dressings become tailored drapes, sheers, or shades.

Still, no matter if the tone is sophisticated or more relaxed, the emphasis is on comfort. A traditional living room decorated with furniture in classic shapes and styles -- despite how formal it may look -- is always an invitation to make yourself at home.

For instance, if an inherited Empire sofa is included, the seat cushions have been revamped for pleasant sitting. Think curl-up-and-finish-that-novel wing chairs and camel-back sofas.

To foster conversation, furniture is usually arranged with great symmetry in companionable groupings. Guests never have to hunt for a place to set down a drink or a magazine because every sofa and chair has a table at its disposal.

Depending on the tone of the room, upholstery is simply handled or lavish with decorative trimming. Fabrics vary widely: brocade and cut velvet in a stately 19th-century home; linen or wool when the approach is pared-down.

Lighting, an important part of the equation, is carefully manipulated with a combination of table and standing lamps to provide adequate illumination for large gatherings or a party of one who is reading by the fire.

Oil paintings, sporting prints, and assorted objects d'art are de rigueur in timeless traditional rooms. In fact, carefully controlled clutter -- piles of art books, plaster busts, an old globe -- are important elements of the welcoming ambience.

Contemporary accent pieces, fabrics and art can also figure in, but nothing is too glaringly new. A lean-cuisine traditional room would edit out the extras, keep the furnishings minimal, and let the architecture shine through.

The brass lamp on a table is of the classic traditional style.

In the bedroom? Family photographs, ultra-feminine dressing tables, and furnishings that enhance the way the room is used: a bench at the end of a four-poster bed, a set of armchairs, and a writing desk.

For a traditional viewpoint in the bath? A tub paneled in classical moldings, luscious materials like white marble for the floor and walls, or a black-and-white-tiled floor and painted walls.

Mahogany or lustrous cherry, furniture-like cabinetry (or an antique buffet or chest converted to serve as a vanity) also helps cast the right spell.

Similar furniture-like cabinetry and highly polished granite countertops can sweep the look through to the kitchen, too. Include a number of glass fronts for displaying pretty china and silver; select appliances and hardware (polished brass is a winner) that blend rather than stand out; and install a warm-colored wood or brick floor as a unifying element.

The grand finale? A lavish balloon shade at the window to balance a magnificent range hood or, in step with a relaxed sensibility, a pair of unpainted wood shutters the color of a handsome leather-bound book.

Get the Look

  • Add bookshelves -- the more, the better -- and fill them with books.
  • Embellish upholstered chairs and sofas with decorative welting.
  • Create vertical drama: Install oversize mirrors; mount curtains up high.
  • Mix silk with sisal, porcelain with pottery, or wood with silver for contrast.
  • Remove rugs, and allow polished floors to shine.

Unlike traditional decorating -- which typically embodies a certain period in history -- country decorating esteems a handmade, well-crafted look above all else. On the next page, discover the myriad country styles currently enjoying popularity, including American country, English country, and French provincial. To learn more about interior design and get tips and information on decorating your home, visit:

  • Interior Decorating: Get tips on how to decorate your home and read about organizing a project and selecting an interior design that fits your lifestyle.
  • Home Decorating Tips: Learn about home decorating styles and get tips on how to plan and complete decorating projects.
  • Decorating a Room: Find out how to decorate a room from floor-to-ceiling.
  • How to Design a Kitchen: Create a kitchen that works for you and get tips on how to choose and place appliances and create a decorating scheme.
  • Kids Rooms: Get tips on decorating your child’s room, with information on colors, smart strategies, and money-saving tips.
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Country decor frequently features warm checks and stripes and wicker or other curved furniture.

Country Decorating Style

The search for country things -- painted and unpainted furniture, quilts, baskets, folk art -- began in the '20s and '30s when a few savvy collectors realized their merit.

By the late '70s, there was a full-blown craze for ladder-back chairs and other items associated with the country look.

All of America had been introduced to the enduring beauty of handmade rag rugs and quilts. It was the beginning of a welcome, livable approach to decorating, and it helped fan a new enthusiasm for antique-hunting, flea markets, and tag sales that is still evident today.

Well-known decorators like Sister Parrish had incorporated country pieces into their designs for years, but now everyone was on the bandwagon.

Versatile treasures like tilt-top tables and Windsor chairs were suddenly in vogue in upscale Manhattan apartments.

In the years that have passed, country elements have grown no less popular. A more sophisticated and refined approach now exists, but the appreciation for handmade, well-crafted furniture and accessories has continued and broadened with each generation.

Visited over the years by countless influences and assimilating design contributions from around the world, "country" has evolved into an umbrella term encompassing American, English, and French styles as well as those detailed below.

Even rustic Adirondack chairs, the colorful Native American blankets and rugs of the Southwest, garden furniture from across the At­lantic, and early 19th-century porcelain china have found a place in country style.

Components differ according to a variety of factors like personal taste and region, but every country room, whether trim­med down in a more contemporary mode or rich with layers lovingly collected over time, exudes a comfortable, relaxed spirit and so can yours.

Apple-Pie American

The simple, unpretentious look of American country is easily adaptable. Create warm, cozy rooms as the early settlers did, or like a flag unfurling, aim for open, more modern country spaces. What can be the starting point? Colors like our Founders knew -- cheery barn-red, yellow, dark green, gray, buttermilk, rust, and straw -- or marriages of neutral walls with trim done up in heady colors such as blue and wine-red. For a contemporary country look, especially in a small space, paint your room's walls, trim, and ceiling cream or soft white.

