I normally post a DIY project every month, but Lindsay was gracious enough to let me try something different this month. You see, I enjoy a good DIY project, but what really fires me up is helping the style-confused find confidence in their inner decorator.
Maybe decorating decisions have you in knots. You don’t where to start. Or you like so many different things you can’t figure out how to pull them all together.
I help you find style clarity. It’s the key to confidence in decorating your home and “getting it right”.
I know how important style clarity is, because I didn’t have it in my first two homes. I felt lost. I never felt proud of my decorating. I was frustrated, because even when I redid things I never seemed to get it quite right.
I thought I was just no good at decorating. I made lots of excuses…I couldn’t afford to do it right, I have to please my husband too, and whatever, I am a busy working mom, I can’t be expected to do everything.
Then, at the tail-end of our time in our second home, the clouds parted and the sun started shining. I started figuring out what I really loved and how to multiply those elements, so I loved even more of my home.
Then, we sold our house.
Finally. It had been on and off the market for almost 3 years (darn housing market crash).
I should have been excited…Yay! New home here we come.
But all I could think was, oh crap, a new home means starting the decorating process all over again.
I didn’t think I could survive years of making mistakes again. I worried that’s how it had to be. To get it right, you had to go through trial and error in each new home. I mean, that is what happened in my first two homes.
My anxiety about starting all over is what prompted me to define my style for the first time. I wanted to capture everything that had worked in our first two homes, repel everything that didn’t work, and be able to recreate my style anywhere I moved.
When I started piecing together my style definition, I noticed some very strong parallels to other things I liked that seemingly had nothing to do with decorating.
I had struggled with figuring out my decorating style for years. But when the lightbulb finally went off, I realized there were clues to my style right there under my nose the entire time. I just didn’t know what to look for.
Really, I was looking in all the wrong places. I was looking in design books, decorating magazines, and furniture stores. I was looking at how others decorated for clues to my style. As I write that, I realize how absurd that is.
The problem is looking at what others did in their homes added to my confusion. I couldn’t figure out what I actually liked for me. But there were so many other areas in my life and environment where picking a favorite came easy.
It is in those easy picks that the real clues to your style lie.
Your decorating style is part of your personal style. Your personal style is made up of your personality, your interests, your fashion style, your lifestyle, and your decorating style.
Personal style is what you like and don’t like at your very core.
When one area of your personal style is vague, hazy, or just plain missing, it helps to look to the other parts where you feel more confident. What is working in those areas of personal style that you can apply to decorating?
There are 7 places you can look for clues to your decorating style, most of which seem to have nothing to do with decorating. The key is understanding more about your personal style. Most people are more comfortable picking likes and dislikes in these 7 categories, than they are in making decorating decisions. These clues highlight what you really love, so you can bring similar loves into your decorating.
Let’s start big picture and work our way in.
There is a limited number of seasons and landscapes to choose from, and Mother Nature made them all beautiful in their own way. But I think from a very early age we gravitate toward a favorite season and a favorite landscape.
Your favorite season and landscape are great clues to color preferences, feelings, and textures you would like in decorating.
- What’s your favorite season? Why? Be specific. The clues are in the details.
- What’s your favorite vista? If your home could look out over any landscape, which would be your preference? Mountains, rolling hills, prairie, lake, beach/ocean, forest, desert, etc.
- What’s your favorite flower? Do you prefer a mixed bouquet or a cluster of the same blooms? Do you like fancy, exotic, and rare or the everyday garden variety?
How you live is a series of deeply personal decisions. Your lifestyle is tied to your world view, your values and beliefs, and how you want to show up in the world.
Your lifestyle preferences provide clues to the complexity or simplicity of your style, clues to the materials you want to be surrounded with, and clues to how you want your interior environment to support you.
- Where do you choose to live? Or if you could live anywhere where would it be and why?
- Big city or small town?
- USA or abroad?
- Commuter or pedestrian?
- Hang out at home or night out on the town?
- Entertain every chance you get or keep some semblance of privacy?
- What values and beliefs guide your purchasing decisions?
- Best price or locally-grown/organic/sustainably-harvested?
- Economy or quality?
- As-is or lifetime warranty?
- Are you an impulse buyer or thorough researcher?
- What do you surround yourself with? Things with a story/history or things that are shiny/new.
3. Colors and Patterns
We are all greatly impacted by colors and patterns in our environment. There are tons of psychological reasons and theories on which colors are best for inducing certain emotions. But those are just the average response. Your actual preference could be completely different.
Recognizing the colors and patterns that make your eyes light up vs. the colors and patterns that make you avert your eyes is a key clue to your style.
- What is your favorite color? The one that you are tempted to get everything in. The one that compels you to compliment a stranger’s beautiful shirt. The one you choose time and time again.
- What is your favorite type of pattern? Bold geometrics, small florals, organic shapes, stripes (small or big), or none at all.
Now, let’s get closer to home.
Fashion and decorating are two of my favorite things to compare. They are both the most recognizable, outward elements of your personal style. And I think a lot of people are more comfortable with dressing themselves, than they are decorating their homes.
Now, you don’t have to be a fashionista to learn something from your wardrobe. Just open your closet and look for the trends. The things you love in your closet are likely to be things you would love in your decorating.
When you open your closet, look for these clues to your style:
- What is your go-to outfit? The one you would where everyday if you could. Try aiming a little higher than the yoga pants. What would you wear out to meet up with your girlfriends for lunch?
