This is a common question faced by many new homeowners who are renovating their home for the first time. As there are many interior design styles to choose from, it can be quite challenging to know which is the best for your family. Do you plan to have kids or stay with your parents? This is another area to consider when you are selecting a design theme.
In this article, we will cover some of the most popular design themes used in Singapore homes which will give you enough ideas to pick one that meets your needs. We will showcase some of our completed design projects for each theme so you can draw inspirations from them while you are planning for your home renovation.
Simplicity with a touch of elegance are the key elements of contemporary design. An ever-changing design style that borrows elements of the modern and the past. Unlike other design styles which are devoted to a certain time, look and spirit, contemporary styles follow styles which are in trend today.
It has a combination of different design styles for people who are more adventurous. A contemporary home is characterised by neutral colour tones like brown, white, taupe and cream, sleek finish and clean looking furnishings and prominent minimalism.
Being fuss-free and simple are the key elements of a modern interior design. It borrows concepts from Scandi and German architecture design. Furnishings and décor with a focus on earthy colors and neutral materials like wood are used to decorate the home. Monochromatic colors, and pattern-less fabricated product set among white-washed rooms are the focus of modern interiors.
Peaceful simplicity is the highlight of Japanese interior design. An abundance of natural elements like bamboo, pebbles and flower arrangements besides man-made furnishings can be found in a Japanese theme home. It creates a meditative and serene feeling in your home living environment.
“Less is more” is the phrase to describe the minimalist style. Simplicity, clean lines, monochromatic color scheme, uncluttered and reductive are key features of this interior design theme. It allows something other than the space to be the focus. Things should not just be functional but add value to the space.
A design style which takes inspiration from industrial structures, old warehouses and factories. A simple design style that you can easily pull off with furniture, décor and lighting. Bare bricks, wood, metal and recycled materials are décor that you will see in an industrial home. It’s great for people who want to do their part to reduce wastage.
Simple, functional and beauty are the key characteristics of a Scandinavian interior design. Scandi homes are characterised by simple furniture and fresh color palettes. Textiles like carpet and curtains are sometimes used to add texture and warmth to the room. Natural elements like plants may be added to complement the theme.
Preface: it is important to note that your personal style can be a mixture of multiple elements of different interior styles and your perspective of what a style can or could be should rightfully be defined by yourself. As long as you are happy with your own home interior, no style definition can ruin it!
Interior trends come and go but there are always a few iconic styles that never go out of season. Throughout the next few weeks we will give you a quick summary on what variety of interior styles there are and what kind of unique combinations there can be! However keep in mind that Singapore has a special architectural landscape and we have a definitive style uide when it comes to local interior styles!
Contemporary style, by definition means anything occurring in the present, and in design terms encapsulates many possibilities whose benchmark was set by its predecessors. However over the years, several definitive features become residual identifiers of what “contemporary” would be seen as today, specifically in Singapore's unique living environments. What is unique to contemporary design is its amorphous style, which means differently for different designers as our gauge of what a style could encompass is never the same.
As a general practice, Singapore’s vision of contemporary design is a subtle sophistication that pays tribute back to modern designs. With Singapore’s land shortage, contemporary design aims to showcase the beauty of space, blanketing interesting forms and shapes that surround it. It is a juxtaposition of bold contrast between tall irregular windows to asymmetrical facades that supplies growing families with a healthy living area.
Apart from the physical attributes, a cultural change is also indicative of a contemporary interior. Many homeowners opt for green living as an aspect of such interior styles: Choosing environmentally friendly electrical or plumbing systems to help conserve energy, as well as acquiring sustainable materials within the household as feature pieces. This is also suggestive of a creative space where elements from other styles could be transcribed into, making it one of the most versatile style choices.
Contemporary style speaks most of Singapore’s social narrative as it is usually eclectic and sleek. (Certainly not as eclectic as the actual “Eclectic” interior style). Contemporary style also designs to accommodate and morph consistently as it never stays stagnant, whereas certain interior styles might have a cookie cutter set of rules in terms of styling.
