Discovering your personal style is a journey that can be both intimidating and exciting. Navigating the professional terminology, unsolicited advice, and infinite sources of inspirational imagery all to find how to choose a design style that really speaks to your interior design style and aesthetic.
Follow this step-by-step guide to nail down your personal design aesthetic without getting too overwhelmed by the terminology and inspiration overload! While this is by no means a comprehensive guide, we hope to provide you with some touchstones to make it easier to identify your interior design styles.
“Real style is never right or wrong. It’s a matter of being yourself on purpose.” –G. Bruce Boyer
Phase #1: Explore
How To Choose A Design Style Through Reflection
Your grandmother’s home that reminds you of summers as a kid, a corner in a local coffee shop, or the set of a captivating TV show—there’s inspiration for interior design styles pretty much anywhere you look! Take some time to collect all those spaces that inspire you, comfort you and reflect your sense of self.
When was the last time you visited a place and felt happy there? Now, think about the specific parts of that place that made you feel that way. Was it the colors, textures, mood, live plants, the number of things on display, the lack of clutter, or even the smell? Make a physical, unfiltered note of your findings that you can come back to later.
“Great personal style is an extreme curiosity about yourself.” –Iris Apfel
How To Choose A Design Style Through Context
Another good place to start when exploring interior design styles is by looking in your geographical area. Do you live in a small Midwest town or a coastal city? Is the climate you live in mostly cool and dry, or is it more tropical?
Now look even closer at your specific neighborhood. Are there any common themes? What styles are prevalent in the area? Whether your neighborhood represents the beautifully restored historic homes of the area or cutting-edge modern new builds, that context can be instrumental in your journey to finding the right design aesthetic for your home.
“Always design a thing by considering that thing in its next larger context—chair in a room, a room in a house, a house in an environment, an environment in a city plan.” –Eliel Saarinen
How To Choose A Design Style Through Media
There is no shortage of inspiration when it comes to interior design resources on the internet, which is definitely a double-edged sword. The endless amounts of imagery can be overwhelming, so defining your specific style is crucial when it comes to narrowing down your search.
While a bit old-fashioned, print magazines and books provide a great source of imagery as well as industry terminology. Some time spent perusing the magazine rack, the shelf in the library or the display in the bookstore bypasses the typical algorithms, providing an unfiltered range of inspiration.
If you prefer digital, Pinterest and Houzz are great design-driven platforms with resources and imagery catered to home improvement and interior design. Instagram is another great visual resource, so long as you know where to look—I recommend looking at the pages of local designers/remodelers and influencers in the home space as well as searching more specifically by certain keywords via hashtag search.
Phase #2: Identify
After wading through the books, magazines and digital resources, take a step back and look at all the inspiration that you have collected. Congratulations! This is an important step to identifying your interior design styles. Next, survey the collection of images, and look for themes such as the era of design, forms, colors, textures, lines, how light is used in the space, or types of spaces. Keep images that align with each other and see if you can find common trends that speak to you.
“Finding patterns is the essence of wisdom.” –Dennis Prager
After collecting ideas, narrow down the elements that inspire you and it is time to put words to them. In a world where overused general terms don’t offer much guidance, such as “modern” or “mid-century”, there are helpful resources for putting more specific words to your recently discovered personal style. Architectural dictionaries, style indexes online, and other reputable sources of information exist online and in print—see below for a few recommendations:
- A Field Guide to American Houses: The Definitive Guide to Identifying and Understanding America’s Domestic Architecture (Virginia Savage McAlester)
- American Homes: The Landmark Illustrated Encyclopedia of Domestic Architecture (Lester Walker)
- The Elements of Style: A Practical Encyclopedia of Interior Architectural Details from 1485 to the Present (Stephen Calloway)
“Be faithful to your own taste because nothing you really like is ever out of style.” –Billy Baldwin
Make it Your Own
After collecting inspiration, identifying common themes and the terms for elements you enjoy, next is the fun part. Blend the elements of style that you like into a cohesive vision, your own personal style! Maybe start with a small project or maybe change up an entire room, experiment with your vision for your space. Boldly state what you think an ideal interior space would look like, and don’t be afraid to make changes along the way. Just as in life, developing your personal style is all about the journey.
“Each human is uniquely different. Like snowflakes, the human pattern is never cast twice.” –Alice Childress
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