One of the questions I’m asked a lot is “what is my decor style? How do I find it and implement it? I want to love my house and have it feel like me.” This is a hard question to answer in a comment on social media. It’s involved and might take years to hone in. I thought I’d tell you step by step how I found mine and how it’s helped me in the hope that it’ll provide you a guide.
Snooze fest! Can I tell you what else was going on in my life? Let me introduce you to people pleaser Ashley. Since I was a super young kid, I was shy, painfully so. I was scared to do most things. Especially sports related. It took me years of knowing someone before I was brave enough to speak to them. My shyness was crippling to me socially. I felt stuck inside myself.
It’s hard to think about. I remember going out with friends and not speaking for hours. If my friends were doing an activity. I’d sit on the sidelines. I was literally watching my life go by. In most aspects of my life, I was playing small because I had this terrifying fear of what people would think.
So I started trying things- small at first. I wore bright red lipstick out. Then I bought a colorful dress I loved and actually kept it on outside my house. The small things got bigger and I slowly got braver. The day I got bangs cut, it was because I gave up the fear and did what I wanted. That was huge for me!
When hanging out with friends, I started actually doing the activity. I remember the first time I went water skiing- it was a big deal. My whole life I had been riding in a boat holding the flag but never getting in the water because I was scared. And then I jumped in! Sure, I fell down, but after a few tries I also got up on my skis. Not for long, but even getting in the water was a victory.
My bravery started spreading to my home decor. Instead of a grey house, I started to add color. I used my home to experiment and express myself. I paid attention to what I really loved and began to slowly incorporate it, one small item at a time. Here’s what changed-
what is my design style?
step 1- to have personal style, you have to give up what other’s think
I know that it might not seem like it, but what people think of you, can’t hurt you. Being shy for me meant that I was nervous and uncomfortable around people because I was afraid about what they think. For me, I had to tell myself over and over- “I am brave! What people think doesn’t affect me.” Giving that up was literally life altering.
BUT even if you’re not shy, lots of people let other’s opinions dictate their actions and how they decorate. The problem is, if you are only thinking about what people will think, there’s no way to develop your own style. Because if you’re worried about them, you’re watering your style down. So stop it! Stop decorating for anyone not living in your house.
Quit wondering what your mom or your friends or even the people who might buy your house in 15 years think. IT DOESN’T MATTER! If you like it and it tells your story, that’s good enough. In fact, giving up what anyone else thinks is the first, and probably the most important step to figuring out your decorating style.
Giving up what people think is a process, especially if you are a serial people pleaser like I was. Let me show you how to pinpoint what you like to make it easier to decorate for you, not them.
step 2- find the pattern
Step two- find the pattern in the things you love. For this, I suggest creating a Pinterest pin board. Then, start pinning the things that you absolutely love! Pin, pin, pin! After you have at least 30 pins, open your board and look at it. What’s the reoccurring theme? What color or vibe or pattern keeps showing up?
Here’s what I was pinning 5 years ago. Does this look like the gray walls you saw above? Nope! In fact, it looks a lot like my personal style now! And even though only one of these pictures is of an interior, there’s lots of patterns to spot that translate into a home. Pink, retro, pastels, flowers, feminine, soft, fun, whimsical, happy, sweet, travel, and a white background.
After noticing what I actually loved, I started using it in my house in very small and easy to implement ways. I painted the walls white, I added one pink pillow, and brought some live flowers in.
The patterns I found from my pins 100% describe my style. It actually blows my mind how spot on these are! This is what I love! Now, if you are noticing these things- you have a cheat sheet to what makes you happy!
Think about the items on your pin board more in depth with these questions-
- Do you notice a certain color that you’re drawn to? Is it light or dark?
- What’s a repeating theme in your pins? This could be color, texture, a pattern, or a vibe
- Do you have any items in you home already that already work with what you pinned?
- What do these images make you want to change about your house?
- Are you seeing anything consistent in the home decor images? Like white walls, or brass hardware, or a use of pastels
- What one thing could I change about my house today to have it look more in line with what I found?
Guess what? The information you just found is the beginning of your design style! Now it’s time to use that style around your house as you decorate. If you’re buying something, check it against your list. Does it work with that? If no, then maybe you shouldn’t get it. Let’s take your list of things you love a step further.
step 3- ask yourself why?
Right up front I’m going to tell you that you can skip this step, but don’t. This is a hard step, but it’s worthwhile. Trust me!
Take your list of qualities you found in your pins and ask yourself why? Why do you like this color or item? Why does it speak to you? Maybe this is an item someone close to you loved. Or maybe it reminds you of a place you traveled. Maybe there was a similar item in your childhood home. There are endless ways it can be important, but try to pinpoint it.
For me, figuring out these answers took awhile. I can spot what I love super quick but getting to my why took longer.
Let me tell you a quick story. When I was in college for Interior Design, I was an intern for the designer Ruthie Sommers. She was on the first cover of Domino magazine and if you read it in the early years, she was in many issues. Her style was iconic and I got to learn first hand from her. I worked in her little shop and visited clients with her. It was such a great experience.
