From house, to home: A Comprehensive Guide

 In Articles, Design

When you think about home, it inevitably evokes a sense of calm and belonging. As they say, home is where the heart is – a place that we belong to, just as it that belongs to us.

Now when you think about your house, does it bring about the same kind of feeling? Or is it just where you routinely return to at the end of the day, something that provides you shelter with no other meaning and purpose?


So, the question stands – how do you bring the concepts of a home and a house together?

As you start to renovate or redesign your space, it’s essential to have a clear view of what you want, and how you want it. (And the more specific, the better.) It may be easy to find #roomgoals from Instagram or Pinterest and attempt to emulate them, but no one room can look the exact same as another. Ultimately, your space should be a reflection of your personality, values, and lifestyle.

To make a space yours, it should really be something that speaks to you.

That speaks to others, about you.


In a way, your space is really just an extension of yourself. After all, human beings are all unique and complex, often incoherent and a mix of qualities. So how do you translate yourself into a room, that still looks coherent, well-put together, but still unquestionably you?

Thus, in this article, we’ll look into 5 general interior themes and trends, and explore the background, meaning and some tips for each theme that will help you understand them better, and choose the one that’s for you.

It’s also important to keep in mind that themes do not have to be pure or strictly followed. It is entirely okay, and common, to mix around with different styles to find one that is unique to your personality and preferences!

Have fun!

As the word ‘minimal’ would suggest, minimalistic interior is largely defined by simplicity and a lack of complicated looks and finishes.

Even when it comes to decor, it should not be overly done. Instead, just small amounts to accent and complement other main furniture of the room is more than enough.

At one glance, minimalism conveys a message of order and cleanliness.


how did minimalism come about?

Minimalism is largely founded on the principles of De Stijl design, which focuses on abstraction and universality, by reducing objects to its basic forms and colours.

This motto by Ludwig Mies Van der Rohe is one that best encapsulates the concept of minimalism–having less can allow us to look further into the essence of each object, thus bringing about greater purpose and meaning behind them.

Less is more.

Minimalism was also largely influenced by Japanese tradition, before it became popularised in the West in the late 1980s. Seen as a response to the chaotic life of the Japanese post-World War II, the Zen philosophy slowly morphed its way into minimalist principles, emphasising the idea of freedom and the absence of unnecessary features that are still key features of minimalism today.

What does minimalism look like?

When you think of minimalism, you’ll conjure up images of clean, bright, open spaces. Under the broad theme of minimalism, there are 2 main types that are often confused with each other: Modern, and contemporary minimalist interiors. While both are similar in the heavy feature of open space and use of lines, they can actually bring about very different looks!

Modern minimalism is defined by its own trends, and largely refers to a style of interior design that grew from modern decorative arts in the late 19th to early 20th century. For this reason, it is also referred to as ‘mid-century’ interior. It makes use of geometric shapes and few ornamental touches, glossy or painted finishes, and features earthy, natural tones.

Contemporary minimalism, on the other hand, refers to a current-day design trend. Contemporary styles are always evolving and changing in response to our changing society and cultures. However, currently many contemporary styles are defined by sleek and uncluttered looks, using lines and materials and furniture made of wood, chrome, or metal finishes. Little bursts of colours are usually also added in saturated tones to bring in some personality.

Whether it’s in fashion, furniture, or any type of design, you have definitely come across the term Scandinavian. But what does the term really mean?

Scandinavianism is actually a design movement that emerged in the early 20th century, and flourished in the 5 Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, iceland, Norway, Sweden) in the 1950s that has now spread to all over the world. Scandinavian designs have a distinct, classy look that is simple and easy on the eyes.


What are the origins of scandinavian design?

In its initial founding, Scandinavian design had light political undertones;  it aimed to create a democracy in design – one that could be made available to everyone, and focused on practicality, durability, and comfort.

The 1930s was known as the ‘Golden Age of Scandinavian design’, but it wasn’t until 1954 when the Brooklyn Museum held a ‘Design in Scandinavia’ exhibition that popularised it in America, and subsequently other parts of the world.

Now, Scandinavian design can be seen even in industrial design, such as consumer electronics, phones and cars.

What does scandinavian design look like?

Although scandinavian design is a type of design by itself, there are still slight differences between designs in each of the Nordic countries that are unique to their culture and societal values.

DENMARK Largely based on Danish Hygge principles, Danish designs often create a comfortable atmosphere, with warmth, simplicity and functionality. Furniture is kept sleek and minimalistic, and there is emphasis on spaciousness and clean lines that give the space structure and neatness.


SWEDEN Think IKEA – keeping a traditional ‘light and clean’ look to contrast with their long, cold winters, Swedish design combines spaciousness and paler tones to enhance light indoors for a cheerful, warm atmosphere. Lines are often paired with gentle curves to increase diversity, and traditional crafts (such as the Dalecarlian Horse) are often used to add elegance. 

NORWAY Similar to the Swedish, Norwegian design focuses on functionality and simplicity, and uses pale colours and lighting to counter dark winter days. However, Norwegian design is unique – a mix of traditional and modern, it is a lot less style-conscious and looks more quirky. Innovative lighting is also a huge feature of Norwegian design!


At this point, you may also wonder what sets Scandinavian apart from Minimalism. For one, both styles emphasise neatness and cleanliness – so if you’re one for clutter, this is not what you’re looking for. Both styles also have open interiors that create a sense of spaciousness. 