This kitchen mixes typical country style with modern-looking appliances.

Floors? Refinish wood floors to reflect light and show off their grain, or paint a classic pattern of diamonds as a stunning foil for a carefully composed vignette of classic 18th- and 19th-century American antiques. Pre-finished look-alike wood floors -- available in a variety of wood types -- are an up-to-date alternative for heavily trafficked rooms like kitchens and living rooms. Floor-cloths, flat-weave rugs, and thick rag rugs help pump up the interest level.

Let the breezes tug at the hems of simple window treatments. Roman shades or half curtains in natural fabrics like cotton, linen, and wool are alluring. From seat cushions to table napkins, you will find simple, off-the-loom patterns work best. For instance, look to plaids, checks, and stripes, in hues like spongeware-blue, lime-green, and butter-yellow.

Furnishings are restrained but welcoming for friends and family. Sofas and chairs should be constructed for years of sitting; dining tables should be generous enough for a crowd; beds should be indulgent: piled with blankets and pillows in winter, stripped down to fresh-off-the-line cotton sheets in summer.

Choose accessories to foster an American country attitude: patchwork quilts to hang as art, baskets, hand-carved toys, tinware, and chunky creamware pitchers and bowls. Clean-lined Shaker or raised panel cabinets, a mix of glass and solid doors together, or a combination of wood-tone and painted cupboards will keep the momentum going in the kitchen.

Show off your collection of black iron pans or copper pots without letting them jumble; a few favorites are best. As for the bath, claw-foot tubs and old-style sinks are readily available today. Or a standard white tub encased in tongue-and-groove paneling or slate is another idea our ancestors would applaud.

Lay durable ceramic tiles in country-like checkerboard designs on walls and floors; include Shaker-style peg rails to hold towels and robes; and designate wooden cabinet hideaways for everyday toiletries. As night falls, light the candles in a wrought-iron chandelier. American country style is a celebration of simplicity.

Get the Look

  • Recruit reproduction Windsor chairs to paint in new country colors.
  • Hunt for old burnished wood pieces to lend authenticity.
  • Anchor small items on trays or in baskets.

Oooh La LaHow could French country -- also known as French provincial -- be anything less than charming? France is renowned for its food, its wine, and its appreciation of the good life and all things romantic including its well-loved 18th-century toile de Jouy (commonly referred to as just "toile") patterns peppered with endearing images of pastoral life. Today, in a rainbow of colors as well as hip black and white, toile is available as everything from wallpaper to accessories.

Build a living room around a striking black-and-white combination or a bedroom featuring a soft blue toile the color of a wildflower. Because toile generally has only one color on a neutral background, it mixes pleasingly with patterns.

Layer in striped, checked, or solid accent pillows that use the dominant color from your print. Typical French-country window treatments include lace, cotton, or simple panels of unbleached linen hung from iron rods; in a more formal country room, try striped taffeta in a sunbaked shade like tangerine. White or color-washed walls in soft tones like peach, honey, and dusty rose combined with a terra-cotta-tiled floor are guaranteed to evoke a French mystique.

For furnishings, look to gently curved armchairs, a decoratively carved or painted armoire (the most important furniture piece in provincial homes, armoires can be traced back to the 14th century and can serve today's needs by housing your TV), a farmhouse dining table, and simple ladder-back chairs with rush seats.

If you have trouble finding antique versions of all your wanted French decor, furniture manufacturers offer a wealth of fitting reproductions including beguiling sofas and love seats to combine with antiques and tag-sale finds.

To imbue a kitchen or bath with the flavor of Provence, choose cabinetry with an antique white or mellow wood finish. And suspend a chandelier with dainty fabric shades from the ceiling. Consider adding French elements such as paintings or prints echoing the impressionist's palette, hand-painted tiles, murals, glazed or unglazed pottery, and delicate bed linens to complement a carved pine or fruitwood bed.

Get the Look

  • Include one or two more formal pieces along with casual furnishings.
  • Re-cover the seats of curvy armchairs with cheerful checks or stripes.
  • Hang a collection of pretty porcelain plates on the wall instead of a painting.
  • Incorporate more curves, such as a wire lamp or plant stand, a still-life of finials along the mantel, or a half-round table with cabriole legs.

Tea for TwoEnglish country is confident; patterns, colors, furniture styles, and periods are mixed. Nix anything that appears too new; time's patina is perfect. Sun-bleached chintzes in all the colors of a summer garden and slightly worn rugs -- piled atop a sea of sisal or a bare wood floor -- mimic a Cotswold farmhouse.

This room puts a twist on English country, mixing creams and brighter reds.

Evoke a British mood by painting walls the color of thick cream to maximize light. For richness, introduce jolts of ocher (deep reddish brown) or cantaloupe. Wood paneling up to dado (the lower part of the wall) level is very pretty. Paint or wallpaper the upper portion of the wall with thin stripes, a small geometric design, trellises, or flowers.

Create a subtle link between the wallpaper and the slipcovers with color or pattern but nothing too studied; the most charming English country rooms look as though they have slowly evolved. Tartans, tweeds, paisley shawls, chenille, cashmere, or simple gingham, the choice of fabrics allows something for almost every taste. Window treatments can be straightforward, unlined curtains or, for a more formal country-estate scene, a valance pared with drapery panels.