This means that if you have a particular favourite piece of furniture and if it doesn’t fit the style, your entire home’s style might be ruined. A contemporary space is ever changing and definitely fits the needs of an average growing family, physically and aesthetically.
Modern style predates the contemporary wave and in art terms actually refers to a specific time period between 1860s to 1970s. It is commonly associated with contemporary style and often muddled together, however, the psychology behind them is miles apart. Applying a mild inference of the timestamp itself, we could understand that modern interior style engages mostly from socio-economic psychology, resulting in a few trademark characteristics.
Modern style favours simplicity and has a tendency to negate clutter- as everything present in the house has to serve a functional purpose. Drawing back to its historical significance, we emphasize on material quality and embrace industrial beauty from environmentally friendly elements. This results in a focus on earthier hues that brings in a warm setting that oftentimes parallel Scandinavian designs (which is the case since Modern interior style has roots in German and Scandinavian Designs).
Further emphasizing on the functionality and practicality behind the psychology of modern interior design, many designers pursue the hallmarks of “modern” through strategic methods. Examples include using pale wood to diffuse soft light, keeping the home well lit without the need to bring in too much artificiality. Or using large windows and open floor spacing to help disperse light as well. It is all about strategic simplicity!
With Singapore’s lack of land, homes are usually spatially challenged and require extensive planning to fully utilise its capacity. Modern interior style favours the idea of form following function and requires only the most essential features within the home.
As is most homes in Singapore, modern interior style generally follows a neutral palette as its main body, which would be an optimal choice if homeowners find repainting a chore if a situation of selling the home ever arises.
It is also timeless and has that easy to patch-up look that will never go out of style. Furthermore, many HDB flats are clustered up and oftentimes you find yourself in the dark after a certain time in the afternoon- a neutral palette definitely helps counteract with brightening up the home!!
Scandinavian style definitely has one of the most popular aesthetics in Singapore, with myriads of HDB flats pulling through the ageless beauty of “scandi”. It pays tribute to the simple elegance of Nordic beauty, an understated appreciation for functionality and nature, much like the Modern interior that we discussed above. Scandi is recognised through its Nordic influence, a few traits that we will highlight.
What separates Scandi from Modern or Contemporary is definitely the psychology behind it. Nordic regions have changing weather that could be really cold and this introduces a concept of hygge. (Pronounced as hooga, like the brand) It is a Danish concept that introduces the quality of cosiness, introducing a style of living where you just want to snuggle up and live within a homely interior. It is a lifestyle choice of relaxation through enhancing the comfort level within the home.
Scandi has a great emphasis on material choice as well as functionality, thus making Scandi furniture usually long lasting and adaptable. Scandinavian interior design prefers natural elements like form-pressed wood, enameled aluminium and wide planks. It usually belongs to neutral palettes that are simple but pops of colours are often encouraged, be it through small accents like a plant or textured rug. With that said, accents should remain “accents” as Scandi Interiors are commonly clutter free, allowing the accents to really stand out.
With Singapore's bustling cityscape, our homes are the only sanctuary from this concrete jungle. This makes Scandi such a popular choice because we want to be able to relax after a tiring day of work, cosy up to television and hang out with the family. With a relatively smaller landscape, a clean and decluttered home style makes it even more important because a well executed Scandi aesthetics can help visually amplify the space of the home.
Furthermore, it is also an affordable styling choice because it is mostly accessible for everyone especially as a starter home. With simplicity and comfort as the main goals, it is definitely much easier to achieve than most interior styles with its cost-effective play.
Industrial style is a vibrant trend led by a new generation of tastemakers interested in alternate beauty. Alongside the other trends we’ve discussed, industrial interior stems from a specific time period in history that cultivated such a unique liking. It came about at the end of the second industrial revolution, with vacant industrial areas creating a vacuum for home goers to seek out, creating an aesthetic of industrial looking residential homes.
