Style Vs Theme – What is the Difference?

I frequently encounter confusion between style and theme. Some homeowners get locked within a theme and struggle to expand on it, while not getting the results they hoped for. Then they give me a call. 

So what is the difference? 

Style is an overarching concept, and while it can have some sub-themes, it’s much broader. Style is built through design elements such as color, materials, texture and pattern, that work together to create a certain mood. Together, they create a cohesive look and distinct aesthetic. 

On the other hand, theme is a collection of pieces that set the stage, rather than the feel. They create a uniformed look though a literal interpretation of an idea.

Sounds confusing?  

Let’s take costal style vs nautical theme, for example. Coastal style draws inspiration from the sea, sand and sky. The elements combine to create that relaxed beachy feel. To get it right, you use light bluish and beige colors, driftwood, wicker, rope. You may add some nautical touches like seashells or anchors, but the key is to use those sparsely. 

Nautical theme is collecting and displaying a lot of pieces that fit that theme – from oars and anchors to sea life, that fill the space. It’s setting a stage for a specific idea in a literal way. It provides a uniformed look, but carrying it out can be difficult because the focus is narrower, and collections become dominant. 

Themes are popular in kids rooms, such as the safari or pirate playroom. In other spaces it can limit the space creatively and devoid it of personality, while overlooking the ultimate feel the homeowner desires.  

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