What furnishings do you need to complete the English country look? Consider timeless varieties such as comfy sofas and armchairs in the living room, a chaise by the bedroom window, or a scrubbed pine dining table. Coordinate heirlooms with flea-market finds, and arrange informal displays of collectibles. In the kitchen, fine-grained hardwood cabinets would cheerfully complement freestanding pieces like cupboards and hutches.

Get the Look

  • Pluck your color scheme from a collection of En­glish chintzware porcelains you've amassed on a shelf.
  • Designate a tray-style table as a coffee table.
  • Order roomy slipcovers for comfy down-filled seating.
  • Replace the inset of a kitchen door or dining room cabinet with shirred gingham.

A Farmhouse in the HillsTuscan country is a seductive mosaic of pattern, texture, and color. More tactile than any of the other styles, the Tuscan or Mediterranean demeanor features rough-plastered walls in sun-washed hues and hard floors of terra-cotta tiles, stone, cement, or unpolished marble. It's a look that favors warm climates, but due to modern technology, it's possible even in northern regions where ambient heat can render floors as warm as toast.

And, these days, paints of many colors are available to replicate the effects of sun and age.

Furnishings and accessories are carefully chosen and kept to a minimum in Mediterranean homes. A dining room, for example, may hold only an antique table and a handful of carefully edited, mismatched chairs.

Offsetting the minimalist arrangement could be opulent window treatments (velvet drapes with sheers, for instance) or a tapestry wall hanging reminiscent of an ancient mural. Cook up your own Roman spell with pictorial wallcoverings depicting rural scenes. Unpainted furniture, pottery, baskets, and candle-holding sconces give more flavor to the Tuscan home.

Get the Look

  • Stage a utilitarian centerpiece; for instance, fill a large iron basket with fresh fruit on a tile counter.
  • Order a deep soapstone sink.
  • Lay a tapestry runner down the length of a rustic table.

Rustic BravadoSimilar to American style but more eclectic, rustic country includes exposed roughhewn wood beams, open rafters, and wide-plank floors. It's a pioneer cabin kind of ambience that calls for a fire on the hearth, a supply of cozy textiles, and a warm palette of earth tones accented with autumnal hues like red and gold.

Many of the treasures you would find in a lakeside camp or mountain hideaway are here: a freshwater pike mounted over the fireplace, a pair of snowshoes in the corner, a fishing rod by the door. Vintage signs and old photographs adorn the unpainted, wood-paneled walls. In addition to twig rockers and settees, there are comfy sofas and chairs slipcovered in plaids or large, cotton checks. Windows are bare or fitted with simple burlap panels or wood shutters. Accessories? Look to hand-blown bottles, pressed ferns under glass, birdhouses, and, the topper, a real canoe hoisted to the ceiling.

The floor to ceiling wood paneling lends this room a rustic country air.

Inspired by Southwestern decorating, forgo paneling for stucco or plaster walls, and stockpile colorful Native American blankets and rugs. A terra-cotta floor and a few pieces of ebony wrought iron nod to the region's colonial Spanish influence; a bleached cow skull is a tribute to Southwest painter Georgia O'Keefe.

A ski lodge could take it up a notch, substituting leather-upholstered seating and faux-fur throws (to toss on chairs and beds) for hooked rugs and afghans. If the structure permits, make everything from your four-poster bed to the potted cactus in the dining room over-scaled to dish up home-on-the-range, big-sky magic.

Get the Look

  • Collect vintage Pendleton and Beacon blankets to display on sofas and over chairs.
  • Lay folksy patterned rugs beside beds and in front of sinks.
  • House electronic gear in a distressed cabinet or an antique pie safe with tin-paneled doors.

Like country decorating, contemporary decorating can be warm and inviting. On the next page, learn about this sophisticated style that -- nowadays -- frequently embraces environmentally sound design principles.

To learn more about interior design and get tips and information on decorating your home, visit:

  • Interior Decorating: Get tips on how to decorate your home and read about organizing a project and selecting an interior design that fits your lifestyle.
  • Home Decorating Tips: Learn about home decorating styles and get tips on how to plan and complete decorating projects.
  • Decorating a Room: Find out how to decorate a room from floor-to-ceiling.
  • How to Design a Kitchen: Create a kitchen that works for you and get tips on how to choose and place appliances and create a decorating scheme.
  • Kids Rooms: Get tips on decorating your child’s room, with information on colors, smart strategies, and money-saving tips.
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This contemporary living room gains warmth from natural fibers and color.

Cool Contemporary Decorating

Contemporary decorating style embraces uncluttered, light-filled spaces, open floor plans, minimal furnishings, and slick finishes. Within those perimeters, though, different avenues can be pursued. One approach is dramatic in a subtle manner; the other is a stand-up-and-take-notice kind of decorating, saturated in vibrant color. Which route is for you?

Unlike the old days when modern meant stark, laundry-white walls, today's monochromatic rooms are done up in soothing shades like sand, gray, or cream. A burgeoning interest in the environment has designers also culling tones from the outdoors such as pale green and blue to offset light wood and metal furnishings.

Gone is the outdated marriage of black and chrome that was hot in the '80s. Materials such as metal, glass, and stone are brought together instead, in numerous innovative ways.

