Quick – what’s your favorite color, your favorite chair, your favorite movie or food? For most, these questions are relatively straight forward and the answers well established. But what if I ask “what is your sense of design style?” You might hesitate a bit or struggle for specific words. Or you might have a routine response of traditional or modern, shabby chic or eclectic. Not that any of these responses are necessarily wrong. But after asking this question hundreds of times to friends, clients and even fellow designers, I wonder do most really know what their true sense of style is?
I know there will be some who might ask if it is really relevant. And yes, there are perhaps more important things in the world to ponder. But for those who desire to create an attractive, practical and comfortable home, knowing a bit more about yourself could make you and your surroundings more content, productive and enjoyable. In fact it might take more than a single word to be able to articulate your sense of style to achieve precision and depth.
Many eras of design have created distinct styles that become defined, usually a bit after the fact. Victorian, Art Deco, Craftsman, and Mid-Century Modern are styles that conjure up particular images of color, design and structure. Most of us are familiar with them. But as our objects of desire become more accessible due to mass production and subsequently lower prices, we’re more apt to select and purchase without regard to era or design specifics. We buy and create, mix and match what we like, sometimes without addressing our true needs. This diverse set of choices can also be the result of needs and budgets that evolve over time. We all have old furniture (and clothing, kitchen ware and art) that tends to follow us from dwelling to dwelling despite never quite fitting in. These legacy pieces can dilute our overall sense of style as well as contribute to unease in the home.
However, we can move away from impulsive choices of furniture and style by understanding ourselves on a slightly deeper level, creating a plan and working with it. The process is similar to that which designers do when meeting with new clients. To help with this process I’ve identified four goals to define and apply your own particular design style:
1. Expand your design vocabulary – learn to identify design details and features with specific terms.
2. Identify your specific likes – study what stylistic elements or design details resonate most with you and why.
3. Articulate your likes with your new design vocabulary when shopping or discussing design.
4. Set objectives for your overall design and subsequent purchases – don’t be swayed, stick to your plan.
There will always be a gap between what we desire and what we can actually realize. My ideal home will always be well beyond my budget. But knowing what my particular style preferences are and being able to articulate them, I’m able to keep them in the back of my mind when I do have an opportunity to influence my environment. These same principles work on clothing, cars, or anything else we surround ourselves and interact with.
Whether working with a designer or designing on your own, understanding and being able to articulate your own personal style will make the process of creating your home a much more productive and rewarding experience.
To help get you inspired, I give you a few examples of very distinct style borrowed from: