HOW TO DISCOVER YOUR SIGNATURE STYLE?
Updated: Feb 24
Not to be cliche but I am a Decorator who knew my calling early on. Though, in the early years of childhood, I didn’t necessarily have what would be considered a refined sense of style, I did have the desire to be surrounded by what I considered to be beautiful. I also recognized that surrounding myself with carefully chosen pieces and keeping an uncluttered environment inspired a calm internal state of being.
I would organize my dolls and figurines and stage them as one would do with objects on display in a store. Since I wasn’t blessed with an innate sense of organization but desired a space that appeared neat and tidy, I perpetually had a heap concealed in my closet, behind closed doors!
I was a child that was thrilled when my mother encouraged me with literal carte blanche to make design decisions in my bedroom growing up. Kudos to my mother because allowing a child complete freedom to choose paint colours today is almost unheard of! She wasn’t preoccupied by decorating and I was thrilled at the prospect. I decided on turquoise paint for the walls and soft pink for the trim. Remember, I did say that my sense of style was not yet refined!
I do believe in working together with children through the design process. Involving children in design, encourages self-expression and is a bonding experience that children remember fondly as time passes. That being said, I’ve worked on many children’s rooms and even for my own children, it’s hard to give up control over design decisions entirely. The key is to offer pared down choices that both parties can live with. It‘s the child, after all, who has to feel comfortable and at ease in their own space.
Ok I went on quite a tangent there! Back to I always wanted to decorate. Although I had varied interests and went on to complete a Masters Degree and practice as a Speech-Language Pathologist, I was always passionate about expressing my creativity through decorating. It came to the point where I literally thought, if I don’t go back to school and train as an Interior Decorator, I’ll regret it for the rest of my life. Not at all joking! So I did, and after training for a few years, I felt inspired, energized, and ready to take on a new challenge.
Working in design has brought forth feelings of excitement, fulfillment and reinvigorated my artistic expression. Working with my clients and helping them reveal their own personal tastes has been an integral part of my practice. Our home, after all, is an extension of who we are and should reflect our unique style preferences to inspire feelings of warmth and comfort. Best of all, in a world where so many things are out of our direct control, it’s reassuring to know that we can control our immediate surroundings which will affect our internal state of being.
I believe that a home that functions well and reflects our individual tastes, can help us achieve serenity and enjoy beauty in our surroundings every day. Whether you are in tune with your design style or not, each and every person has their own individual design tastes. It’s important for me to work with a client to discover their individual style preferences as this will inspire the finishes and furnishings I select for their space.
For example, some clients prefer timeless neutrals while others prefer bold statement pieces and then there are clients that love the idea of a bolder statement but worry about the long-term commitment. If so, maybe timeless neutrals combined with bold, statement accents is a more suitable alternative. These are really important style preferences to iron out in order to guide the selection of pieces that best reflect the preferences of my clients.
Often, clients I work with tell me that they feel completely lost when it comes to defining their personal style. If this is you, you’re definitely not alone! Try looking around your own home and on a conscious level, think about the features of pieces you love and those you do not. Analyze your Pinterest pins to help navigate your style and figure out what you gravitate to when it comes to home design. Look to your wardrobe and ask yourself, are you more adventurous with colour or do you prefer neutrals? Do you prefer florals, curvy prints or are you attracted to clean straight lines. Do you prefer minimal accessories or lots of embellishment? All of these questions can help you reveal your preferences and design style.
Any time I start a project, before I do anything else, I always take the time to present virtual photographs to help them identify their “design style”. This has become especially important during COVID times where in so many cases, design consultation has become entirely virtual. Most clients can immediately point out what designs they love and styles that aren’t for them. Once they have made their selections, we look together at the features that their preferred ‘looks’ have in common? Most often, client choices reveal definite style preferences that guide next steps in designing their space.
Sometimes these preferences show a clear affinity to one design style however, oftentimes selections are quite varied. This may speak to a client being more flexible or eclectic in their design tastes. Many of us (including myself) are attracted to elements within more than one design style. For this reason, it’s very important think about the parts within each style that draw you in. Also, remember that the process of learning and refining your own personal style can evolve over time and therefore, can be a lifelong journey.
Here are some photographic images of various design styles to help you through the process of defining your style. As you look through them, think about which styles are a reflection of your personal taste...
Traditional is one of the oldest, and most common design styles. The traditional style is rooted in heritage and traditional shapes and forms. Even if the pieces are modern reproductions, you will often find that they have features that have not changed at all since they were first introduced hundreds of years ago. Consider materials like crotch mahogany and details like marquetry inlays. A traditional aesthetic is all about formality, and incorporating pieces that emphasize structure and symmetry.