However, minimalism highlights the architecture and structure of a room, and looks more streamlined and industrialised. On the other hand, scandinavian interior is cosier, more comfortable, and emphasises more on how you live within the space. There is also a larger emphasis on natural, organic materials such as wooden chairs and woven baskets.

Modern minimalism and scandinavian styles are very similar as they originated around the same time, but modern styles tend to go for bolder colours and patterns, while scandinavian styles use paler, muted tones!


If you’ve come across any Japanese design magazine or Instagram account, you’ll definitely have an idea of what this style looks like. Also known as modern Japanese minimalism, this up-and-rising interior trend has become one of the most sought-after for its functionality, neatness, and of course, its aesthetic.

How did modern Japanese interior come about?

With minimalism having roots in Japan, it’s no surprise that the country itself is a huge fan. The traditional ‘Zen’, ‘Ma’ and ‘Wabi-Sabi’ principles emphasised open space that was believed to promote imagination and freedom of living. As such, Japanese interiors have always been simple with bare essential furniture.

In recent years, the popularisation of MUJI has led to the rise of ‘MUJI-inspired’ homes, which consist mostly of uniform wooden furniture that complement one another entirely, creating a sense of unity and calmness that continues to abide by the simplicity and peacefulness of Japanese culture and lifestyle.

What does modern Japanese interior look like?

If you’ve taken a look at the MUJI houses built in Japan, you would know the kind of feeling this type of interior evokes – warmth, calmness, happiness. Think of warm, sunny days, with birds chirping as a gentle breeze passes by.

Modern Japanese interiors are often very simple and clean-looking, with vast amounts of soft, natural lighting to create a warm, comforting ambience. There is also a strong connection to nature and the outdoors, through the use of plants (rarely flowers!) and large windows, and of course – smart storage solutions to tone down the clutter (think KonMari).

Natural colours with wood and white elements, along with a clear lack of contrast, also play a huge part in creating a relaxing atmosphere that promotes harmony throughout the house.


A more interesting yet slightly less commonly seen style, industrial and rustic designs are more flexible and fun to play around with.

With no hard rules to follow, they often combine both organic and shabby, worn-out decor to create a natural rustic look that is much less ‘polished’ than standard modern interiors. They often bring about an edgy, grungy feel, and is suitable for those who may feel inspired by the uncompleted look of the interior.

What are the origins of industrial/rustic interiors?

Did you know, the modern industrial, rustic style was actually largely influenced and designed by insurance companies?

Along with the Industrial Revolution of the 18th century, industrial buildings were made to be utilitarian, in order to increase productivity and facilitate work – with large windows for natural light.

Eventually, safety concerns became more prevalent, and insurance companies took over by encouraging flat roofs, open floor plans, and plain facades that created an ‘unfinished’ look – exposed bricks, pipes and ductwork, which have become distinctive features to the industrial look we know of today.


In the early 1900s, concrete and steel were introduced to build larger structures. In the late 1960s to ‘70s, these factory complexes became popular choices for repurposing into apartments for artists and designers, especially in New England and Lower Manhattan, helping them gain inspiration. In the late 2000s, with the economic recession, this style came back into trend, as it promoted frugality and modesty.

What does industrial rustic style look like?

This style of interior balances modern furniture with worn-out, rustic materials, and often makes use of natural light with large windows. Textures and nature is also used to add warmth and character to the interior.

However, a thin line exists between rustic and industrial, in regards to their colours and finishes:

Rustic design tends to be more feminine, using lighter colours. Furniture is often mismatched and mostly made of natural wood. 

Industrial design, on the other hand, is more masculine, using dark neutral colours and dark woods, and also features polished or brushed metal finishes.

However, they complement each other well, and it’s always fun to mix them around to find a perfect balance for yourself!

Even more rarely seen in Singapore, this style of interior is bold and loud, showing off one’s unique personality through the variety of colours, textures and decor that is often seen.

It often looks more cluttered and messy than other modern interiors, that may be less appealing to Singaporeans. However, if you’re more quirky, creative and unabashedly you, the eclectic/bohemian style could be the perfect fit for you.


How did the moroccan/bohemian style come about?


The word ‘bohemian’ is derived from the French word for gypsy, La Boheme’. The Bohemian was apparently initiated by people in Bohemia – where large populations of gypsies resided. These people lived by their own set of rules, and had unique solutions to common problems the people faced at that time.

By the 19th century, the ‘boho lifestyle’ was used to describe the way most artists in that period lived; uniquely, and not like the masses. In the 1960s to ‘70s, this style became popularised along with ‘hippie fashion’, and became a personal, social, and cultural reaction against capitalism – it signified a disregard to social constructs and mainstream aesthetics, and soon became a lifestyle that has lived on till today.

What does the moroccan /bohemian style look like?

As the culture of bohemian would suggest, this style consists of cultural elements, and makes use of very unpredictable and bright looks. Mixed patterns, layered fabrics and bright colours are a large feature of this style, that creates a comfortable and stylish look. The use of natural elements such as wooden ornaments and organic fabrics helps bring out the strong cultural undertones of this style.

A mix of both classic and vintage, this style boasts one’s personality and reflects upon one’s creativity and passion for life. There are no hard rules – as long as the space screams energy, light, colour, and you, this style is already yours!

With a better understanding of the context and history of each interior trend and theme, it becomes easier to pick one that not only suits your aesthetic palette, but also one that clicks with you and your personality – the most important part of your room. This way, bringing your own flavour and style into a room becomes less of a challenge, but more of an exciting, creative process to enjoy!

By choosing something you personally identify with, you’ll definitely feel more comfortable and at home in your own space. After all, isn’t that what home is all about?

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