Furnishings are likely to include clean-lined chairs and tables in intriguing shapes and forms as alternatives to antiques. Upholstery is impeccably tailored, and slipcovers often include pert dressmaker details like a row of dainty buttons or a demure bow.

No jarring patterns, no ubiquitous accents of red. If there are window treatments, they are slimmed down and designed to blend rather than contrast with the wall color. Choices include fabrics that drape well like silk, rayon blends, and wool; or shades and blinds of aluminum, vinyl, or split bamboo. No flounces, no frills. In sophisticated bare-bone settings such as these, artisanship is what counts.

The proper accessories add to the look but avoid the bric-a-brac buildup. Clean, uncluttered surfaces enhance a contemporary space. What would suit the occasion?

A collection of silver desk objects from the '30s and '40s displayed on a glass-topped table, a pair of salvaged finials on the mantel, or a grouping of dusky but pretty pottery (also from the '30s and '40s) lined up smartly like soldiers in a built-in bookcase. Pairs of lamps, urns, and vases will provide harmony.

Clean lines and no fuss epitomize contemporary design style.

Along the other popular contemporary road: Bold color sings through rooms, defines living areas, and helps to create detailing, which is often lacking in a new design. Ranch houses respond better than older houses to this sort of treatment, but color will enliven all sorts of spaces and forge gallery-like scenes to help enrich vivid paintings, prints, and posters.

Combine mid-20th-century modern furniture with new designs like skinny upholstered chairs and leather-covered seats with built-in shelving. To prevent a buildup of kinetic energy, large upholstered pieces such as sofas are best done in neutral fabrics.

A careful arrangement of shapes and forms -- round, square, or rectangular -- will interject more interest than a hodgepodge of patterns. If you want to make a statement, a custom-designed area rug that echoes the room's colors can be the icing on the cake.

Architect-designed fixtures, high-tech elements, and luscious materials create a contemporary aura for kitchens and baths, be they of the quiet and serene school or lively color camp.

But just changing surface materials can catapult a room into the present. Stainless steel, tile, laminates? Research all the possibilities. If you're remodeling the kitchen, consider a layout that allows for a sleek, functional island in a modern shape; choose no-nonsense industrial-style appliances; and consider the pros and cons of in-vogue (but also long-lasting) materials like cement that can be tinted in appealing earth tones for counters and floors.

Select lighting fixtures and hardware carefully as they'll play a more prominent role in rooms that are devoid of clutter. Everything in a contemporary setting from audio gear to grooming supplies should have its place, which -- on the flip side -- means less cleaning and daily tidying up for you.

Get the Look

  • Conceive an aura of calm with all-natural materials like leather, suede, and cement.
  • Hunt for affordable reproductions of classic furniture designs displaying geometric forms.
  • Minimize accessories.

If you like your design scheme to be a little more diverse, eclectic decorating may be the style for you. On the next page, learn how to maintain a balance between furniture and objects that -- on the surface -- appear to have little in common. To learn more about interior design and get tips and information on decorating your home, visit:

  • Interior Decorating: Get tips on how to decorate your home and read about organizing a project and selecting an interior design that fits your lifestyle.
  • Home Decorating Tips: Learn about home decorating styles and get tips on how to plan and complete decorating projects.
  • Decorating a Room: Find out how to decorate a room from floor-to-ceiling.
  • How to Design a Kitchen: Create a kitchen that works for you and get tips on how to choose and place appliances and create a decorating scheme.
  • Kids Rooms: Get tips on decorating your child’s room, with information on colors, smart strategies, and money-saving tips.
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Touches of Asian influence create a world flair against the backdrop of the traditional fireplace.

Eclectic Decorating

An eclectic room is more telling of its creator than other kinds of decor. Compiling diverse furnishings, fabrics, finishes, and objects from any number of periods and countries, it's possible to arrange a totally unique scene. Not bound by any rules, you're free to include whatever you like.

Of course, in order to be successful, you'll want to keep all the principles concerning form, scale, composition, and proportion in mind. But, the more original, the better. The only requisite is comfort. You and your family and friends will never appreciate a space if it doesn't provide basics like agreeable seating and good lighting.

Not surprisingly, bedrooms tend to be naturally eclectic. Along with one or two favorite pieces -- the bed, say, and a chest you've had since childhood -- odds and ends accumulate, such as a rocker that won't do in the living room or an old portrait.

The result can be charming, but it's not guaranteed. Beware, decorators warn, of a messy overload. In a living room or a great room, eliminating wallpaper and decorative finishes for a neutral palette is the safest route. Various styles mix congenially when the background and furniture forms are simple.

If whites and creams leave you cold, choose a more contemporary color like pale rust, straw, or smoke. Import accent colors that complement the rug, the dishes you're hanging on the wall, or a favorite fabric. Judicious amounts of color or pattern -- at the window, on a chair, or as a mat surrounding a print -- will help unite all the elements. Carpeting -- sisal being the most pleasing and inexpensive host of all -- also pulls things together.

A more daring and dramatic approach would be to paint the walls a dark, rich color such as chocolate-brown and the trim a clean, crisp white. Against the dark walls, white-painted pieces with interesting shapes, black-and-white photographs in black frames, and furnishings upholstered in white shine. Elbow in a rattan chair, a wicker footstool, or a wooden trunk from India for texture. For windows, stick to natural cottons or natural fibers blended with synthetics for greater durability. Simple Roman or rattan shades are timeless and tasteful.