Industrial style is unapologetic with its appearance, giving focus to the raw materials and infrastructure. It features exposed beams, pipes, bricks and concrete that highlights the complete exoskeleton of the infrastructure. This is balanced off with high ceilings and sparse furnitures, as inspired by the factory-esque interior that it came from. This concept is applied onto the furniture as well, popularising pieces like castors or caged lighting.
Compared to the other styles shown above, Industrial style is a lot eye-catching even though the colour palette may be quite neutral as well. This style utilises silver metallic palettes and distressed textures that can really create an overwhelmingly beautiful visuals.
Clean looks are not for everyone and certain people appreciate having a little more drama in their daily lives. Despite the simplicity in Industrial interiors, it manages to achieve a bold statement with its incessant need for truth with the showcase of naturally bare finishes- a paradoxical parallel to Modern interiors indeed. Industrial look can be easily achieved because you utilise unbridled beauty of the unembellished, thus not requiring touching up or any cover ups.
This also becomes a great opportunity for homeowners who collect vintage decoration to build up a collection as they will fit the home interiors no matter what. Furthermore like the Scandi look, Industrial heavily features on natural material, thus bringing a natural comfort back into the house without you even realising.
Retro style is a gargantuan theme that amasses a few decades of experience from the 1950s leading up to the 1970s. It is usually associated with the Vintage style and linguistically, is defined as any interior themes from the past, and some would refer to vintage as its predecessor.
As an overall understanding of its aesthetic, retro is a revival of the themes from vintage as a nostalgic homage, likewise the wave that brought us Pop Art. It is usually lively and pays respect in the most vibrant ways but it does not have to be old; It is mostly loud, funky and pulls out the most eye-catching aspects of vintage interior. This usually refers to the tactility and colours.
Colours are usually the main identifier for retro interiors, with colours that are often less saturated and more flat, such as fluorite green, mustard yellow, tortoise shell brown and sometimes even hot pink.
Tactile quality of gloss plastic, tie dye fabric, soft vinyl and smooth velvet are also common indicators of a retro home. It is definitely much more visually interesting than many other styles, albeit walking a thin line against being too tacky. This refers to the decorative textures that retro styling has that not everyone might like.
Retro furnishings are also unapologetic, ranging from free pieces that can stand out in a crowd on its own. From door beads to lava lamps to neon lights to chandeliers, every furnishing has a different personality in a retro styled home.
Breaking down the economics of retro furnishing, we can postulate that contemporary industrial practices have watered down the uniqueness of furniture, creating a generation of cookie cutter mass productions that makes many home furnishings bland and common.
Retro style taps into an eclectic mix of nostalgia that can provide kinship to an older audience or anyone who relates to the past- it is an escape from the banality of contemporary life.
It presents a vibrant and unapologetic creativity that people practiced at a time when the future is uncertain. There is definitely a sense of optimism that might interest specific groups of people, especially with a rise in retro aesthetics in the cinematic world.
Logistically speaking, retro styling really appeals to the contemporary market, and therefore can be readily found in popular furniture stores. Most retro furniture nowadays are affordable reproductions of the original classic, this allows the mainstream market to consume it easily.
Vintage is the muse that gave rise to the retro style, but is commonly referred to as the references from the 1940s to 1950s or after the Second World War. Its aesthetics came about from the socio-economic environment, having the needs to be frugal and matching furniture from different archetypes.
Compared to Retro styling, Vintage holds a certain regality and romanticism that comes with old furnishing, which is the opposite intentions of Retro. Vintage features materiality that ages well and upholds a beauty of time, such as wood or upholstery that gives interesting textures.
These textures are reflected in intricate details of carvings around the wooden furniture as well as patterning on curtains. There is a certain beauty in the subtle appreciation of aged material, which compared to retro is much more loud.
