Can you define your interiors style? Most of us don’t think that way. Our homes are a medley of stuff, accumulated over time with no particular design agenda. Even those who are truly talented with interiors rarely design in a particular definable style. They do their own thing and their homes are inspiring because they’re exceptional.
Sometimes, a style may evolve over time. Minimalism, for example, is often borne of a distaste for excess stuff. A style can also be used as an excuse for the way things happen to be. Too much stuff and most of it clashing? Excuse me, I’m a maximalist (it sounds so much better than borderline hoarder). That said, the process of home decoration usually begins with an online investigation.
Style definitions are useful in this regard because they guide us through a befuddling array of choice. Key the word “kitchen” into a search engine and you get the gamut. The term “modern kitchen” or “farmhouse kitchen” is more directive. It helps to narrow down your preferences. Similarly, “industrial-style lighting” brings up edgy metal lights photographed against a raw brick backdrop. “Boho lighting” opens up a world of rattan and macramé.
According to research by Liberty, a London-based fabric design company, people living in cities across the world show that style priorities have a distinct geographical bias. The report makes for interesting reading. Globally, the most searched for interior style was “farmhouse”. The style was most popular in New York, where 38pc of home décor searches were focused on farmhouse interiors.
But how many actual farmhouses are there in New York? In 2018, the Office of New York State Comptroller reported a total of 35,000 farms in the entire state. Ireland, going by the Teagasc Farm Structure Survey of 2016, has around 137,500 family farms. But yet, only 6pc of Irish searches looked for “farmhouse décor”. Seems like the decorative style known as “farmhouse” has very little to do with actual farms. The modern American interpretation of farmhouse style is light airy spaces with neutral colours, reclaimed wood, and big, comfortable pieces furniture. The style is low on accessories and pattern. Gingham and floral fabrics are more “country” than “farmhouse”.
If our searches are anything to go by, Irish people are interested in “modern interior design” (18pc), closely followed by “Scandinavian interior design” (14pc). Reading between the lines, I’d guess that the two categories are fairly interchangeable. “Modern interior design” has clean lines and kitchen units with no handles. “Scandinavian” style is similar, but slightly softer, with more emphasis on natural materials.
Especially wood. In 1969, William Walsh, director of the Kilkenny Design Workshop, commented that: “Anything that hasn’t got curly legs is regarded as Scandinavian by some people.” The point being that the perception of a style can differ in different contexts. Nowadays, an Irish person who wants a Scandi-style interior is probably aiming to buy from Ikea.
“People come to me because they don’t know what style they want,” says Jackie Carton of Carton Interiors, a Dublin-based interior design and interior architecture service. “If they knew, they’d probably have go themselves. They might say that they wanted a modern interior, but that could mean anything. Modern means a huge range of things to different people. We have to sit down and tease it out.”
While many Irish people don’t have the words to explain their style, they have a very clear idea of their preferences. “When I look at pictures of what they like and don’t like, I can always find a thread running through it,” Carton explains. “The design process isn’t about locking them down into a style. It’s about really getting into the core of what appeals to them and making it work for their space.”
After modern and Scandinavian, Ireland’s next top search was for “boho décor” (12pc). The style, as Carton reports, is tremendously popular with young Irish women, especially those aged between 18 and 25. “It’s what they all want for their bedrooms, whether they know it or not. The leaning towards natural materials is huge with that age group: cane, rattan, and plants. And everyone wants a hanging chair. Not to mention the string of lights.”
Because the look is designed to be non-matching, it’s an easy one for young people to achieve. You don’t need control over your entire living environment to go boho. Accessories are cheap and, apart from the hanging chair, the look doesn’t involve infrastructure. Consequently, the style works for renters, house-sharers, and those who are still living at home.
Globally, boho décor was the second most popular search and topped the charts in Los Angeles (22pc) and Sydney (20pc). As a style, boho tends to be bright and carefree, with plenty of colour and pattern. It’s a little bit hippy, with macramé and fringed wall hangings, and its popularity in these cities may well be linked to the climate.
Other popular searches in Ireland were for “industrial interior design” and “maximalist décor” (both 9pc). Both of these are easily recognisable styles but Carton feels that people who searched these terms were probably looking for individual elements — such as industrial-style lighting — rather than an overarching look. “Irish people tend to gravitate towards safety in design terms. There are a couple of reasons for this.
“One is budget. They don’t want a style that might date. The other is the Irish mentality of not wanting to stand out too much. People want something they’ve seen before, not too loud or unusual, and easy to live with. As a designer, I can work with that and still make something that’s personal to them.”
Other Irish searches included Georgian interior design, nautical decor and shabby chic (each 5pc). According to the Liberty research, “Parisian interior design” was the most searched-for style in Paris. Only 1pc of Irish searches looked for Parisian style. Because, why would we? It’s a style that’s closely linked to the architecture of Parisian apartments — high ceilings, tall windows, wall panels, and herringbone parquet floors — and consequently hard to achieve in other countries.
Interestingly, “shabby chic” was the second most popular search for Parisians, possibly because the style works best with a good dose of French chic.
See cartoninteriors.ie and libertylondon.com