Owning a retail store and offering in home design, I meet people with all personality types and many different styles. While I have a specific style of mine, when I help someone decorate I am implementing their style in their home. The biggest challenge for me on a project is when a client does not know what their style is, or they like a multitude of styles and can’t focus on one look.
Are you a fan of impressionism….
or abstract expressionism…
You can like each one of these paintings, but you can’t hang them all next to each other in your house! It is a great asset to appreciate many different styles (I love doing different looks), but if you want a home that looks ‘put together’ you have to force yourself to focus on one look for your space. Most people just can not do that and they end up with an assorted collection of mismatched furniture (and not in the good ‘eclectic’ way), as well as color schemes that are not harmonious (the Pottery Barn red and green of a few years ago became blue and brown and is now all linens).
Having a consistent look is the only way to create impact in your home. This example is from a staging company, Meredith Baer in LA- perfect flow throughout the home.
Before you bring even a single piece of furniture into your home, you have to define your style. Here are some tips to do just that.
Step 1: Train Your Eye
It takes some time to determine what your style is. You have to train your eye to notice what appeals to you and why. First, start looking at books, magazines, blogs, movies. Tear out pictures for an ‘idea file’ (even if you aren’t decorating any time soon). The idea isn’t to copy, but to be creatively encouraged. Without fail, consistent themes will emerge.
You may notice you have pulled a variety of different styles or colors, but you will see that, for example, you have 9 pictures of white kitchens and 1 picture of one with dark brown. When you started, you might not have known what color cabinets you wanted, but now you do. Keep looking and you will notice if the cabinets are shaker style (clean lined) or more ornate (with detailed carvings). This will help you determine the cabinet style.
When it comes to which colors to use, you need to learn what you like. It helps if you know what color palette you want to use, but beyond that, you need to understand the undertones in colors.
Learn for yourself if you are a cool color person or a warm color person. Neither is right or wrong, but it is a matter of personal preference and it will impact how you feel when you are living in your space.
Warm colors generally are yellows and reds, or even a beige with a ‘camel’ undertone, while cool colors are often associated with water- blues, greens. You can have a warm blue and cool red, but without getting too complex, you should be able to determine your color preference by looking at the colors of your clothes in your closet.
Step 2: Be aware of trendy versus timeless
You need to learn what you like, not what the market is selling you. The catalogs may be featuring one look this year, but I can guarantee it will be a different look the next. Not many of us can afford to redecorate every other year (or even every 2-3 years). Home décor is not like fashion and should not be treated as such.
Don’t let the Color Marketing Group tell you what colors you should be decorating with now. One year it will be warm reds, the next cool blues, the next, neutral gray. If you choose colors that make you happy, you will always be comfortable in your home.
If you keep your major furniture pieces (sofa, chairs) in neutral fabrics it is much easier to make adjustments to update your look after 5 years, rather than having to replace everything in the room!
Step 3: Only live with what you love
“Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful” (William Morris)
I have to be honest here, decorating costs money, and there is no way around that. Some people are really crafty and can do it on a budget, but honestly you don’t want to live with that “Design on a Dime” room for the next five years.
In my opinion, it is better to have nothing in your space than something that devalues the visual appeal of the room. Save until you can invest in decent pieces. If you have to have something now, go to Ikea and you can Craig’s List it later with little remorse.
Be very careful of accepting hand-me-downs from relatives. Once you put it in your home, it is going to be very hard to get rid of it without someone giving you a guilt trip. And, as one of my favorite clients once said, “If it was really that great they wouldn’t be giving it away in the first place”. It is ok to say ”No, thank you” to that matching dining room set from your parent’s house.
I can’t tell you how many homes I go into and we decorate around some massive piece of furniture that matches nothing else in the home, but can’t be gotten rid of because it belonged to Great Aunt Mary. Save yourself the trouble and wait for the perfect piece to bring into your home. The style of your home truly impacts your mental well-being and living with something ‘off’ just makes you feel dissatisfied with your space.
So, you have a limited budget (everybody does, no matter how much the budget is), where do you start? Make a priority list and follow it. Start with the main areas of the home (especially those that make a ‘first impression’)- entry, family, dining, kitchen. Do those over time, but give yourself a time frame (i.e. year 1 is the main area, year 2 is the master, etc). Then, move to the second tier- secondary bedrooms and office, as time and money allow.
Where do you spend and where do you splurge? I would invest in decent upholstery (a sofa you sit on every night) in a neutral fabric and save on some casegoods, such as end tables. I do think lamps are the jewelry of a room and that artwork brings the personality to the space. Artwork is something you can collect over time, shop for when traveling and can bring you joy for years to come.
In summary, before you spend any money or take anyone else’s casts offs, spend some time figuring out what your personal style is. Study the movies you love, the best selling decorating coffee table books and the key home magazines. Once you are aware of your look, you can prioritize your budget and your time to start decorating your home and making it your own. If you figure out what you like, but still can’t ‘pull it together’ we would be happy to help with our in home design services. Contact us @ firstname.lastname@example.org for more details.