It's perfectly acceptable to mix Eastern influences with country style as long as there is a unifying component to the room.

Once a comfortable sofa and chairs are in place, choose the supporting furnishings according to character. A 19th-century Spanish table and a set of American Empire chairs may not be a team anyone would normally think of, but try pairing them together. There's an old adage that holds if you buy only what you love, somehow it will all work -- and it's true! Suspend an antique brass lantern over a glass-topped modern desk, and you've created your own moon over a water-like tableau.

An eclectic-style room can incorporate the disparate possessions you've inherited as well as those vintage pieces you've collected. Assigning furnishings new roles is a tricky way to include pieces you like in a small space. A chest of drawers, for instance, might double as a sideboard in a teeny dining room; a blanket chest or a pair of leather suitcases -- one on top of the other -- could fill in as a coffee table; a bedside table makes a nifty desk when you pull up a chair.

The Eastern influence adds a jolt of interest to the traditional living room.

This balancing, yin and yang approach takes well to a kitchen where you want the warm, welcoming aura of home with professional-style appliances. It also works well in the bath where you hope not only to groom but relax. Fine hardwood cabinetry and high-style modern lighting? You bet.

A glass-block shower and a fruitwood French armoire (to hide a tiny television as well as towels)? Absolutely. Forget the this-has-to-match cute notions of the past, and experiment. Jackie Kennedy's fashion advice to women was always to remove one thing from an outfit before going out. If you fear you've stirred the pot too much, do the same with your room; you might be amazed at the difference.

Get the Look

  • Keeping proportion in mind, team a farmhouse table with new metal chairs.
  • Stand a Lucite lamp on an antique desk.
  • Mix sizes and framing styles for photographs and artwork.

Do you long for the style in which you grew up in the 50s, 60s, or 70s? Do you love all things vintage? If so, retro-style decorating may suit your tastes. On the next page, find out how to create a retro look without the kitsch.

To learn more about interior design and get tips and information on decorating your home, visit:

  • Interior Decorating: Get tips on how to decorate your home and read about organizing a project and selecting an interior design that fits your lifestyle.
  • Home Decorating Tips: Learn about home decorating styles and get tips on how to plan and complete decorating projects.
  • Decorating a Room: Find out how to decorate a room from floor-to-ceiling.
  • How to Design a Kitchen: Create a kitchen that works for you and get tips on how to choose and place appliances and create a decorating scheme.
  • Kids Rooms: Get tips on decorating your child’s room, with information on colors, smart strategies, and money-saving tips.
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The checkered floor adds a retro-style feel to this otherwise modern bathroom.

Decorating Retro-Style

Many people love fun, bright, irreverent retro style. Not assigned to any one decade, this is a look that calls in all of 20th-century design, including striking 1930s art deco as well as the fluorescent, psychedelic 1960s.

Collectors and inveterate flea-market shoppers naturally gravitate to retro rooms that allow them to showcase their finds -- everything from lava lamps to chrome chairs and garden gizmos. Sometimes more energized than organized, retro rooms have a sense of humor and a lot to say; after all, every object comes with a story of discovery.

Sleek and chic or cottage charming, retro is fun to live with and fun to put together because it's whatever decade appeals to you.

The funky products of the '50s with their organic shapes and abstract patterns look right at home in a ranch house. These happy-day rooms -- devoid of architectural trim and detail -- take instantly to the hype of vinyl seat cushions and wacky flying-saucer-like lamps.

Many of the '50s pieces have become highly collectible and increasingly hard to find, but mass-produced items can still be reasonably had at flea markets and consignment stores. Smaller, often overlooked items from the era such as game boards are stunning mounted on a wall; plant hangers in the shapes of fish are dynamite in a bath!

Neutral walls accommodate a tongue-in-cheek assortment of offerings. When quarters are tight, white or cream surfaces expand space. In a retro kitchen, glossy white cabinets, lots of shiny chrome counter edging, and stainless-steel appliances are a classic dish.

Certain kitchen color teams -- for example, black, red, and white -- are reminiscent of the cozy intimacy of roadside diners. If your taste runs to colorful dinnerware though, a palette of Mexico-inspired colors throughout a room is for you. Look to your collections for inspiration.

Art and furniture shapes can be enhanced with color. A pink-and-white plate or a pressed-glass cranberry compote could help establish the perfect palette.

The 50s-inspired table and chair look updated next to the modern sofa and pillows.

Retro-patterned vinyl or linoleum flooring will enhance the freewheeling tone of a retro kitchen, family room, bath, or child's bedroom. Squares of black, red, turquoise, or yellow plus white have a lively jukebox kind of appeal everyone will like. Vintage rugs in geometric prints tossed over hardwood or carpeted floors will add some extra zing.

When it comes to fabric for cushions, upholstery, and drapes, hunt up vintage (or reproduction) bark cloth. Available in endless colors and patterns (sputniks, tropical flowers, cowboys), woven bark cloth can give a room a sophisticated or kitschy edge. Keep drapes simple though, so as not to detract from all the other elements.

The lace drapes and floral chairs are just a couple of the ways in which this room evokes the 40s.