A few years ago, I was decorating my patio and I found an image on Pinterest after I had figured out my design plan. It was a patio from one of Ruthie’s houses she decorated. It was everything I wanted in one image!
Her love of chinoiserie and old items and a preppy coastal look really rubbed off on me in college. She was a key teacher for me and taking that and putting my own touch on it, felt like an appropriate way to tell my story. I decided to paint stripes on the wall because of that image!
As I decorate, I keep thinking about the deeper reason behind the things I gravitate towards.
I’ve thought about why I love floral patterns- maybe because I grew up with two gardeners (my mom and grandma).
In my early 20’s my husband worked for the airlines and we traveled all the time. So incorporating my love of traveling makes sense to me. These things are much more than “pretty things” they are my background being reimagined into design.
Once you know your why behind what you love, that’s when the magic happens! You are now creating a house with meaning. You’re filling it up with things that tell your story and give a nod to your background. This is how you create vision and integrity in your design. It adds depth and interest.
Four months after that first picture was taken at the beginning of this post, this is where the living was. I’d added more pillows, changed the art to shelves, and put trim up on the wall. I consistently made small steps and experimented with my style. And it was paying off!
Step 4- don’t be afraid to make mistakes
Here’s the thing- as you decorate you might make mistakes. That is ok. It’s fine to change your mind. Failure (though painful) is part of the process.
Everyone makes mistakes! One thing I did when I didn’t love something I thought I would is I would start by moving it. Maybe this item would work somewhere else? Or I would paint it. I’d keep tweaking and changing items until I liked them.
For example, I hung these shelves and accessorized them. Above you can see my first try to style them. It looks a little sad. Here it is a few months later. The art was more cohesive and the greenery really brought life to the shelves. And this doesn’t have to be expensive! The greenery was snipped off a bush outside. The art was $2 printable from Etsy.
There used to be a big print where these shelves are. I soon found that the dark colors and generic print no longer fit my aesthetic. First, I tried moving it to the next wall over. Eventually I painted the frame and changed the art. Give yourself permission to keep changing things until you get it right is a big part of this process.
Also, I want to be real that I keep making mistakes. For example, in my current home I feel like my living room rug and my master bedroom wallpaper are too dark for me. Is this fun to admit? No. But I don’t want to come across as being perfect. I’ll live with these until it makes sense to find a new alternative and move them. And I’ll learn from these mistakes.
step 5- take a note from your home
Now you know what you love and why, you should also take into consideration the style of your house. What year was your house built in? Study other homes built that same decade and how they looked when they were first constructed. How can you make decisions with the design so you keep the integrity of your home?
The home I live in now was built in 1951. When I was planning my kitchen refresh, I studied 1950’s colorful kitchens. The colors and finishes helped me feel comfortable with my choices. Also, I love a retro vibe (as I found out when studying my pins), so having a kitchen that reflects that makes it work for the house AND my style- it’s a win win!
As a whole, since my house is located in Florida I’ve been trying to breathe some coastal accents into the design. This has helped me as I select art, plants, and accessories. Where do you live? Can that help inform you decorating decisions?
About two years after starting my decorating and my quest to putting myself into my home, here’s where the room was. I’d changed the layout and added a more modern sofa and chair that worked better with the year the home was built. By keeping with the same era as the house, I hoped my designs would have a more lasting power.
What is my decor style? The goal is freedom
I look at this and I can’t help but feel a huge amount of pride. This is me! In house form. This is hours of work physically, but also mentally. I slowly gave up caring about what people thought and embraced what I loved. I got braver and my house reflected it. Around this point (fall of 2017) is when I feel like I’d really found my personal style.
As time has passed, I’ve gotten even more comfortable with my style and have gotten bolder with some of my choices. It’s been fun to push the envelope and see what else works as I decorate. Here’s the thing, I know that not everyone loves pink and rainbows. But I’m not for everyone! That’s ok. As long as I’m true to myself, that’s all that matters.
And this is what I hope for all of you! I want your insides to match your outside. If I could help you start on this same path, I would. Why? It’s freedom! You get to choose how you show up in the world and maybe it’s with a home that is different and special and tells your families story.
faq- what is my decor style?
I thought I’d share some questions I received on how to find your own style. I’m going to add in more before and after pictures from my condo so you can see more examples of how I found my style and implement it in my condo.
before master bedroom
I’d suggest that you look at the aspects you like from the different styles. Pin point those down and use them. Keep your look cohesive by using a color scheme that you love. If the colors work together, it’s ok to use lots of different styles.
Honestly, I like lots of styles too! I love a modern mid century sofa with a traditional rug and a glam coffee table. I love coastal bamboo accents. If someone asked my exact style, I wouldn’t really know what to say. The point is, if you mix a bunch of things- that’s actually good. That means you have personal style!
after master bedroom
I know what I love in my clothes, but I have no clue what I’m doing in my house. I see your clothes are retro- does that affect your home’s style?