- What color do you love to wear most? It’s the one that everyone says you look great in. It brings out your eyes. It compliments your skin tone. You feel great even if you are wearing yoga pants, as long as they are this color.
- What about your significant other’s closet? Yep, we can’t forget the people you share your home with. But, here’s the good news. Your guy probably likes everything in his closet. Men are weird like that, they don’t tend to accumulate clothes they don’t like or wear only once (wait, that sounds smart). Anyway, my point is they already like it all. So, what is it you like about their wardrobe? When he takes you out for a lunch date, what do you want him to wear? What color? What material? What fit? This clue helps you figure out the masculine elements to incorporate into your style.
Your shoes are another good indicator of personal style and what’s important to you. I have quite a few shoes, but tend to go through long phases where I only wear one or two pairs all.the.time. I think this draws a parallel to my preference for decor I live with for a long-time…I rarely get the itch to drastically change things up.
Shoe preferences are a good indicator of the type of decor you are willing to live with. Is comfort and practicality more important than form and design? Do you crave change?
Also, have you ever noticed how much you can tell from a person by their shoes? Like the chick that looks like she is walking in heels for the first-time. You cringe, because no one should ever look that awkward. Obviously heels aren’t her thing. You want to make sure your home decor doesn’t give the same impression, awkward and inauthentic…because everyone can tell.
Ideally shoes would be super sexy and comfortable, but we know that is usually not the case. So…
- Do you choose comfort or fashion? Practical or blister-inducing?
- Do you wear one or two pairs regularly or have a different pair for every single outfit?
- Do your shoes stand out or do you just want them to blend in without making your feet look big?
Your handbag collection or lack there of says a lot about your personal style. I have one bag I use every day. One of the cornerstones of my decorating style is simple. Coincidence? I think not.
- Do you have one bag you carry everyday or do you switch bags to coordinate with your outfit?
- Is your favorite handbag, that you use often, a statement piece (like a bold color or pattern), or is it a goes with everything kind of bag?
- Did your handbag cost more or less than a dinner for a family of four at your favorite restaurant?
Just like you finish off a well put together outfit with the perfect jewelry, a well designed room needs the perfect finishing touches. The small details are a room’s jewlery.
So, it goes to follow what’s in your jewelry box…how you choose to finish off your outifts, can give you clues on how to finish off your rooms.
- Do you keep it minimal or are you always following the advice to take off one piece before you walk out the door?
- Do you mix and match jewelry or go for the matching set?
- Do you stack or layer your jewelry? Like wearing a couple necklaces at the same time, a ring on every other finger, or a wrist full of bangles?
- Does your jewelry fit in a jewelry box? Or have you claimed wall space in the closet to display your complete collection?
[Case Study] What the Clues Say About Your Style
As much as I would love to, it would be possible to explain what every variation of these clues says about your style. So the next best thing is to give you a really concrete example…with my style.
Let’s look at a quick and dirty recap of my 7 clues and what they say about our style:
Clues from Nature:
We are summer-dreaming, beach-loving, and calla lily-obsessed.
Style Translation: Simple textures, beach/ocean elements, and happy summer bright colors.
Clues from our Lifestyle:
We live in a USA suburb, which we wish was more pedestrian, so we love to go into the city a lot.
Style Translation: Comfortable, relaxed layout, a lot of american-made furniture, great outdoor living on our large deck.
Clues from Colors/Patterns:
We live on the cool side of the color wheel (blues and greens) with lots of bold/geometric patterns in white and one color.
Style Translation: A mix of bold/geometric patterns on rugs, pillows, and some walls.
Clues from our Wardrobe:
I love a great pair of jeans with a colorful, patterned top. In his closet I love his jeans and casual t-shirts.
Style Translation: Our furniture is simple, casual, and mostly neutral like a great pair of jeans or his everyday t-shirts, while the textiles and decor are like a great statement top.
Clues from Shoes:
My go-to shoes are the casual-cute-go-with-everything-and-wear-everyday type (like nude flats or gray pumps), plus my running shoes. My man loves a great boot with his jeans or statement sneakers, like vintage-style Nikes.
Style Translation: We love form (good design), but err on the side of function. We try to make sure everything in our home has a purpose and gets used everyday, no fluff. And we aren’t afraid of a great vintage piece, like the Classmate chairs in our kitchen.
Clues from the Handbag Collection:
Or lack there of. For the last year, I have carried one bag every.single.day. It’s a charcoal gray hobo, with a teal wallet inside.
Style Translation: Our furniture and layouts are practical and work for everyday living, our accessories are simple and timeless, so we can mix and match them for new looks with the same things.
Clues from the Jewelry Box:
I use a tiered tray, instead of a box. I like to see all my jewelry together, but I don’t like to wear it all together. I have a lot, but only wear one or two pieces at a time, usually a statement necklace OR dangly earrings, but never at the same time.
Style Translation: The finishing details in our rooms are simple and understated (like curtain rods and hardware), because we like a good statement
necklace light fixture
I hope my little style case study helps illustrate how each of these clues might translate into how you decorate your home. Now, my clues match up really nicely with my actual style, because I’ve designed it that way 🙂 Once you spot your clues, you can begin working them into your style.
If you are style-confused or decorating-shy, you might have overlooked some these clues or still feel lost. These clues just begin to scratch the surface to uncover your unique decorating style. To go further check out my free video series on the 5 myths holding you back from your true decorating potential. I’ll give you some practical action steps to start defining your unique style.