Lace doilies, vintage tablecloths strewn with sweet visions of flowers and fruit, straw hats, picnic baskets -- these kinds of romantic items favor a retro 1940s cottage look.

A tablecloth or scarf tossed over a simple wood rod becomes a curtain; a lacy tablecloth laid over a bed or a sofa is a heart-stopping bit of fantasy. If this sort of style leaves you weak in the knees, play it up with botanicals and samplers on the walls, old watering cans, decoupaged trays, miniature houses, and lots of white wicker or white-painted furniture.

Paint newer tag-sale bargains white, and then give them a crackle glaze to render them instantly older-looking and more endearing. Against white or pale, pale rose-pink or blue walls, the furnishings will seem as light as summer clouds.

Rotate collections to keep your room at the top of its form. In addition to open shelves, consider installing glass-front cabinets to hold smaller trinkets like dainty perfume bottles, salt and pepper shakers, and those things you've yet to find; there's always going to be a treasure around the corner.

Get the Look

  • Stay lighthearted with bright-colored tiles in kitchen and bath.
  • Upholster footstools and piano seats with funky, wildflower patterns.
  • Define a space or divide rooms with stylish glass block.

Rather than embodying an era, decorating with world flair centers on a place. On the next page, learn how to design a room that reminds you of Africa, Scandinavia, or other locales round the world.

To learn more about interior design and get tips and information on decorating your home, visit:

  • Interior Decorating: Get tips on how to decorate your home and read about organizing a project and selecting an interior design that fits your lifestyle.
  • Home Decorating Tips: Learn about home decorating styles and get tips on how to plan and complete decorating projects.
  • Decorating a Room: Find out how to decorate a room from floor-to-ceiling.
  • How to Design a Kitchen: Create a kitchen that works for you and get tips on how to choose and place appliances and create a decorating scheme.
  • Kids Rooms: Get tips on decorating your child’s room, with information on colors, smart strategies, and money-saving tips.
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The warm colors and animal print offer a taste of Africa.

Decorating with a World Flair

Given modern travel and technology, our oceans have shrunk and the boundaries between nations have all but faded, and the result is a greater influx than ever of fresh and energizing ideas.

Today you can celebrate a number of cultures without ever having to leave your home by decorating with a world flair. A mix of elements -- be they Asian, Swedish, or Indian -- imbue a room with memorable presence and personality.

You may already adore hurricane lamps, wooden shutters, tie-dyed fabrics, and vivid colors like azure and lemon-yellow and not know these elements have their roots in the Caribbean.

Also, the dark Colonial-style furniture -- much of it boldly carved -- that is so coveted now was produced for British colonials who occupied the islands long ago. With a ceiling fan, some well-chosen rattan pieces, and a few large plants you can evoke a similar atmosphere without a lot of expense.

Look beyond the styles you already are familiar with, and a whole world of breathtaking ideas awaits!

Materials that we have come to love such as bamboo, porcelain, lacquer, silk, and bronze, for instance, are all products of Asia, a country that has inspired architects and designers for centuries.

Asia's refined furniture and fabric design had a dramatic effect on the Art and Crafts movement in the '30s. Military personnel who served in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam brought Asian furnishings home with them, and that also spurred American interest.

Now, with most trade barriers down, many sought-after Asian pieces are readily available and affordable. A room derived from, say, a Japanese aesthetic provides a calming, Zen-like atmosphere, which is just what we need to relieve the stress of everyday pressures. For this kind of timeless decorating, a less-is-more approach works best.

The sheer, breezy drapes and bare wood evoke Argentina.

Since walls contain more square footage than any other surface in the room, wall-coverings are one of the simplest and quickest ways to infuse a living room or dining room with Asian ambiance.

Go global with patterns that mimic natural materials like bamboo, granite, and cork in subtle earth tones, or for more drama, investigate grass cloth or metallic grass cloth in copper or gold. Neutral-colored flooring such as sisal or sea grass rugs will allow your furniture to stand out and make your room appear lighter and airier than before.

The buttery yellow walls, touches of red, and dark wood let you imagine you're slumbering in a Tuscan villa.

To get a breath of Eastern air without scrapping all the furnishings and accessories in the room, invest in one wonderful piece. A shapely Japanese stair chest or an ornate antique Chinese table is better than a room full of minor players. To assure that your new star looks like it belongs, be sure to keep the scale consistent.

Strip the space of accessories, and then carefully add back in ones that carry the right message. Minor alterations like changing the hardware on a hand-me-down bureau to metal handles inspired by characters of the Asian language will make a huge impact.

And when it comes to flowers, do as the decorators do: A cache of graceful apple blossom branches or delicate yellow forsythia (you could force your own every spring) are far more enlightened in an Asian-inspired room than a fussy arrangement.

The floor pillows, low table, and natural mat are reminiscent of a Japanese tea room.

Moroccan and Indian accessories are very current and popular. Search out throws, floor pillows dazzling enough for a Bedouin tent, and inexpensive but carefully chosen artifacts. Pretty Indian-inspired jacquard panels hung at the window or black-and-rust-colored hand-thrown pots from Tunisia exude an intriguing faraway flavor. Spice up your private domain, too.

A reproduction Balinese bed mounded with velvet pillows and layered with a lush Moroccan brocade duvet and shams creates a scene right out of the Arabian Nights. Lay a hand-knotted rug from Turkey in mellow gold hues where your toes will find it first thing every morning.

