One of the things that a lot of people struggle with is figuring out what "style" suits you. I was/am no exception! I really think it starts when you're moving into your own place for the first time, whether that be your own apartment as a young professional or starting a home with your new spouse. Most of us start out with hand-me-downs, thrift store finds, and randomly collected pieces from EVERYWHERE. The result can be eclectic and charming, but it can also feel hodgepodge. As you spend more time in your home, you usually want to start developing a more cohesive look, and that's when people freeze (like I did).
In a nutshell, here's what you need to do to really figure out what your style is:
Create a Pinterest board of inspiration pictures. Pin ANY picture that you really, really love.
Don't over-analyze or get too technical. Just Pin whatever pictures really make you say "Ahhh!"
Here are just a few pictures from MY Pinterest board "The Living Room." You can visit my Pinterest boards to see the original pins and sources. These were pinned over the course of at least a year, and all at different times.
Look at the pictures you collected and figure out what they have in common.
Are most of them a soothing, neutral palette of colors? Or are they warm and cozy? Look at the lines of the furniture - are there a lot of curved lines or are there clean lines? Are you drawn to pictures that have minimal accessories and styling? Or do you like a fully decorated and accessorized room? Write down what characteristics you realize you're drawn to when you look at the collection of pictures you have.
When you look at the pictures I shared above, what do you notice that's a common thread? Here's what I would write down when looking at the pictures:
-Traditional style (specifically English/French, but you don't have to get that specific)
-Mixing many fabrics like florals, checks and stripes
-Neutral backgrounds like cream, soft yellow or a light taupe
-Accents of soft colors, namely blue
-Accents of blue and white porcelain pieces
-Soft, curved lines in furniture
-Gold used as an accent (mirrors, frames, etc.)
Your list shouldn't be TOO long, but you should give yourself a framework of what you like.
Find websites or catalogs where you really like the style.
This doesn't mean that you will necessarily shop from these exclusively (I don't think you should shop from anywhere exclusively!). This will just help you know where you can look for actual items that are for sale that have your style.
For instance, my friend Grace went through the process above and found pictures she liked. She figured out that she liked warm colors, clean lines, with a little "homespun" feel thrown in (like quilts and a few homemade-feeling accessories). After we talked about it, she realized that she LOVES the company West Elm (and a little bit of Pottery Barn for that homespun feeling they sometimes have). She found a sofa she loves from West Elm, but before they make that investment, she's now able to research that style of sofa to price-compare and really make sure that's "the one." Finding a catalog or website that you love just helps in the overall process.
Another example: I knew I wanted to accent with blue and white porcelain (remember the list I made above?), but it can be expensive. Some of the catalogs/websites I love are Ballard Designs, Wisteria, and occasionally Horchow. I receive their catalogs and I saw a set of three blue and white "Happiness Jars" listed from one company. I kept the price in mind but started researching all over the internet to price-compare. Then I saw where the jars were amazingly discounted AND the website was running free shipping - a HUGE benefit with something heavy and fragile. I was able to jump on the deal because I was confident I was getting the best price. The point is, just stay aware of items you really like and use catalogs/websites to make educated decisions!
Take stock of what you have and decide what is in line with your style.
This DOES NOT MEAN that you're getting rid of everything and being a poor steward of your finances and what you already have! This simply means taking inventory so you have an educated awareness of what needs to be replaced, what can stay, what you can afford to replace now (if needed), etc. Also consider what you can sell to help finance a new replacement, if desired. Make a list of what you would ideally like to replace, then prioritize. For instance, if your sofa is falling apart and doesn't line up with the look you'd like to achieve, it's probably a good idea to sell it or give it away. However, if your sofa is falling apart and the lines and style of it still appeal to you and match the style you'd like, then look into having it recovered and repaired. It's all about having a plan/vision and making wise decisions with what you have.
I studied interior design and I STILL have to ask for help sometimes! If you just can't figure out the direction you'd like to go, ask a friend whose house you really love. Or even if you don't share the same style, maybe your friend just knows your personality really well and can steer you in the right direction. There are also decorators and "e-designers" who might not be as expensive as you'd think. And think of it this way: an hour of help from them could save you thousands if you had gone on a buying rampage and didn't think through your purchases.
You don't HAVE to have a "style."
Don't box yourself in and become too rigid in what you buy or how you decorate. It's okay to change your mind! The purpose behind narrowing down a "style" is to give you a general direction, especially when you're making investment purchases like sofas or a big entertainment center. It's not to box you in; it's to give you a framework.
I have learned a LOT about figuring out what I like and giving myself a "plan" to decorate by. I feel like I've settled in to what I love and it's a fun process getting there. However, it's a SLOW PROCESS. Piecing things together and figuring out what you really want can be part of the fun. For some people, they hate decorating and the whole concept of finding a style. That's definitely okay, and as long as you feel comfortable in your home, that's what's important. Your attitude sets the whole tone of your home (more on that later in the series!) and it goes without saying that things like furniture, fabrics and curtains are completely secondary to the hearts of the people who live in your home!
Have fun figuring out what makes you YOU and what says "home" to you! I would love to know what you consider your style to be!