Ever wonder how to define your decor style?

I know I did, and I occasionally need a refresher course.

I recently revived this old post via an INSTAGRAM LIVE (linked below) with my daughter Maddie for our hashtag #honingyourhomestyle Maddie is passionate about all things home, seeing herself not as a decorator/stylist but as a homemaker. She’s a good egg, and inspires me to continue the process of creating thru my heart, not just my head.

I believe everyone intuitively knows their style, but in the fast-paced, 24/7 world of decor inspiration thanks to HGTV, blogs, Pinterest and Instagram, that intuition sometimes appears to have left the building.

And that can be frustrating AND expensive! If you’re like many, you give up and just succumb to the latest trend only to hate it in your home. Or worse, you become a slave to the next ‘new look’.

Does any of this sound familiar?

In past years, I would get super excited about the search for inspiration. It would start innocently enough, beginning with wiping out the local library’s entire interior design section, pinning 800 bazillion images, and stalking just slightly under 2000 Instagram accounts.

 

 

I’d overdose on all these images until I threw up my arms in complete overwhelm and decided a nice, sterile Best Western motel room was good enough for me.

Then I ended my decor inspiration binge with 3 or 7 boxes of Little Debbie Oatmeal Cakes.

But I know I’m the only one that does that last part.

If you can relate to that feeling of overwhelm and confusion by the overload of visual inspiration, you’re reading the right post! Today I’m sharing a fun exercise that I now use to train my eye and define my style.  Each time I do this, it becomes another eye-opening, soul-satisfying journey of self-discovery. I learn more about my non-negotiables {my Loves}, and how my style shifts and morphs as new trends come on the scene.

You’ll begin looking at inspiration images in a new way that won’t send you into a tailspin of confusion and angst. It will be the basis for discovering what truly speaks to your design guts. A plumbline you can return to regardless of changing trends.

So are you ready? Let’s DO this!

 

Gather your inspiration. You will need a few real books and magazines…this is an old fashioned method, tho Instagram and Pinterest can also work. You won’t need tons of images….just enough within a niche that calls to you, yet still offers a good variety of interpretations on that niche.

Also grab a pretty notebook and a sweet writing utensil

Start flipping thru the pages pretty quickly, saving or ripping out any image that hits ya. Don’t spend any time on WHY it hit ya at this point. Move right on to the next image/page.

Now write at the top of the first page of your pretty notebook the following questions:

Why did I stop?  What SPECIFICALLY caught my attention?

Start back at your first image, and while referring to the above questions, write down on any specifics that resonated with you in that image. It might be a particular paint color, a piece of furniture, a lovely wall or furniture grouping, a fabric, a vintage item, draperies, the style of the room, etc.

If you find yourself thinking “I just love the vibe”…it might be helpful to ask yourself what you DON’T love in the image. For example “Great wall color, but I’m not digging those curtains with it.” You are deconstructing an image to it’s parts to find those things that caused you to stop mid-flip.  Try defining the ‘vibe’ by using words like “Cozy, soft wall color…vintage items, slipcovered furniture” as opposed to trendy or catch-all phrases such as ‘farmhouse’ or ‘mid-century’ as they are a bit too broad to be helpful at this stage.

This can seem tedious for some who are used to simply imitating another designer’s mojo.

While that is completely appropriate when learning good style {it’s how the Masters trained their apprentices}, your spaces won’t actually reflect YOU, and ultimately you won’t be happy in your home. This is where the rubber meets the road. This is learning to hear your heart.  It takes some decent focus. This first part of the exercise {c’mon, it’s actually more like a fun game, amiright?} is to begin really looking at things in light of how they make you FEEL. Specifically note the things in an image that evoke a FEELING.

 

This is what will help you decide what’s just a fleeting crush {trends} and what’s gonna be a long-term relationship {authentic, timelessly YOUR style}. Perhaps you’ve already noticed some commonality in the noted images. Or maybe it all feels very unrelated, or one image seems to be the complete opposite of a previous image…

Don’t give up yet!  Let’s dig a bit deeper!

In your pretty notebook,  write the following new questions

  1. Can I see my family in this space?

2. Does this room have a timeless appeal, or is it trendy?

 3. Do I already have furniture or accessories to pull this off? (This can also give you a clue about what you already like, or help you know what to sell.)

4. Would this space play nicely with the structure of my home?

At this point I want to interject a truth that will revolutionize your thinking as you begin to curate your home.

You will have to say no to some of your ‘likes’ in order to say yes to your ‘loves’.

Here’s the dealio. Having a little bit of everything you like crowds out room for your Loves. And your LOVES make up your authentic decor style. Too many Likes water down the Loves, and in turn the authenticity of your personal style.  This is honestly the most prevalent issue I see with folks attempting to decorate their homes just by following trends or copying other designers without taking the time to discover their own decor language.

Select two images that gave you the biggest emotional response when you were flipping thru images.

You’re going to answer those questions above in your pretty notebook for each picture, then compare them to each other and find the common thread or threads.

