When it comes to design, here’s one thing I’ve learned: I’m a floozy.
I like it all: stone farmhouses and modern glass boxes. Cozy traditional, minimal modern, scandi cool, boho chic. Cape cod coastal? Yes. Napa Valley rustic? Yes. Cosmopolitan New York loft. Yes. Yes, yes, yes to all. the. things.
I would like one of each please, because #lifegoals. But since I’m about 9 figures shy of living that dream, I need a way to channel my multiple design personalities into something cohesive. Because the one style I don’t like is the one that looks like I just couldn’t make up my mind.
If you struggle with the same thing, here are my best tips for defining your style:
- Look for themes. Wherever you go for inspiration (Instagram, Pinterest, Houzz, HGTV, shelter magazines, etc.), look at the images you admire with a critical eye. What do the spaces have in common? Are they light and bright, or dark and moody? Do they feature common visual elements (natural materials, plenty of texture, abundant art) or seem to address a problem you’re facing (organization, storage, natural light)? Do they convey a similar feeling or mood (calm and restful, happy and energetic)? Listing the themes you notice is a great first step to finding a style that’s uniquely you.
- Revisit what you have. Assuming you already own some furnishings, how would you describe the items you already have? Taking stock serves a dual purpose: it helps you define what you like (and, just as importantly, what you don’t like), and it helps you identify any gaps between your current home and your desired style. If you lust after a refined and elegant space but your living room is comprised of a futon and plastic milk crates, it’s time to start being intentional about how future purchases can up the elegance factor.
If you haven’t yet invested in your own home, you can also gain valuable insight from your wardrobe. Are your clothes primarily neutral with minimal embellishment, or colourful with maximum detail? Consider these keys to your preferences.
- Don’t fight what’s there. While it’s true that some of the most interesting interiors are a blend of styles, it’s also true that working against your home’s basic style and architecture requires a deft hand. That’s not to say that you can’t live in a modern tudor, or incorporate antiques into your modern, newly built home. Not at all! But if you have eight-foot ceilings and minimal natural light, the odds of your home becoming a light-filled loft are slim.
Consider instead what drew you to your home in the first place, then examine how you might emphasize those elements as you make improvements. It’s been said that if you listen, a house will tell you what it needs. What style does your house already bring to the table?
- Consider if a trend is really your friend. We’ve all done it — fallen hard for something, only to fall out of love again in a matter of months. So how do you know when something is timeless versus a passing trend?
One easy test is to think about how long you’ve felt this way. If you’ve had your heart set on a look and feel for many months or years, something about it resonates with you. My love affair with those custom, oversized metal range hoods runs deep, but I let myself be talked out of one for fear it would look dated within a couple of years. Well, several years later we were building again — and this time, I got my hood. I still loved it, and it made me smile every time I entered our kitchen. Will it date? Maybe. But for me, it was the showpiece that made our space stand out. The lesson: if you love it, some things are worth fighting for.
If you’re less sure about the longevity of your obsession, consider incorporating it in smaller doses to test it out. Love black lacquer floors? You could try the finish on a sideboard or table first. Have your eye on an uber-rugged dining room set? Rustic baskets, pottery and crates may lend the same effect, and are affordable accessories to test drive while you fully decide on your new look.
Finally — and this might be the most important thought of all — try not to take it too seriously. It’s your home, not a picture in a magazine. If you truly love something, you’ll find a way to make it fit. After all, isn’t that what home is all about??
How do you define your personal style? Drop me a line in the comments below!