Visit shops and galleries that specialize in imported furnishings as well as rugs and art. A lovely 20th-century kimono hung on the wall is an exotic accent. Design centers, home stores, furniture stores, and mail-order catalogs feature a large variety of tempting globally inspired furniture and accessories, everything from inexpensive hand-carved pagoda lamps and Chinese country baskets to lacquered Chinese-like storage units for books, CDs, tapes, and other media.

From the top of the world comes another design breeze with a similar pared-down and be-simple kind of attitude but with a whole different venue. Originating in the mid-18th century, under the influence of King Gustav III, Scandinavian style is a look that slides effortlessly into place in a contemporary, open-plan house.

Features that appeared long ago -- delicate furniture, uncluttered rooms, and decorative paintings -- are being embraced all over again. The spare lines and uncluttered, harmonious interiors address our need to slow down and appreciate life's little things, like the slant of the morning sun across a bare floor or the stillness that envelops a house when snow falls.

Scandinavian design embraces clean lines, light-colored wood, and pale blue.

Born in a country deprived of the sun for months on end, Swedish style concocts a light of its own with rooms painted luminous shades of icy blue or muted white. Although these colors make up the classic recipe, you can achieve the same aura by painting walls (plaster or paneled) the palest grade of green or pink.

A simple swag or a stenciled border of summer flowers trailing along a wall is traditional and adds visual interest in a living room, bedroom, or bath. Wall-coverings are also suitable, but they should be dainty in scale. Blue-and-white tiles (try a decorative ridge behind the kitchen or bath sink or around the hearth) are standard elements.

Veto dark, gloomy wood floors in favor of light woods like beech or ash, or hide an existing floor under a coat of white paint. Curtains should be simple, unbleached muslin. If you can't live without a snap of color, gingham is pretty and also light-affirming.

Dark furnishings would upset the wintry mood, and nothing pulls together a mismatched group of furniture better than a coat of pristine white. One word of caution: Swedish rooms have few furnishings and what is used is carefully arranged around a focal point like a ceramic-tiled stove or fireplace. Edit what you have down to a few well-loved, comfortable pieces.

Get the Look

  • Cover pillows in crewel fabric or batik.
  • Frame a large vintage world map for the dining or living room.
  • Bleach floors and walls to shape a Scandinavian decor.

All these styles can come to life in your home. It's just a matter of making a few decisions and finding the right materials. When you walk into your house and smile, you know you've done it right.

One style that has enjoyed a long popularity is Arts and Crafts. For an example of an Arts and Crafts-style room, see the next page.

To learn more about interior design and get tips and information on decorating your home, visit:

  • Interior Decorating: Get tips on how to decorate your home and read about organizing a project and selecting an interior design that fits your lifestyle.
  • Home Decorating Tips: Learn about home decorating styles and get tips on how to plan and complete decorating projects.
  • Decorating a Room: Find out how to decorate a room from floor-to-ceiling.
  • How to Design a Kitchen: Create a kitchen that works for you and get tips on how to choose and place appliances and create a decorating scheme.
  • Kids Rooms: Get tips on decorating your child's room, with information on colors, smart strategies, and money-saving tips.
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With plenty of seating, this hearth becomes a favorite meeting place.

Arts and Crafts Decorating

Meticulous cherry mill-work in this mountain retreat is a reminder of the emphasis the Arts and Crafts style placed on craft.

Here, the warm-hued wood and the stonework fabricated of local Idaho quartzite (a metamorphic rock consisting essentially of quartz in interlocking grains) create a similar look for a great room where skiers gather. The sliver of a mantel on the hearth allows space for favorite photographs without distracting from the beauty of the natural stone.

Glass-front cabinets help bring light into the kitchen.

Natural warm colors and high-quality but informal materials were the mandate of the Arts and Crafts movement. The comfortable furnishings also speak to the style.

In the kitchen area, which remains in full view of the hearth, and in the entry, cherry wood cabinetry continues the mood. Even the light fixtures are reminders of the period's tenet to combine the useful with the beautiful.

An Arts and Crafts sensibility awards everything a storage spot, so no matter how large the crowd, the room stays neat.

At night, pools of soft light -- some even spilling from the cleverly placed second-story interior window -- illuminate the mill-work and make it more lustrous still.

The Arts and Crafts design of this house features the patterns of nature in its woodwork and stone features, and in the colors used in the decorating scheme. For an equally warm yet comfortable and homey look, see the next page to explore a Casual Chic design.

To learn more about interior design and get tips and information on decorating your home, visit:

  • Interior Decorating: Get tips on how to decorate your home and read about organizing a project and selecting an interior design that fits your lifestyle.
  • Home Decorating Tips: Learn about home decorating styles and get tips on how to plan and complete decorating projects.
  • Decorating a Room: Find out how to decorate a room from floor-to-ceiling.
  • How to Design a Kitchen: Create a kitchen that works for you and get tips on how to choose and place appliances and create a decorating scheme.
  • Kids Rooms: Get tips on decorating your child's room, with information on colors, smart strategies, and money-saving tips.
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A wall of cabinets makes a fine home for the television.

Casual Chic Decorating

Casual Chic decorating saves the shiny white layout and architecture in this room from coming across as too sterile. Cleverly opening the wall at the base of the window seat also prevents that corner from being shut off from the rest of the room.

