Mad About . . .

The most popular interior styles of 2020

17th March 2020
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Now this dropped into my inbox a couple of days ago and I thought it might be fun to share; a round up of the top 20 interior design styles as evidenced by google searches so far this year. These things are often to be taken with a pinch of salt, not so much for what they include as for what is left out.. BUT it gives us the opportunity to look at the definiations of different styles which can be helpful when you are doing your own searches. And I thought it might be fun to have a look at the countdown. There are a couple of surprises.

industrial walls, vintage bath and a country style

industrial walls, vintage bath and a country style Shutterstock – Pavlovska Yevheniia

I have discussed this very point in the introduction to the new book. If you don’t know the name of the style you are looking for it can be very hard to find it. No good looking for a thingummajig when you need a thingummabob. So I post this survey for fun but also to help clarify a few points on the different styles. Think of it as a condensed version of my 10 Things You Need to Know About… series.

First up VINTAGE with 48,560 searches. As I said that could cover a multitude of sins but might be worth knowing that technically vintage is anything over 20 years old, while antiques are supposed to be over 100. So my new rug – which I recently bought for the library (from @sundayandstory) – is apparently a vintage Beni Ourain with pink stripes instead of brown or black. When I was told it was vintage as it dates from around 1976 my first impulse was to laugh as that’s not vintage. Surely that’s not more than 20 years ago I chortled.  I remember that long hot summer like it was yesterday. And yet, and yet, it was actually 44 years ago. Does that make it a vintage vintage?

vintage beni ourain rug at madaboutthehouse.com bought from @sundayandstory

vintage beni ourain rug at madaboutthehouse.com bought from @sundayandstory

Second on the list was INDUSTRIAL with 38,710. I’m amazed by this as I would have thought that perhaps industrial style had had its day. After all, once every local pizzaria starts to look like your own kitchen that’s perhaps a sign that something is due a change. That said vintage industrial (yes let’s make them joint searches) is still a thing. The idea of giving new life to something that is no longer needed in a factory and or an old shop is still a good idea and those pieces have tales to tell. If you want to use this look then you need a neutral colour palette, lots of natural textures and textiles and a mix of wood and metal. The odd expose brick wall wouldn’t go amiss either but at that point you also need to start looking at the period and style of your house. It doesn’t work everywhere. We will unpack this is a future 10 Things if you like.

industrial kitchen via the modern house

industrial kitchen via the modern house

In at number 3 it’s CONTEMPORARY with 37,650 searches. The key point to note here is the difference between contemporary and modern. Technically modern refers to the period between 1900 to 1950 whereas contemporary means anything that is now. Whereas modern is often used to refer to contemporary styles, true modern can never, now, be contemporary.

image via shutterstock provided by sellhousefast.uk

image via shutterstock provided by sellhousefast.uk

Onto number 4 and it’s our friend SCANDINAVIAN with 33,660 searches. Now this is a longer one to look at. Scandinavian has become shorthand for a look consisting of white wall, plain floorboards and minimal, often, mid-century, furniture with clean lines and no embellishments. It should refer to Sweden, Denmark and Norway only. If you expand to Finland and Iceland then it should be called Nordic style. While all countries place value on form and function there are, as you might expect subtle differences between them all.

danish interior design style as shown by Gubi

danish interior design style as shown by Gubi

The monochrome architectural style described above is mostly Danish in origin. Floorboards might be limewashed, there are no curtains, candles are lit every day and colour tends to be in muted accents. Swedish is more rustic in style – soft colours such as red (from the iron ore in the earth making Sweden once one of the wealthiest countries on earth), navy blue and ochre (look at Farrow and Ball Hague Blue and Citron for examples). It was more country in style until the Gustavian period, when King Gustav III decided he wanted his palace to be the northern Versailles. Furniture was then painted and gilded and later became bastardised into shabby chic, which also borrows from French style.

the home of carl larsson whose style became syonymous with Swedish interior design

the home of carl larsson whose style became syonymous with Swedish interior design