NOW write the following in your pretty notebook:

What is the common denominator?

Are you understanding the process a bit here?  Basically find two pictures that you really like (or even think you LOVE), but are fairly different, then start asking the questions.   It’s really a simple exercise, but it can also be a frustrating process.  I’m just warnin’ ya.  Sometimes it’s hard to let go of certain images that you think you love, but realize they don’t work with your family, your budget, or your TRUE loves. You’re mostly just ‘in like’ with them, not truly ‘in love’.  Or it might be a crush…real but fleeting, intense but hard to sustain.  For example, I’ll always be taken by the serene beauty and casual elegance of Rachel Ashwell’s Shabby Chic style, but girlfriends, it will never fit me as well as a vintage farmhouse cottage filled with faded florals, ticking, homespun and linen. That’s not to say it’s still ridiculously hard not to buy all the gorgeous Simply Shabby Chic bedding in Target!  In this case it’s a choice to invest in what I know I have always loved instead of what I kinda love but wouldn’t work with a family with 2 kids still at home and a house full of wood antiques passed down from my family.

Again,

I going to have to say no to some of the ‘likes’ in order to say yes to my ‘loves’.

I noticed too that as I was going thru old  pictures of past houses, I began to see the things I’ve carried along with me, be it furniture, colors, and styles.  No matter how much I hyperventilate over all white rooms, my enduring love will always be rooms with muted vintagey florals and touches of warm color.  Take a gander at some of your old pictures and pick out what still speaks to you….then incorporate it into your home now.  There’s always paint to ‘update’ an old dresser that still has meaning, or a pillow slip of your favorite floral instead of full out drapes.  Try favorite pieces in new places or preferred colors in different combinations.  Play with what you know has worked in the past and still speaks to your spirit.

And then there’s always the blogs and Instagram.

 I applaud and support those who have managed to mold their homes to their unique personalities and not just to the latest catalogue of Pottery Barn whether or not their tastes perfectly match mine or not. Some of these are the ‘big guys’, but some are just creative genius’ waiting to be discovered.  Surfing blogs and scrolling Instagram hashtags can give you a ‘real life’ picture of how ‘real life’ decorating looks without all the glitz and glamour and staging of a magazine shoot. Do some comparisons with the questions I offered above, and get inspired by real women with real budgets and real vision for beautiful homes.

So to end this novella, as maidens of our manors, it’s a good habit to refine our tastes in decorating.  It can help us avoid costly mistakes, help congeal our look, and make us smitten with our homes each time we arrive home from a grocery run.  It’s a thrilling challenge, but well-worth the $156 in library fines,  the 4,000 cups of hot mocha java guzzled whilst browsing the decorating magazine section at Barnes and Noble, and the 12 million hours spent blog hopping, Pinteresting, and Gramming (not to be confused with kissing your kids’ babies).

Start getting comfy knowing the difference between your likes and your loves.

Start practicing saying no to some of your likes so you can give a big YES to your passionate loves.

Hope some of this helps…feel free to ask questions.  My disclaimer is that I’m not a professional, so don’t go thinking I have this all figured out.  I mostly still fumble on the 4th down at the goal line.

Below is the Instagram Live my daughter and I recorded explaining the method!

Enjoy!

6 thoughts on “::Honing Your Homestyle::

  1. Alysha

    “Would the space play nicely with the structure of my home?” I jus trove that idea. My house is a 1931 bungalow style. It still has its original natural woodwork! So even though there is this part of me that loves really modern NYC loft decor I know it is inappropriate for this home. I feel I have to respect my home. I need to find decor that lives in this space. For me, the constant of green seems to resonate.

    Reply

    1. cottagegirl Post author

      I think it’s wise to listen to your home, as well as what your heart loves. I think you could add lots of that loft decor to your bungalow while still respect the bones of the house. Green is definitely a leveler….it cuts across all styles and brings everything together 🙂

      Reply

  2. Tammy

    This is so great ladies !! I was thinking of writing a blog post on this but I think I’ll just share this awesomeness on my feed instead! I finally realized how to do this a couple years ago and am still continuing to hone my style!! I think it’s an ongoing process! Thanks for putting in all the time and energy on this. It’s going to help so many!!

    Reply

    1. cottagegirl Post author

      Thank you Tammy! We had lots of fun doing it, and hope to do more! I think most know this stuff intuitively, but need reminders. I know I do! Glad to hear you’ve honed in on your style…and enjoying the ongoing process!

      Reply

  3. Nana Diana

    This is great, Cindy. I am like you- I go back to the old books and magazines for inspiration. I think I am tapped out on Pinterest. Sadly, it got kind of old for me quickly. I know–I know—there is probably something deeply wrong with me.

    I hope you have a blessed stylin’ weekend. xo Diana

    Reply

    1. cottagegirl Post author

      Pinterest is kinda frustrating for me too…can’t find much when I search that really inspires me. I just love magazines…and a few blogs 🙂 Enjoy your Sunday!

      Reply

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