Recently, a reader emailed me because she wanted to re-design some rooms in her home. Actually, she termed it as wanting to redecorate them. In fact, based on the info she shared (primarily that she has little, if any, budget for new purchases), a re-design is what she is looking at doing. The difference being is that she wants to use what she has but in a more styled and pulled together way. If she had asked me to help her pick out new furniture, accessories, window treatments, etc., then that would fall under the realm of redecorating. At least, that is how I approach what it is I do with my clients.
Here is a snippet of her S.O.S. :
"............when I look around my house, I just don't know where to start. I have so many
things that I have accumulated over the years and hardly anything goes together but I love it all. How do I make it look less jumbled and more tied together?..."
As evidenced above, often folks just need some guidance to help them to simply get started on their home decorating.Whether they are totally redecorating a space or re-designing it, usually the biggest hurdle is answering the question of "Where do I begin?". A colleague of mine has coined the perfect term. When she consults on such a design situation, she helps the client to "Get unstuck".
That is exactly what the 1st step of my mission was for this frazzled reader.
What I have found to be the most effective first step is to identify the homeowner's style. Easier said than done, you say? Not always. You'd be surprised at how easy it is to figure out.
I have something of a formula/checklist I use whether I am the one in the client's home doing the assessment or, as in this case, advising a homeowner online how to do it for them self. This checklist is one I discovered years ago. It's been an extremely valuable resource to glean from when figuring out someone's decorating style. I wish I could give credit to whoever wrote it, but back then I didn't think to take note of stuff like that. So, if anyone can claim it as theirs, please step up so I can give credit where credit is due.
1.Multiples. Do you have multiple items of the same color, shape, or style around your house?
This is one big "tell" I look for as I look through clients' home. A persian rug in the front hall, a persian rug in the bedroom, another one in the living room? That means that you like persian rugs! It sounds way too simple to be that easy, but most people stop seeing their style even when it's right in front of them.
2.Form over function. Do you work on a desk that is too small, but can't bear to replace it? Have a couch that is crazy uncomfortable, but it's still in your living room after all these years? That broken clock that's still up on the wall? Take a good long look, because this is a dead giveaway to your personal style. There is something you love so much about this piece that you have chosen its form over your need for function.
3.Where you shop. Do you browse the same store all the time, even when you're not looking to buy? Does a good flea market make your heart pound with excitement? Where you look for your furnishings speaks volumes about your style. New, used, found, handed down from family; where your furniture comes from represents your style!
4.Art. What you have chosen to hang on your walls says something about you. Art is purely personal, not tied to function or need and therefore is usually the best indication of your style. A vintage movie poster means you probably like classic lines in furniture, while an abstract lithograph likely means that modern design rings true for you. Flea market oil painting of someone else's relative? Eclectic is your style.
5.Most recent purchase. A French country dish towel that caught your eye in the store, or an impulse buy of a Tiffany-style lamp that you thought you'd never like, but do. The last thing you bought for your home is a fantastic indicator of what your style is, especially if it is a design departure for you.
6.What unites your stuff? Do you have terra-cottas, rusts and warm yellows all around your house? These are the sun-kissed colors of Mediterranean design, so you should look for rough-hewn wood tables, terra-cotta lamps and vases to polish up your style. Does all your furniture have lean, sharp lines, and you don't have a single thing on your mantel? Your style is thoroughly modern. Whether it's color, scale, shape or era, the uniting element in your home is the best place to start when looking for your style.
7.What's your favorite hotel? This is my secret weapon in finding a client's design style! Always stay in cozy country B&Bs? Like the modern city high-rise hotel? Or do you go more for the traditionally furnished places? Hotels have clear design styles, so use them to help you find YOUR style.
8.Odd man out. When there is one piece different from everything else in your room, take note! Chances are, this is one style you like, but are afraid to fully venture into.
9.Travel. Where you chose to spend your vacations, and what you bring back with you are great style indicators. Always go to Mexico on your holidays and have a full set of cobalt-blue wine glasses? You like the hacienda look. Love your family vacations at the beach, and have jars of seashells in your bathroom? Coastal cottage is your style.
10.Best room in the house. What's your most fave room in your home? Look to your best design work and repeat it! There is nothing wrong with having all your rooms designed similarly. In fact, it can bring a calm and serene feel to your house.
Finding your "style" does not mean that you are going to peg yourself into one little box and can only have furnishings and accessories that are limited to that one textbook-definition. More often than not, we all have stuff in our homes that are different styles, patterns, textures, colors, whatever. The key is to find what it is about all of those different items that DO tie together. Once you identify that, then run with it. In the process, weed out what doesn't make sense. You will find that when you are done, your style was there all along!
hover over or right click each image for credits/sources