Five Clues on Finding your Personal Design Style

As a designer, it’s true I do have a favorite personal design style. Defining it in words may not be as easy as in photos, but it’s a mix of timeless, classic, global, and organic modern (more on this in #3). Don’t worry, yours is probably easier to define. Spending life living and breathing design influences me in many ways. However, I believe that my job is not to impose my personal style on client’s spaces, but to help them discover their own personal style then I implement it in a fresh and cohesive way, while maintaining function and injecting a little bit of my own twist. I know I have done my job well, if upon completion visitors enter my client’s home and say, “This is so beautiful! It’s a perfect expression of you!” Whether or not you use a designer to help you along the process, defining your personal style will help to narrow down decisions, give a framework to work within, and keep a consistent flow from room to room. So how do you find your personal style?

1. Multiples. This is a trick I use all the time during the discovery stage of starting a project with someone. Do you have multiple items of the same shape, color or style around your house? When you pull out a number of pages from a home magazine, do you see a consistent theme from picture to picture? Maybe different style houses are shown, but every photo shows white cabinetry or dark hardwood floors. If you instinctively select multiples, you begin to see where your style lies.

2. Where you Shop. Do you find yourself meandering through the same home furnishings store, even if you’re not shopping for your home? Does an ad for a weekend antique market get you excited? Is there a décor website you browse to the point of addiction? These are all good indications of your style. In fact, many clients will use these references to explain the look they are going for, such as “Room and Board” or “Restoration Hardware.” It doesn’t mean every object is bought from these places to make your home look like their showroom, but it does invoke an inspiring base. Each brand gives off a certain feel you can use to define your style.

3. Most Recent Purchase. Our personal style changes through the years. As a child, already intrigued with design, I poured through floor plan books in the magazine aisle. I spent hours studying Victorian homes and designing my own, wishing to re-create the dollhouse look. As an adult, this couldn’t be farther from what I am attracted to. Living in a big city during and after college infused in me a natural attraction to all things modern. Travelling the world gave me an appreciation for classic architecture and global colors, textures and finds. My personal style continues to evolve each year. Your most recent purchase is a wonderful clue on where you are now. Have you suddenly been buying up global inspired vases or modern lamps? These clues may point to your present design style, especially if they depart from your “normal” style. Maybe it’s time to expand in this new direction.

4. Art. What you choose to hang on your wall or prominently display on a shelf says something about you. Art is purely personal, not tied to function or need, and is usually a good indication of what inspires you. An abstract lithograph likely means you lean towards modern design, while a landscape oil painting may define your attraction to more traditional décor. Look around at the art you surround yourself with or aspire to buy and use that as overall style inspiration.

5. What’s your favorite hotel? This is the ultimate secret weapon in the search for your design style. Hotels have a very deliberate, clear design style, so use them to help find yours. Do you love staying in cozy, rustic B&B’s with wood paneling, layers of throw rugs and patchwork quilts? Does a clean-lined, modern city high-rise hotel have you ooh-ing and ahh-ing over its chic décor? Did a recent stay at a Bali-inspired island retreat make you come back from vacation wanting to completely renovate your home in a spa-like atmosphere? Take photos and start a dream board, my friend. This is where your design style begins.


Photograph of Ashley Cole.
Ashley Cole is a professional interior designer based in Grand Rapids. Her work has been featured on HGTV as well as numerous publications, including Kitchen Trends and Home Magazine. Ashley’s passion is “creating environments that enliven the spirit”.

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