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The Top Design Trends of the 20th Century

The 20th century’s most notable interior design trends are markers of time and taste. Uncover the ultra-relevant movements that shaped collective attitudes.

Life gives and takes. Tendencies retreat and resurface. Sensations shift and circle back, again and again. The interior design industry often speaks on this occurrence with a singular term: a trend. Trends are shifts in behavior or mentalities that influence a considerable portion of a population. Spreading concepts through the last century have come from all corners of the globe, creating formatively fascinating eras of design trends that we know and recognize today.

Such trends do come and go, but iconic styles stay relevant forever. Despite taking fresh directions and enduring reinventions, these trends have stood the test of time. Let’s take a closer look at the top design trends of the 20th century that individuals still enjoy incorporating within their homes in the present day.

Art Deco Glamour: The Golden Age

On an evolutionary front, interior design initially became an innovative profession in the 1910s–1930s movement called Art Deco. As one of the top design trends of the 20th century, this Paris-originated trend formulated the artistic concept of visually appealing international glamour. After the turn of the century and the First World War, people wanted to escape reality and enjoy life. Celebrating pioneering modernity, bright young things, and technological developments became a streamlined social revolution. The Golden Age of Hollywood also became a major influencer of the trend with the introduction of cinema. Cinematic influences and modernized nuances became representative of the newfound eclectic design playground.

Distinguishable features of Art Deco include the use of mirrors; glass; symmetric detailing; bold, geometric shapes; patterned wallpaper; and velvet, gold, marble, and silver accents. Aspects of this luxe regency endure today in lavishly decorated homes.

The Age of Modernism: Mid-Century Mod

The concept of modernism is often misunderstood within interior design, especially in the present-day perception of contemporary versus modern style. The heart of the initial mid-century modern movement sprouted from Art Deco-inspired modernism. This modernism arose from political, social, and environmental change after the Industrial Revolution and the Second World War. The postwar economic boom was at the forefront of the optimistic atmosphere of the 1950s–1960s, creating fresh design movements and inspiring consumerism.

Key features of this still-in-vogue trend include simple shapes and sleek lines that focus on form-following functionality. This balance of modernity and naturalism brings a whimsically human side to the rigid lines of modernism, observed widely in various facets of 21st-century interiors.

Minimalism: Ethos Design for Everyone

Starkly diverse from the earlier 20th-century design trends such as regent Art Deco, minimalism is a core style reflecting a less-is-more mentality. This significant movement certainly isn’t flashy, but it arguably transfixes more realms of interior design than any other. Minimalism is a movement continuously honoring interior light and space, emerging as a visual arts movement.

As a principle more than a mere visual style, minimalism stems from traditional Japanese architecture and features the global De Stijl movement of simplicity and clarity. After a revitalizing renaissance in the 1990s, minimalism has become centerfold in current design trends of everyday homes.

As we noted above, 20th-century design trends emerged from societal backdrops and heightened levels of creative innovation. These trends remain impactful in the present, but our most recent decades are distinguishably transforming the face of designs for years yet to come.


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Karen LeBlanc

Karen LeBlanc is a travel host and writer with a popular travel show, The Design Tourist, and a companion lifestyle blog. As a widely published travel journalist and content creator, Karen is a member of the North American Travel Journalists Association. She also serves as the Design and Travel editor of the national lifestyle magazine, LaPalme. Karen believes that every destination has a story to tell through its local art, architecture, culture, and craft. This immersive creative exploration begins with authentic accommodations where the narrative of place unfolds through art, accessories, accouterments, furnishings, fixtures, and food. 

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