Build to Suit: Exploring Personal Style and Expression in the Home

These varying bedroom styles show the vast difference personal style can make to one particular color scheme. This room is very minimalist.

by Jan McCollum

In 1566, a Veronese merchant by the name of Canon Paolo Almerico commissioned architect Andrea Palladio to build a summer home for his family in the countryside outside Verona, Italy. Verona’s location on one of the many lagoons in the Republic made its inhabitants vulnerable to the diseases inherent to the area. In the book, The Architecture of Happiness, British author Alain de Botton writes that Paolo was deeply impressed by Roman architecture and its embodiment of the morals and values of its day. He envisioned a home for himself and his family that would encourage them to aspire to the values important to him: creativity, understanding, community, and dignity. Button states that early theologists believed that beautiful architecture would inspire us to be better human beings. They also believed that because we are equipped with a highly developed visual sense; looking at the detail and intricacies of architecture and design had far more impact than reading scripture or other religious works. The commission of Paolo’s country estate is one of the first historic references to man seeking a visceral and aesthetic connection with architecture in the most intimate of spaces — his home.

“Finding ‘home’ grounds us. Seeking home compels the undertaking of a lifelong quest to dissect, define, and understand the conscious connection between heart and sanctuary.”

The need for “home” is present in all of us. We have a deep desire to identify and connect not only with others, but also with what Botton refers to as our true self. Finding “home” grounds us. Seeking home compels the undertaking of a lifelong quest to dissect, define, and understand the conscious connection between heart and sanctuary. This quest is as unique as each of us is individual. The degree to which we are successful in understanding why we resonate with certain things (and why we do not), is easier for some of us than for others. This has much to do with how we are wired. Are we left brain or right brain dominant? Are we creative, sensitive, spontaneous? Do we thrive on routine, get to point B from point A; do we find security in the familiar and debate with logical as opposed to emotion? Both sides of the coin are essential; this is the diversity that comprises the human race, and it is all good! So how do we connect? How do we find resonance in our surroundings? The answer lies in understanding our personal style.

This room focuses on Victorian style.

One of Webster’s definitions of style is: “a distinctive manner of expression.” Note the definition does not define the parameters of the word distinctive. There is plenty of latitude in its scope to include the conservative and the avant-garde. Modern, Contemporary, Classic, Minimalist, Retro, Art Deco, Victorian, and Urban are some of the most familiar design styles, and the list is constantly growing! Advances in technology, accessibility of travel, resurgence of past styles sifted through today’s grid and many other factors impact style, creating an ever-expanding list of fusions and eclectic variations on the theme. Instead of lodging in overwhelm, or being swept in by the trends, become familiar with the basic design styles. Analyze the order and simplicity of a minimalist interior. Does it elicit a sense of calm within or does it feel austere and barren? Do the classic elements of a traditional space invoke a sense of warmth, history, and family roots or does this style lack the fresh and unexpected? The way a space makes us feel when we’re in it is both motivation to inhabit it and drive to make it better! These feelings provide the clues for discovering elements of style with which we identify. They matter because when we are in sync with our environment, we find resonance. We connect. We are well.

This room is Art-Deco inspired.

So take a look around your home. What features do you love? What would you like to change? Don’t just glance, but look with intention.

Take a look outside your home. Go for a walk. Go window-shopping. Travel. Leaf through design books and shelter magazines and connect the dots. What moves you? What makes you smile? Observe it. Analyze it. Bring it into your environment.

Take a look inside yourself. Notice your patterns. Trust your instincts. Tap into your own creativity (it’s there!). Nurture your decisions.

Personal style is about our interpretation and the incorporation into our lives of what truly inspires us. It is less about things and more about perspective. It is expressing ourselves at the highest level with boldness, confidence, and maybe a little reckless abandon. Personal style is a “build to suit,” acknowledging our innermost need for identity, connection, and resonance. It is a quest that brings us home!


Founder and design principal of J Parker McCollum, Inc., Jan is a speaker, mentor, educator, and product designer with projects featured in several local publications.




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