Interior designer Chloe Mackintosh lives on a cattle farm, and even she is perplexed by the definition of Farmhouse interior design style.
Farmhouse has become a broad term, says Ms, Mackintosh, who lives 2.5 hours from Reno, Nev. Lately there are seemingly endless iterations, from Classic Farmhouse and Modern Farmhouse to Rustic Farmhouse and Industrial Farmhouse, Not to mention Urban Farmhouse.
There are also substyles within each Farmhouse style.
“If someone comes to me and says, ‘I want Modern Farmhouse,’ I’ll show them two different designs that could both be described as Modern Farmhouse, yet they could be wildly different,” she says. “It’s like, ‘Do you want Modern Farmhouse, or modern Modern Farmhouse, or modernized Farmhouse?’ ”
Many people have launched home-improvement projects in recent years, particularly after spending so much time in their living rooms and kitchens during the pandemic, Yet shopping for the renovation can feel like things have gone to hell in a wicker basket, One might face a thousand variations of off-white, for instance.
And then there’s the language of home decorating, It has never been particularly easy to understand, but it used to be somewhat straightforward with designers pulling from 15 to 20 style categories to describe a look—think Modern, Traditional, Art Deco, or Minimalism.
But lately, the internet, as it is wont to do, has divided groups into such a Byzantine tangle of micro-styles people are left scratching their heads trying to figure out just how to manifest a Cluttercore vibe mixed with a Plant Mom aesthetic fused with a Maximalism lifestyle.
“There is always something
new,” says Cindi Yang, a social-media influencer in Minneapolis. She rattles off trending interior-design terminology as if she’s a fortuneteller: “I’m seeing Japandi. I’m seeing Cottagecore. I’m seeing Dark Academia.”
The bloating of interior-design lexicon is a hot-button subject, says Kerrie Kelly, past chair to the national board for the American Society of Interior Designers, “Just like a house has layers, there are layers to this conversation,” says Ms. Kelly, an interior designer in Sacramento, Calif.
When Wendy Brown, an end-of-life doula, and Nick Brown, a former hedge-fund manager, set out to furnish their vacation home in the coastal city of Manzanita, Ore., their loose vision was “Midcentury Modern and Bohemian Beach House all in one,” Ms. Brown says. However, she says, “The words weren’t leading us where we wanted to go,” Their interior designer, Minneapolis-based Anne McDonald, let the furniture do the talking, She unearthed a set of vintage Sergio Rodrigues Mole armchairs, which pushed the style toward Brazilian Midcentury,A groovy smoked-glass light fixture installed in a wood-encased stairwell, says Ms. McDonald, “pulled us in a direction that’s a little funky, a little 1970s, a little moment of glam.”
Throughout the project, they used a shorthand of “disco” and “record player” to communicate their desired vibe, a style Ms. McDonald would describe as Analog.
Natalie Myers, an interior designer in Los Angeles, says she has had inquiries from prospective clients who send her inspiration images and call it Japandi, a new warm Minimalism style that mixes Japanese and Scandinavian aesthetics،“Whether or not it is actually Japandi is for me to decipher,” she says.
She is attracted to Japandi for its cocooning of beiges, creams, and off-whites alongside a menagerie of natural elements, from blond and rich brown woods, to a variety of stone, to fibers such as mohair and wool bouclé.
One would be forgiven for thinking this sounds a lot like Organic Modern, or California Casual, or Contemporary Rustic, all styles that lean into organic neutrals.
A specialty of Amal Kapen, an interior designer based in Huntington, N.Y., is Grandmillennial, which mixes the old with the new with wood furniture, skirted sofas, wallpaper, velvets, colorful fabrics, and trim. In other words, she says, “It’s youthful, fresh Traditional design.”
Historically, the general public hasn’t always defined interior design styles, says Angie Morse, membership manager for the High Point, N.C.based Interior Design Society and an instructor for the Heritage School of Interior Design in Portland, Ore., and Seattle. Interiors were originally based on culture and religion, and as wealth became more prominent, core interior design styles started to emerge.
“Now some of the words that are being thrown around on trend today are a fusion of different styles that are rooted in history and culture,” she says. “Confusion is coming from the fusion.”
Interior designer Meta Coleman, in Provo, Utah, says leaning too hard into a style such as Coastal Grandmother—an offshoot of Grandmillennial style that emphasizes rattan, wicker, and bamboo—can feel cliché. “Everyone is obsessed with trends and what’s trending,” she adds. “I really believe you should buy things that you’re drawn to that speak to you and tell a story for you.”
Mary Margaret Christman, an antiques collector and seller in Lexington, Ky., is so enchanted by the Grandmillennial style that she literally calls herself a Grandmillennial. “It is not just a décor style that’s trending,” she says. “It’s a way of life.”
Ms. Christman, a millennial, says one of her favorite pieces is a china cabinet she bought at an estate sale. “It belonged to a woman named Rose Marie, whose daughter was emotional about getting rid of her mother’s things. The daughter told me about how her mom used to love to host dinner parties. Every time I get china out of there, I think about Rose Marie. These pieces really do tell stories.” Her cabinet is faux bamboo, raising the question: Is its style really Grandmillennial, or could it be Coastal Grandmother?
Ms. Morse doesn’t think it matters. “You just need to find out what you like,” she says. “In the Pacific Northwest, Midcentury Modern is the big buzzword right now. When people tell me they like that style, I say, ‘What part? The furniture? The shapes of the furniture? What it’s made of? The tone of the wood?’ It’s getting to the specifics.”
“Don’t get too ramped up about defining a style,” she says