Vintage places emphasis on furniture styling unlike other interior styles, creating a space with interesting storytelling just by the curation of furniture alone. It allows old furniture to take a focal point and give the true experience of romanticising time. Certain linguistic definitions label vintage as a timeline between 20 to 100 years.
As mentioned earlier, vintage styles often feature old furniture of high craftsmanship, thus they can be rather expensive. However this can be considered as an investment as long as you treat your furnishing well.
It will always be an interesting visual for the home as not only would it be more valuable as the time goes by for your family, it also tells a curious anecdote for when you have company. With a culture of mass production and globalisation, many contemporary furnitures are homogeneous in nature and vintage furnitures certainly give the home a personality.
Traditional offers classic associations of furnishing rooted in European sensibilities of the 18th to 19th century, featuring heavy details and inflections in craftsmanship. This iconic style is commonly associated with classic art and history being in one of the most vibrant points of history.
Traditional is visually iconic for its usage of dark finished wood as its main body, highlighted by unparalleled craftsmanship that is ornate and difficult to achieve with today’s standards. It's a romantic pursuit of elaborate furnishing that includes velvet, silk and linen. It is also common to see crystal chandeliers in Traditional homes.
With that said, the reasoning for such extravagant details is contrary, striving to achieve simple harmony and order. This is the exact opposite of Vintage styling as Traditional always seek out an orderly furnishing where everything matches, able to achieve visual peace through symmetry and connectivity.
This would mean that nothing is too jarring and there isn’t an off beat in the narrative. There is however a difference in the Traditional style in Western versus Eastern context.
Although this styling could potentially be one of the most opulent choices amongst the available lineup of contemporary options, this fills the top row in terms of creating a warm and inviting home.
This is because apart from the general warm palette, this style opts for familiar looks that do not feature anything too visually jarring, creating a timeless appearance that appeals to all ages.
Furthermore, there has been a rise in popularity with nostalgia in interior design since a predominant segment of the clientele aren’t familiar with this style at all. With the new sensibility to design, Traditional is also fused with contemporary tastes to remove the cluttered effect of its far-removed predecessor- reborn to a new world.
Transitional is a namesake for its interchangeability between the elegance of Traditional and stylish sleek of the Modern style. It is definitely one of the most popular and easy to achieve stylings given its unrestricted categorisation and readily cohesive palette.
Transitional styling often features a duality in concepts that create interesting visual contrasts: showcasing the masculinity and femininity within furniture, luxury elegance versus simple comfort, and vintage collection juxtaposed with contemporary creations.
This however means that colours are rarely explored intensely, with most intentions on textures and tonality. A beige palette is predominant in Transitional, but is often spiced up with unrestricted exploration into materiality such as suede, leather and rattans.
To understand Transitional is often breaking down the effects of the two ends of the spectrum; for example the sleek freshness of modern fabrics that break the momentum against the eternal elegance of dark wood furnishing.
Akin to Modern style, Transitional prioritises form following function and focuses on the comfort of the homeowners. This results in an interior that is visually soft with furnishing that is cosy and neutral.
Transitional therefore creates a living environment that is exceptionally friendly to growing families, focusing on layering with details as the home gets snuggly over time. This also means that family heirlooms that look modern can be used within the home interior, a drawback of its predecessors.
At this point we have looked through many styles throughout countless time periods of interior design experimentation, we can now identify the specific elements of decoration and refurbishing that we really enjoy as homeowners.
Now we specifically look at two opposite ends of a spectrum of composite interior design, one being exaggeratedly filled with myriads of styles while the other seemingly spaced out of variations: Eclectic and Minimalistic, the final two of our main interior body.
Eclectic Style is the way of compositing different interior design styles into one unique palette, allowing homeowners who appreciate aesthetics and not be limited by the pedantic restrictions of a theme.
Coincidentally, the term “eclectic” derives from the Greek word “eklektikos” that loosely means “to choose the best”, which perfectly summarizes the essence of choosing only what you love best.