This great room is warmed up with upholstery that brings the garden inside all year long. A soft area rug, mounds of puffy pillows, and warm-toned wood furnishings offset the bare glass and shiny floor in the dining section.

In addition to the red-brown bricks of the hearth and the luxurious L-shaped window seat, cozy touches include art, flowers, candles, and family photographs.

The table behind the sofa gives a subtle separation between the sitting area and the rest of the room.

The close proximity of the kitchen to dining and living areas makes the space seem intimate and is ideal when family and friends assemble. A sofa with a curved shape is a gentle barrier between the rest of the room and the sitting area.

The stools slide out of the way, and the kitchen counter becomes the serving station for a turkey dinner or something as simple as crowd-pleasing chips and dips. Thanks to the well-planned architecture, family members can pursue different activities -- like reading, watching the news, and cooking -- and still share time together.

The casual placement of photos, vases, and other decorations give this room a very lived-in look. It makes a stark contrast to Southwestern decorating, which follows a more minimalist approach. To learn more about Southwestern decorating, see the next page.

To learn more about interior design and get tips and information on decorating your home, visit:

  • Interior Decorating: Get tips on how to decorate your home and read about organizing a project and selecting an interior design that fits your lifestyle.
  • Home Decorating Tips: Learn about home decorating styles and get tips on how to plan and complete decorating projects.
  • Decorating a Room: Find out how to decorate a room from floor-to-ceiling.
  • How to Design a Kitchen: Create a kitchen that works for you and get tips on how to choose and place appliances and create a decorating scheme.
  • Kids Rooms: Get tips on decorating your child's room, with information on colors, smart strategies, and money-saving tips.
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Details like the cowhide-upholstered chair and iron lamp add to the delight.

Southwestern Decorating

Architecture is the jumping-off point for this Southwestern living room's intriguing decor. The step-down design of the entry -- complete with massive pillars -- is a dramatic preview for the room beyond. Pairing bricks with wood is also a method to increase visual interest.

The creamy stucco walls and the wood-covered ceiling are traditional in the Southwest. The visual weight of the beams suggests a vernacular that has endured for centuries with very few changes.

In order to allow the character of the room to reign, furnishings needed to be straightforward, unpretentious, and minimal. To offset the chocolate-brown upholstery and the rich leather chairs, bright Navajo rugs and green plants are all that's required.

Pulling the chairs and furniture away from the wall and allowing them to float makes better use of the space and also stretches the room visually.

Antique trunks with iron handles serve as both end tables and hideaways for books and magazines.

Accents of black iron hark back to the Spanish influence in the area. Best of all, the interesting armoire doesn't give a clue it's hiding electronics so, when the doors are closed, the ambiance remains undisturbed.

The owners of this Southwestern room might enjoy lounging on floor pillows by the crackling fire. But, likely, the window seat attracts more attention, especially at sunset when the rugged landscape blazes with color.

The wide-open spaces of the Southwest have inspired many decorating styles. See the next page for an interpretation of spacious style in an urban setting.

To learn more about interior design and get tips and information on decorating your home, visit:

  • Interior Decorating: Get tips on how to decorate your home and read about organizing a project and selecting an interior design that fits your lifestyle.
  • Home Decorating Tips: Learn about home decorating styles and get tips on how to plan and complete decorating projects.
  • Decorating a Room: Find out how to decorate a room from floor-to-ceiling.
  • How to Design a Kitchen: Create a kitchen that works for you and get tips on how to choose and place appliances and create a decorating scheme.
  • Kids Rooms: Get tips on decorating your child's room, with information on colors, smart strategies, and money-saving tips.
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One piece of spectacular art is often more effective than a variety.

Spacious Decorating

With no alteration in colors and no jarring surface treatments, this spacious room is smoothly carved into separate zones for living. Shine and sparkle add to the feeling of spaciousness, from the glass shelving in cab­inets to the chrome-framed dining chairs.

Accents of black add punch to the overall design of this room. To soften the room's formality, a cat­chy mismatched chair has been moved in.

The pale, silky smooth wood floor flows from sitting area to dining area, but the ceiling changes: A low soffit near the gleaming dining table beams above the table and chairs.

An interesting arrangement of cabinetry blocks the dining table from the living room while allowing traffic to flow freely on both sides. The wall-to-ceiling cabinet provides ample storage for china, silver, and linens. The waist-high segment of cabinetry performs as a serving station and buffet.

The theme of glass and bright metal is repeated in the hanging lamp suspended above the table.

While this cabinetry wall is straight-edged, a bar area on the other side of the dining room entrance is curved to be user-friendly to all. There's a plentiful supply of art, but the living room steals the winning focal point in the floor-to-ceiling glass doors and all that lies beyond.

To learn more about interior design and get tips and information on decorating your home, visit:

  • Interior Decorating: Get tips on how to decorate your home and read about organizing a project and selecting an interior design that fits your lifestyle.
  • Home Decorating Tips: Learn about home decorating styles and get tips on how to plan and complete decorating projects.
  • Decorating a Room: Find out how to decorate a room from floor-to-ceiling.
  • How to Design a Kitchen: Create a kitchen that works for you and get tips on how to choose and place appliances and create a decorating scheme.
  • Kids Rooms: Get tips on decorating your child's room, with information on colors, smart strategies, and money-saving tips.
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