There is a reason “style” and “taste” are often used interchangeably.
Everyone has style. You may not know what yours is yet; perhaps you think you have “too many styles” or just have trouble expressing yourself. Maybe your current sense of style is, at best, being able to point out what styles you dislike.
Having style does not mean you are donning the latest trending fashions or live in an ultramodern glass house: Your style is the distinct personal flair unique to your tastes influencing what you like and what you dislike.
Style is unique to each person — though often (as with “traditional,” “contemporary” or other popular styles) overlaps with many others’ preferences, too. Just because your style does not fit into a common category — or just because you have not been able to articulate your style — does not mean you are without it.
To what degree we express our style is often directly related to how passionate we are about it. And there are a multitude of platforms for expressing and externalizing style: It could be through your wardrobe and daily outfit selection, or the artwork on your walls, or the design of your car. You can even see that personal flair of style in signatures, crafting and the posture with which people carry themselves.
Your home offers a natural opportunity to showcase your style. From color palettes to furniture selections to details such as plumbing fixtures and moldings and decor, this is your nest — your personal haven and live-in environment — and there are nearly infinite opportunities to represent your style. This can be intimidating — even overwhelming — especially if you are established in your house but want to start expressing yourself better. These steps will help guide you to successfully incorporating personal style into your home.
First, take a look at the architecture of your house: Start from the outside, and work your way inside. Some houses have distinct design styles that are hard to ignore when adding your own touch. For instance, if your house strikes you as ultramodern — maybe with shear glass walls and boundary-less, open floor plans — it may be a greater challenge to integrate a cozy, homey style of warmth and comfort. A log cabin in the woods is going to naturally lean toward more-rustic styles.
Do not be discouraged if you cannot identify the style of your home, though — for many years, building residences with an intentionally basic, “blank canvas”-style prevailed. This was largely so potential buyers would not be turned off by a style that did not appeal to them.
When most people are house or apartment shopping, they are, consciously or subconsciously, drawn to homes that complement their personal style and less inclined to like those that conflict with it. If you or your house has a strong, defining style, it is most successful when those styles (yours and your house’s) align so they do not end up competing. For example, if you are passionate about your industrial-chic style, happiest surrounded by exposed brick and dark metal finishes, living in a Zen-like bungalow with rice-paper windows and light wood structure would be a conflict of design interests.
Figuring out and understanding the style of your home does not bind you to accept its style identity as your own but can be helpful to recognize and consider as you incorporate your style in a complementary way.
Next, identify your own style. This is easier than you may think. One of the most successful ways to determine, help define and ultimately communicate your style intent to others is through the aid of the Internet.
If you do not have a clear gauge of your style, skip trying to label yourself with a predetermined category such as modern, craftsman or eclectic. These are subjective terms that prove useful (or accurate) only if you have a clear understanding of what each means in terms of design. Instead, take advantage of having the world at your fingertips and tools for self-discovery readily available.
The launch of websites such as Houzz, Pinterest and many more opened up a world of opportunity to explore different styles. These kinds of websites are frequently added to by professionals showcasing every style of work imaginable. Most important, you are able to save and file away the images that appeal to you the most. If you want to really get organized about it, you can do this in categories, such as by room, or more-general terms like decor or overall interiors.
After a short period of time, review all of your saved images and look for the trends. The more images you save, the easier it will be to observe commonalities. Do many images have Parisian swirls and ornate detailing? Or do a majority point to clean and simple lines with blocks of primary colors? Do you gravitate toward calming pastels, or are you drawn to bold, high-energy colors? This exercise can be an incredible aid for any homeowner. It also proves an invaluable tool if you are working with a professional architect/designer to visually communicate your style.
The final step is incorporating your style into your home. The beauty of this step is it can be done at any scale, whether you are in a tiny studio apartment or working to design your forever home.
Consider every non-consumable purchase as an opportunity to express your style. Need to buy a shower curtain, bedspread or storage trunk? Opportunities! Updating to a new dining table set? Opportunity! Everything, from art on the walls to knickknacks on your desk to tiles on your backsplash, presents an opportunity for you to showcase your style.
The key is recognizing what your style is and then deciding whether something you want/need exemplifies that. Does it fit in with the patterns and trends you observed in your style-book collections online? Being consistent is critical to create a defined style across your home.
This strategy can be extremely effective but is not without challenge: It is a test of patience, and often self-discipline, more than anything else. It is also important to point out there is typically a direct relationship between how generically a product is designed and how low its price point is. (It is perfectly possible to discover you have expensive taste.)
There are a few ways to overcome this. With enough time and money, anything is possible. However, these are typically the two most-limited resources.
So if you are short on money but can play the waiting game, one strategy is to buy “placeholders” — inexpensive temporary items to fulfill a necessary function. Maybe you need a coffee table but cannot find (or afford) the right one to match your style. Consider purchasing a cheap placeholder (think yard sales or other secondhand options) that will serve the purpose until you find, or save up for, a coffee table that is the quintessence of your style. With dedication and patience, you will eventually reach your goal and can then replace a purely functional table with something that also expresses your style.
Alternatively, if you are interested in getting your hands a little messy, upcycling used pieces — especially furniture and decor — could be a great opportunity to transform something inexpensive and generic into a piece that reflects your style, as well as pride of craftsmanship. There are tutorials online to transform all kinds of found objects, though be wary of snowballing projects that could eat up more money (and time) than you may want to spend.
If you have more money than time, or just want the aid of a professional, an interior designer or architect is a solid investment. With libraries of resources at their disposal, they are knowledgeable about what is available and how to find whatever is not. By sifting through their resources, they can effectively home in on selections to match your style much more quickly than tirelessly shopping around yourself.
Above all else, the style of your home should make you happy. By identifying your tastes and working with, not against, the architecture of your house, your home can be a great reflection of your own personal style. So go forth, be happy and be stylish!
Stephanie Brick is the owner of Stephanie Brick Design in Baltimore.