Cover (Photo: Scott A Woodward)

Looking to redecorate? Here are some interior design styles from the 20th century that may inspire your next home makeover


Redecorating doesn't have to be difficult! These interior design themes can help direct anyone on their quest to brighten or liven up their homes. From minimalism to modern design and eclectic interiors, this guide will help you determine the best way to visualise your dream home. 

See also: Tips on Choosing the Best Tile Design for Your Living Space

1. 1990-1910s: Edwardian

Edwardian-style homes are very much the elegant, traditional homes that people associate with the nuanced history of Europe. High ceilings with tiled roofs, gables, motifs, and colour palettes of a lighter shade became popular, as did floral prints and neutral colour schemes.

Read more: Home Tour: Inside One of South Africa's Most Historic Houses—the Stonecrest Manor

2. 1920s-1930s: Art Deco

Originating in Paris during the 1920s and subsequently widely seen in Europe, the US and the rest of the world, art deco interior design incorporated geometric shapes and gilded details; its glamorous look continues to have an enduring appeal and has influenced the work of many contemporary designers. It is also known for its use of luxurious materials such as metals, ivory, and rock crystal. New York's Chrysler building is among the most famous interpretations of this architectural movement. 

Read more: Home Tour: An Art Deco-Inspired Home With Tropical Accents

3. 1940s: Traditional Colonial Revival

The traditional colonial revival style is one style that can be recognised as American. It came about in the '40s, when homeowners began to fancy nostalgia and favour the traditional. This led to a rise in colonial revival, which were architectural styles heavily influenced by the British and Dutch. It is characterised by grand entrance halls, wainscoting, and polished wood floors. 

4. 1950s-1960s: Mid-Century Modern

First popularied in the US during the sixties, mid-century modern design offers a colourful take on decor, particularly after the bleak aftermath of the Second World War.

The beginnings of this iconic architectural and design movement of the Sixties may be credited to the Bauhaus school of design. This German design philosophy is grounded on the concept of “form following function” and inspired by the Industrial Revolution at the turn of the 20th century.

Back when flamboyance and geometric perfection in architecture, art, design and fashion ruled one side of the Western World, there was also the German response where clean lines, bold and masculine materials and primary colours were deemed superior for factories, warehouses and eventually offices and residences. The Bauhaus style embraced technological advances and mass production, maximised the usage of open spaces, steel frames for furnishings and sleek materials like leather and plastic.

Read more: Home Tour: ‘Mid-Century Manila’ Founders Ken and Isa Mishuku’s Family Home

5. 1970s: Bohemian

The free-spirited attitudes of the '70s spilled over into interior design with the distinct look of bohemian-style interiors; it's been given a fresh update with the cottage core movement, which puts a contemporary spin on its rustic influences. With this, homeowners choose to emphasise natural elements and vintage pieces: there's ample use of natural materials and heritage-rich furnishings—be that through books, artworks, instruments, and the like. 

Read more: Home Tour: This La Union Abode is the Perfect Seaside Escape for Loved Ones

6. 1980s: Memphis Design

The Memphis design style is one of the most recognisable in the design world! It's fun and playful, with plenty of bright colours, geometric shapes, and bold patterns, led by Italian architect Ettore Sottsass and other co-founders of the art and design collective, The Memphis Group. They are often inspired by elements from pop art, art deco, and frequently feature kitschy elements that add a cheery touch to any space. 

Read more: Home Tour: A Bold and Colourful Memphis-Inspired Apartment in Singapore

7. 1990s: Minimalism

Minimalist styles involve plenty of simplicity, clean lines, and monochromatic palettes to create an utterly calming look that continues to hold sway in the world of interior design. With the goal of creating that pleasingly simple and uncluttered look, minimalist interiors often feature natural materials and furnishings with understated and sleek designs. 

Its timeless appeal continues to hold sway in the design world today, with Scandinavian and Japanese elements typically shaping the look of such minimalist-influenced spaces.

Read more: Home Tour: A Cosy Modern House With Red and Orange Accents

8. 2000s: Industrial Chic

Industrial interiors are fairly self-explanatory; these taking inspiration from the New York artist lofts as well as industrial buildings from the late 20th century.

Think metal piping, concrete walls and patinated finishes, the result is both edgy and chic, adored for its rugged details, and certainly is one that many people still continue to love. For a luxurious take on this look, pair these industrial-style elements with metallic details and soft, sumptuous materials such as leather and other fabrics to create a plush haven.

Read more: Home Tour: The Shaw Family’s Former Home Theatre in Singapore Is Now an Industrial Chic Haven

9. 2010s: Contemporary Style

Contemporary style is all about the "now". It's a mix of influences that often encapsulated the zeitgeist of the times. For example, a room designed in Very Peri, the Pantone colour of 2022, would be considered contemporary design. Other influences can also be considered contemporary such as Scandinavian interior design and Japanese interior design, which were both popular at certain points in the decade. 

Read more: Pantone Colour of the Year 2022: 8 Ways to Decorate With Very Peri


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Additional reporting by Franz Sorilla IV and Hong Xinying.

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