Don’t Know Your Interior Design Style? Ask Yourself These 9 Questions
Get the 411 on design 101.
Published Feb 20, 2019 7:00 AM
Decorating a new space can seem like an exciting time that’s rife with possibilities or one filled with never-ending choices and stressful decisions. If you have trouble identifying your design style, you’re not alone. Online interior decorating services, like Homepolish and Decorist, have grown wildly successful for that exact purpose—to help indecisive individuals narrow down their dream decor style.
“Everyone has a preference, whether they know it or not,” says Marissa Bero, agency designer with Homepolish, and owner and designer of Marissa Bero Interiors. Whether you are drawn to a mix of many styles and need help narrowing down or can’t quite articulate your aesthetic, these nine questions can help zero in on your tastes.
What restaurants and spaces do you like?
Be more aware of your surroundings, says Bero. “You can be literally anywhere—a bar or cafe, a hotel or restaurant, a friend’s place, the park, a boutique shop—but when you notice something that you are drawn to, take it in,” she says. Look at everything and ask yourself what stylistic elements you’re drawn to, whether it be the colors, patterns, lines, or textures.
Do you have a mood board?
“The number one thing you can do to help discover your personal design style is study,” says Decorist creative director Jessica McCarthy. Study design magazines and sites (ahem Domino ahem), and follow brands and designers on Instagram. “As you expose yourself to different design styles, you’ll begin to discover more of what you’re drawn to and what the common themes are,” says McCarthy.
What are the tactile details you’re drawn to?
Once you begin noticing details and styles you’re drawn to, ask questions. Bero says to zero in on the tactile and surface details. Do your favorite interiors have soft or hard surfaces? Are there matte or shiny details? Are there geometric or floral patterns? Is the decor highly detailed or minimal? Tracking these details, as minute as they might seem, will help you form a language to articulate your personal style.
How do your favorite things make you feel?
Those visuals and details will begin to form a story. Look at these photos and words, and then ask yourself, “How do these make me feel?” Do you feel relaxed or sophisticated or fancy or exhilarated? “Get personal,” says Bero. “Is it nostalgic for you or does it remind you of someone or something that is significant to you?” Discovering the emotion or vibe behind an item can help you discover a design style you didn’t even realize you were consciously drawn to.
Do you like “stuff”?
“One thing I always want to hear from clients is whether they are minimalist, maximalist, or somewhere in between,” says McCarthy. Are you looking for a more pared-down look or do like a collected, more-is-more vibe? This will help you decide both your design sense and help you prioritize storage options for your things if you’d prefer a more minimalist look.
Do you prefer traditional or modern?
Look through your mood board and notes. Are you drawn to more traditional pieces or modern design? Traditional decor can have a lot of detailing and is usually vintage, while modern design tends to be a bit more streamlined and sleek. Discovering your traditional or modern preference can uncover a new branch of possibilities from these simple terms. “Once you’ve determined where you land on the traditional versus modern spectrum, there are dozens of styles—bohemian, Gustavian, French country, etc.—that can influence you,” says McCarthy.
Are you sourcing from one place?
You’ve put together a moodboard, narrowed down your style, and then researched. Now comes the fun part: buying, but keep your references in mind while shopping. “Decide on the style of your space before you shop, and keep referencing the original look or design board, even if you’re still hunting for that perfect console a year later,” says McCarthy.
“We all have a unique point of view that should be embraced,” says Bero. “Your space should reflect you and, more importantly, evolve with you.” Bero cautions from buying decor and accessories from just one outlet. “Try not to give in to what you see in a catalog,” she says. “No designer will ever source everything from one place, and neither should you. It’s boring and feels lifeless when it’s just transplanted from a catalog to your home. Don’t do it.”
Are you getting caught up in the “why”?
If you are drawn to certain colors or paintings or furniture pieces, don’t get hung up on attaching more meaning or understanding behind it, as sometimes your gut feeling can lead you to your favorite pieces. “You can hang a piece of art because you like the colors or movement, the detail or lack thereof, because of the way it makes you feel when you look at it,” says Bero. “It doesn’t need to be more specific than that.”
Do you like a lot of styles?
Maybe everything sparks joy for you and you have a lot of styles you’re drawn to. An interior designer can be very helpful in this process, especially if you find the seemingly endless choices overwhelming. “A designer can bring a vision to life and knows when and how to apply restraint,” says Bero. One tip Bero suggests for individuals who love many design styles: color. “If peppered throughout a space, it can have a unifying effect.”
Whatever your design aesthetic, having the language and details narrowed down to be able to express your personal style sense is always en vogue.
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