This is a maximalist approach as opposed to minimalist manipulation of renovation. More specifically, it comprises compositing elements from styles, trends, texture, form and colours without a significant rubric.
It might seem counterproductive to navigate the “rules' ' of eclecticism as the ethos within itself is to celebrate the variety of difference; eclecticism can be achieved by simply contrasting.
Homogeneity is jinx to a beautifully done eclectic home, by mixing patterns and textures we use the visual contrasts to create an interesting narrative. This also verges into the realm of time pieces, combining old and new furniture like the themes of Transitional interior design.
However, what differs from Transitional is the element of space, that refers to more geographical space rather than physical space. In eclecticism, we are released from the need to restrict ourselves from juxtaposing our differing furniture just because they are manufactured with certain distinct geographical styles, such as mixing a traditional Shaker style woodwork with Japanese paper lantern.
One very distinct identifier of an eclectic room is the presence of a gallery wall style approach, this is a collagesque furnishing where we present decoratives in a platter.
Eclectic style is one of the most suitable choices for home owners who are afraid of losing their individual style to the homogeneity of mass produced refurbishing.
It is a perfect counterpart to the many cookie cutter versions of HDB flats, where every single eclectic home tells a story that is unique to the homeowners- a perfect story to tell at every dinner party!
It is similar to Transitional style in terms of its lack of barrier to entry, thus everyone can attempt to cultivate their own interpretation of eclecticism without much fear.
This means that if families/ relatives have furniture that they want to pass down to the family or if the homeowners spot specific items in a thrift shop, there shouldn't be any worries of having the furnishing jut out like a sore thumb.
With that said, it is a dangerous game of letting loose as sometimes eclectic might run too close to the boundary of disjointedness or chaotic.
The idea of variation can be counterbalanced with an element of intentional unity, such as choosing a colour palette within the background or foreground, or choosing neutral walls that allows a free canvas for wildly unique furnishing.
Also, exercise caution when it comes to appreciating collaborated beauty as it doesn't mean it should go into the realm of clutter!
Minimalism has been taking an upheaval popularity rise since more homeowners are abandoning indulgence for necessity.
The main aim is to create simple spaces that are uncluttered and well lit- perfect for a city dweller to retreat into after a day of urban adventure.
This style offshoots into many other trends that it inspires, with minimalism being the mother of all abstraction.
A close relative of Minimalism, albeit much more tepid, would be the Modern style: a liking for bare essentials of functionality, shapes & forms and good lighting all around.
With the troubling outside world getting complicated day by day, Minimalism transcends design into a philosophy, teaching homeowners on the approach of reason for place.
It might seem bare boned, but it is actually a celebration of the beauty behind the architectural elements and precise furnishing pushed to the frontier.
It is a classic style that will keep to its appeal in the long run as it rarely goes out of style, but rather evolves into something new.
Minimalism in a Singaporean context would be a great economical choice given the fact that urban dwellers are generally much more stressed out, Minimalism helps create a sense of freedom and relaxation that helps soothe their spirits.
It is also a thrifty alternative/excuse to save cost on renovation and refurbishing since housing cost in Singapore is already sky high. The lack of ornamentation could mean less options to painstakingly think over since you would only feature possessions you absolutely love.
This would result in a highly functional home that is reduced to its bare aesthetics, a perfect starter home for a young adult or newly wed couple. This lack of adornment creates an illusion of larger space within this tightly packed concrete jungle.
It is a risky choice to veer towards Minimalism excessively as it is problematic as what Eclecticism is probably troubled with- an overindulgence of its essence. Many homeowners are wary of Minimalism resulting in a home that looks soulless, very empty and having a lack of personality.
A tip for negating this feeling would be to indulge in elements that Minimalism holds dear, such as textures and neutrality. For instance, incorporating textured linen or rugs help to bring in a visual warmth, or utilising a neutral tile or vinyl that showcases interesting grains, both of which helps spice up the space. It is all about creating space within space!