Bohemian style is all about pulling together natural and organic elements into a very layered, playful and collected look. Think dhurrie rugs, hanging woven chairs and pieces with caning, rattan, carved wood and bamboo. Textiles in Boho style spaces typically have neutrals and organic hues or bright, saturated accents on a neutral backdrop. If you prefer intricate patterns to vivid colours and distressed, laid back furniture to polished, formal pieces, bohemian style may be for you.
Related to boho, this design aesthetic is similar but incrementally more refined. It, too is characterized by collections and bold use of colour with pieces that are less organic and more styled. Eclectic rooms could incorporate iconic pieces from just about every style.
Defined as neutral and casual with a modern, clean aesthetic and neutral color palette. Layered monochromatic textiles and contrasting use of textures define this style.This style is best complimented by light-toned woods and relaxed textiles mixed with iconic lighting in black, brass and chrome.
Otherwise refered to as ’Transitional‘ style, modern classic mixes a combination of classic and modern furniture and finishes. Since modern classic or transitional style leans more on contemporary design, the look is less uptight and more relaxed.
Typically, Modern Classic design combines historic design elements (e.g., Victorian, Art Deco, Greek or Roman design) with modern elements for an elegant, sophisticated and timeless style. The colour palette tends to be classical, using brown, grey, black, white and beige and a variety of combinations and shades in between.
Think quality, luxurious materials, architectural columns and moldings, greek key, statues, busts and natural materials such as wood. Imagine an antique piece of furniture against a neutral wall, under a large piece of modern or contemporary for a vision of beautiful balance.
There is much misunderstanding about modern style and I’m here to try to clear this up. Modern design refers to the design style that emerged in a specific time period from the early to mid-twentieth century. Interestingly, many people use the terms “modern” and ”contemporary” design interchangeably, however, they aren’t the same. Modern design was characterized by the use of natural materials, a more neutral colour palette, furniture with clean, low lines and square shapes and forms, the occasional pop of colour.
Mid-century modern grew as a spin-off of modern design. Popularized in the ’50s and ’60s, MCM design has stood the test of time and today, still remains fresh, modern, and vibrant. The clean, simple lines on many mid-century pieces combined with warm woods and natural greenery, continues to appeal to many people today.
People often use the terms modern and contemporary interchangeably however, they are different. Contemporary design is ever-changing, referring to décor that is current. Designs that were contemporary in the 2000s will no longer be considered contemporary and in five or ten years from now, contemporary design will likely have a different look and feel than contemporary design today. Some features of contemporary design in 2020 are open concept living, use of neutrals and earth tones, curvy shapes, mixed metals, black framed windows and gallery wall art.
Think refined rustic. This style uses a lot of salvaged objects used in a more modern and refined way. Though individual elements and pieces may be rustic or even traditional, the space still has an updated feel overall. Think of plaids, blues, greens, lots of white and black used in this style. The aesthetic is very inviting, comfortable and informal.
GLAM - ART DECO, HOLLYWOOD REGENCY
Luxe textiles and fine finishes make up this style. This style incorporates leather, suede, velvet and jewel toned colours. Finishes may include lucite, glass, mirror, faux shagreen, lacquer. Brass and chrome. This high-end and polished look incorporates a lot of small yet impactful touches that make it feel posh and elevated.
Industrial or factory style can lean a bit more masculine than the other styles and uses a lot of metal combined with raw wood and leather. Often with industrial, the neutral color palette and use of found objects give the room some individuality and character.
COASTAL - HAMPTONS - NAUTICAL STYLE
Nautical style is all about a casual beachy atmosphere that you’ll find in many homes on the east coast. This style brings the natural elements of the coast into the home. Think white-washed or blonde woods, watery blues and an abundance of white to help all that beachy sunshine bounce around the room.
Like modern style, Minimalist has clean lines and simple shapes. The differentiating factor is that it emphasizes the mantra “less is more”. An extremely curated approach is taken to the selection of items and everything must be functional and purposeful. You won’t find too many extra objects, embellishments or layered pieces.
SCANDINAVIAN - NORDIC STYLE
Scandinavian design is Nordic in origin. It bears similarity to organic modern but is a bit simpler and more minimal in comparison. When colours are used, soft color palettes of pastels are commonly paired with light-toned woods and whites, creams, and tans. It is simple, clean, warm and relaxed in style.
If you notice that you can’t easily define your design style by just one of these categories, you’re not alone! Your style may best be described as a combination of by 2 or 3 different design styles. For instance, I would describe my primary design style as Modern Classic but I love adding elements of glam - Art Deco and Coastal blues to the spaces I create. Though this may pose more of a challenge, incorporating elements of more than one design style can add interest and unique individuality to your home.
As an example: This room below envelops features of Modern Classic and Contemporary Designs.
Identifying your signature style is a key component for creating a home that is a reflection of you. You now have the tools of self discovery when it comes to defining your design style and I hope this will help you on your journey. I’d love to hear from you. Let me know what you’ve discovered in your comments on my blog!