Halfway through (you can save the rest till tomorrow if you like as there will be no post as usual on a Wednesday) and we come to RUSTIC with 31,900. This one speaks for itself I think. Lots of wood, some vintage, pieces that look handmade. It’s a cousin of industrial but with more colour and a more country feel rather than factory.

modern rustic kitchen by @housesevendesign

modern rustic kitchen by @housesevendesign

At numbers 6 and 7 we had coastal and traditional. I’m always baffled by the popularity of coastal; unless you actually live by the sea but it’s hugely popular. Perhaps it’s being used as a way of looking for blue and white decor ideas. I’m going to jump to number 8 which is MINIMAL which received 18,280 searches. True minimalism is harder to pull off than it looks. It’s not just about putting everything away but also means that the stuff that is out on show needs to be perfect and beautifully made which often means expensive. It’s telling, perhaps that Kim and Kanye have opted for minimalism in their LA home. I’ve linked to it here with the quote that Kanye sold one of his cars – a vintage Maybach – to pay for a sofa.

the famous minimalist John Pawson has redesigned a Barbican apartment in his signature style via Dezeen

the famous minimalist John Pawson has redesigned a Barbican apartment in his signature style via Dezeen

It is supposed to be soothing and calming while being comfortable and well-built. The light – both natural and electric – is crucial and there must be great architectural features. Everything should be functional and have a purpose but all come together to create a focus that may be the beauty of the whole space rather than an individual item.

At 9 and 10 we have Victorian and Japanese. Neither of which you need me to explain. That was followed at 11 , 12 and 13 by Farmhouse, Retro and Art Deco. I wrote about Art Deco here. and it had 11, 560 searches. I fully expect that to increase as the year goes on as that’s a reviving trend that’s only just getting started.

deco martini wallpaper from divine savages

deco martini wallpaper from divine savages

But what about RETRO? It’s a word that gets bandied about a lot when it comes to fashion – both for interiors and clothes. I would say that Retro is, by its very nature, vintage but it is also consciously inspired by a particular era. So you might have a vintage 60s chair or you might have a chair that looks as if it could be from the 60s – it’s not a copy or a knock off but a throwback or something that was inspired by a particular look or era. It also tends to have to a notion of not being currently fashionable. So, at the moment, you wouldn’t refer to an art deco chair as being retro as it is, currently, screamingly fashionable but there was a period when anything from the 70s was definitely a bit retro. You might use it of the 80s although they are screeching back to the catwalk so probably not for long. Purists would refer to retro as anything post 1950s in the way that anything pre-1950s is modern – see above.

gothic windows and neutral shades via the modern house

gothic windows and neutral shades via the modern house

Moving down the list we have Bohemian (9,390) Shabby Chic (9,360) and Bauhaus with 9,280. And this is where, as Alice might say, it’s gets curiouser and curiouser. At no 17 we have Tropical (8,800), Moroccan (8,200) then Mexican (8,140) and at number 20 Gothic (7,420).

arne jacobsen ant chairs in a warehouse settting

Can you spot the missing style? I mean this is no trickery – this is UK google searches: “average monthly searches in the table refers to the number of times a keyword has been searched for on average every month. The tool (SEMrush) calculates these volumes by taking the number of times something was searched for over the past 12 months then dividing it by 12.”

But there’s no mid-century modern in the top 20. With 4,260 dedicated searches a month it comes in at no 28. Funnily enough I wrote about defining mid-century style last week  – before this press release dropped and I did it because it’s such an enduring classic. So go figure.

These stats came from sellhousefast and while they have reported on what the stats showed there’s no explanation. Perhaps people are searching for pieces via the designer’s name, or the date it was made. Who knows – it’s just for fun but I hope the explanation of some of the styles has proved helpful. And can we have a discussion on Mexican style please. Who are the 8,000 people looking for that every month in the UK?