One think you might notice when you see an interior designer is that they usually have great personal style too! Consistently from the houses they decorate to their clothes, they have consistent style. So yes, I think that by looking in your closet you can get hints to what you should put in your house.
So open up those closet doors- what do you wear the most? Why? What colors and patterns do you like to dress in? These questions can help you find your style too! Do you wear formal or casual clothes? Dresses or pants or shorts?
For me, I wear a lot of dresses because I like that they look fancy, but they’re actually comfortable. I dress in soft pastels and I like florals and stripes. My clothing is sweet and cute. Aka- it’s super similar to my home’s decor style! Even the leather color I prefer on sandals and boots is the leather color I like for my sofa.
There is absolutely a correlation between your clothes style and your home style! If you already love your clothes, that’s a great place to start.
before of my stairs
Well, you have to commit. Part of finding your style is having focus and using what you love to narrow down your choices. If you love everything, you love nothing. You have to be brave enough to cut things out and go forward with what makes your heart sing.
after of my stairs
How to you avoid copying other styles/ rooms?
If you just take one aspect from a room you love like the accent color or the art they chose, you won’t be copying. Also, let me give you permission to copy small things! If you see a rug you love, use the same one! As long as you’re pulling in items you love that bring in your why, you really won’t be copying.
I think it’s a process! Did you see how it took 2 years for me to get there with my first house? It took so long because I was fumbling through figuring out my look. But once you get one thing right, it’ll click in place. Start on one end table. Then move across the room. Don’t be afraid to experiment and keep changing things until you love them!
All my furniture is inherited/passed down. It’s not my style. What can I do?
In that case, paint is your bestie! If you feel like you need it, get permission from whoever gave you the furniture. But I’m guessing that if they were willing to let it go, they’re ok if you make it your own. It’s better for it to match your aesthetic than for you to live in a house full of stuff you hate.
Maybe you can sell it and buy something else that works better? Can you buy a cute throw blanket and put it over your chair or sofa you hate? I totally know the pain of living with something you’re over. In my example, that grey sofa had HUGE holes in the cushions. When we could finally afford to upgrade we felt so grateful! But we lived with a worn out sad sofa for a few years.
before dining room
That sounds a lot like what I like! Start with white walls and add in vintage and colorful accents. Experiment until you find a balance that works for you. Paint an accent item a fun color. Was that too much? Not enough? How about adding fun art- does that look cute? Work through your feelings until you love your space.
HOW DOES THRIFTING HELP WITH FINDING YOUR STYLE?
You really need to know your style before thrifting (because there’s loads of stuff you DO NOT want if it isn’t “you”). But once you know your style, thrifting is SO great because it’s a way to find one of a kind things to put in your house for super cheap! So you can uniquely express yourself with thrifted items and then if you don’t end up liking it, it’s fine! Donate it back!
How do you learn about types of styles?
If you don’t have a name for your style, it’s ok! I don’t have one for mine, it’s just what I love right now (or sometimes I call it girly glam). BUT if you really want to put a name to it, there’s a lot of home decor style quizzes you can take. Here’s one and here’s another. In the first I got traditional and in the second I got eclectic. 🤷🏻♀️
I actually don’t think having an exact name for your style is that important, so don’t let that hold you back. Knowing the colors you like, the feel you want, and patterns you love will serve you much more.
Honestly, this is something I struggle with. I LOVE trends! I think they’re fun and I don’t mind decorating with them. But I do think if you stay true to your style and your home’s era, it’ll help you from choosing too many trends and giving your home lasting power.
I only know what I don’t like? Does that count towards finding your style?
Yes! That’s actually a great first step. I actually think it’s a good practice to walk around your house and note what you don’t love. Why don’t you like it? What’s holding you back from changing it? Once you know the items you hate, you can make steps towards changing them or getting rid of them so you can have clarity and fill your home with items you love.
If I decorate in my style, will I have a hard time selling my house in a few years?
No! Honestly I don’t think so! Buyers want a home that’s unique. If it’s priced right, you’ll find your buyer!
When our condo was all grey, we actually listed it to sell and it sat on the market for 5 months before we took it off. We got negative feedback about the one bathroom. No one was interested when it was more generic.
Then, we spent 2 years falling in love with our house and personalizing it. Each room told our story and I’d done the same work I’d shown in my living room (here’s an example with our bathroom. You can see it was very girly by the time we were done).
We honestly weren’t planning on selling it, our long term plans were to keep our condo and rent it out once we could afford a house. But our HOA changed the rules and no longer allowed rentals or AirBNBs. So we ended up listing it for sale. Guess what happened? In the first day being listed, we had 7 offers. We sold it way over our listing price and quickly too!
I don’t think your goal should necessarily be to add your style so it can sell, but it can be a good side effect!
OK! So there’s my tips on how to find your style in 3700 words! I SURE hope this post was helpful. The process was life changing for me. It’s how I grew from playing small to developing my personal style and feeling brave enough to express who I really am. Let me know if you have any questions in the comments!
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