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  • Rosanna Harkin 26th March 2020 at 11:25 am

    This is so interesting! Plenty of surprises – the really didn’t tihnk that ‘vintage’ & ‘industrial’ would be the top two. Can I ask how you accessed this information? So fascinating. I wondering whether these are global terms or just US….

    • Kate Watson-Smyth 26th March 2020 at 12:27 pm

      Think these are just UK actually. I’m surprised by it too but someone left a very interesting comment about not everyone knowing the right terms -hence why mid-century modern doesn’t appear for example. This was sent to me as a press release

  • Ellen Reed 17th March 2020 at 5:24 pm

    Surely, the 70’s are not “vintage”…..are we that old? Time flies apparently. Thank you once again for an informative and visually interesting post.

  • Kat 17th March 2020 at 2:42 pm

    Oh wow! Please can I self isolate in your library Kate?It looks like paradise!

  • Teresa Hamlin 17th March 2020 at 12:50 pm

    Re: MID-CENTURY style, this is actually quite a niche thing. Here in Devon (and I imagine anywhere outside of the Metropolitan areas), “mid-century” style is largely unheard of outside the confines of professional interior designers & architects offices. The buzz words VINTAGE, RUSTIC, CONTEMPORARY, etc, have reached us, but generally, names are not put to styles to such a great extent. It tends to be more about comfort & colour, so TRADITIONAL is still pretty standard in these parts!

    • Kate Watson-Smyth 17th March 2020 at 2:16 pm

      That’s so interesting and makes complete sense.

  • Leslie-Anne 17th March 2020 at 12:07 pm

    Perhaps the 8,000 people in the UK are starved for the joyful, energetic and just plain fun colours of Mexico. Colours that say “loosen up people”!

    • Renaud 17th March 2020 at 4:13 pm

      That’s actually very interesting, thank you for sharing Kate! Thank you also for clarifying some of these terms – which can sometimes get so easily mixed up. The top 10 doesn’t really surprise me, but there are a few odd ones after that, like Mexican, but also Gothic? I didn’t think those style were so popular (and to be honest I’m not even sure what they look like?). Also I was surprised to see Bauhaus so high in the rankings. It’s a very specific style which I didn’t think was so popular.

      Have a good day and stay safe!


    • Mandy 17th March 2020 at 5:52 pm

      Hear, hear!
      Here’s to joyful and colourful – yay !

  • Monica 17th March 2020 at 10:06 am

    I did my Inchbald final project on a Mexican/Belgian style restaurant bar and made some remarkable discoveries about contemporary Mexican interior style. (Belgian style is quite well known by now thanks to Axel Vervoordt and those that followed.)
    The legacy of Luis Barragan and his use of color shaped contemporary Mexican architecture and interiors. Simple, rustic, natural and textured surfaces characterize this style. Check out architects Javier Sordo Madaleno, Manuel Mestre, José de Turbe. Pre-Hispanic mythology and traditions were revived during the cultural revolution in the 1920s which showcased the artisanship found in tiles, clay objects, pottery, silver. I love this stuff but tricky to incorporate in cooler climates!

  • Katie 17th March 2020 at 9:44 am

    If ever there was an image to prompt the discussion about the purpose of interior design… style v. comfort, house v. home and so on, it’s that pic of the Barbican flat. It made me really laugh, thank you!

    • Bobby 17th March 2020 at 4:11 pm

      Totally agree! There was a feature in the Guardian a couple of months ago on the designers home. Whilst some of the ideas were interesting it looked so uncomfortable and sparse it was bordering on parody. If memory serves he’d based the design of one “contemplation room” on the traditional Victorian police cell….

    • Lyn 17th March 2020 at 4:19 pm

      Yes that Barbican flat is definitely the least appealing of the images – can you imagine relaxing with a glass of red wine in there???

    • M. 17th March 2020 at 8:59 pm

      That Barbican flat reminds me of those Modern House listings where the owners have clearly moved out and they have brought in a couple of design classics to tart the place up for the photo shoot.

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