One of the most common questions that we hear nearly every day is “how do I know what style really appeals to me? I seem to like a few conflicting things and I just can’t seem to make a decision with any confidence.” Well, here are three ways to get over decorator’s block quickly and relatively painlessly.
Tip #1. Gather inspiration images and see what they all have in common. We’ve mentioned that we keep our favorite rooms organized in a nice thick plastic-sleeve-riddled binder (read more about that here). And this anthology of sorts was really paramount when it came to pinning down our style and learning what we love. It’s amazing how an arsenal of love-it-so-much images can help you identify commonalities in rooms that really grab your attention. Sure you might find that you have a million “favorite” rooms sitting in a pile (or in a binder if you’re Captain Organized like me) but it won’t be until you go through them and make a separate pile of about 15 rooms that REALLY stand out to you (read: the best of the best) that you’ll begin to notice some common color schemes, furniture finishes, and overarching style cues that many of these rooms have in common.
Take note of the wood finishes that you’re drawn to. The wall colors. The furniture shapes. The textiles and accessories. The art. The overall effect (high contrast? dreamy? tone-on-tone? pops of color?). Of course your favorite rooms might not all be super obvious and similar when you study them as a group, but just try to see what patterns you can pick up. Maybe they all have dramatic floor to ceiling curtains or dark velvet sofas? Or perhaps it’s more about patterned rugs or bright modern art on the walls? You might notice they all have neutral backdrops with pops of color in the pillows or accessories. Or a high contrast vibe (like dark wood floors paired with white walls). If you look long enough, we’re sure you’ll see some definite commonalities- and that’s how you can start to develop your confidence and create a real overarching “look” for your home.
This exercise is the single most important thing you can do to help define your style and hone in on your aesthetic, so don’t rush through it or halfheartedly select your favorite rooms without some serious thought. Heck even if you only have five cream-of-the-crop-holy-cow-I-love-this-room images, it’s still more effective than tossing ten more eh-this-room-is-ok images into the mix. So really do some serious soul searching (and magazine and online searching) to see what tickles your fancy. Then lay them all out to study what they have in common- and what you can adapt and introduce into your very own home. Oh and check out these great online sites (, , and ) for galleries full of gorgeous rooms in a variety of styles.
Tip #2. Take a few find-your-style quizzes to see what they say that you like. Sure they could all be complete hooey, but it’s not like they can really hurt. And they’re all pretty quick to complete. Sometimes one or two of them will hit on something so eye-opening and illuminating that you’ll literally feel like you finally know exactly what you like. Or at least like you’re a lot closer to cracking the code. Ready to play along? Try this one, this one, this one, and this one.
Tip #3. Don’t get caught up with a label like “Elegant Classic” or “Cottage Meets Vintage.” Sure sometimes they can help (and if a label or a specific descriptor keeps you on track then by all means embrace it). But we don’t really go out of our way to describe our exact style in any words at all. We just know what we like (capiz, jute, neutrals mixed with sea glass-esque greens and blues, dark wood, bamboo blinds, natural materials, glass based lamps, and white white white). Here’s a post all about that. It’s safe to say that we finally know what we love and can easily identify what will fit seamlessly into our house (and what won’t – which is just as important).
But even though we have a handle on what fries our bacon when it comes to furnishings, accessories and so on, if you were to ask us to label our style we’d probably hem and haw while tossing out a slew of general terms like: clean-lined, airy, light, breezy, beachy, modern, classic, transitional… the list goes on and on! So don’t worry if you don’t end up with a specific decorating style name at the end of your figure-out-what-I-like pilgrimage. Just be open to embracing the colors, shapes, materials, and elements that you’ve identified time and time again as your cup of tea. Because a label doesn’t make the room, and sometimes trying to encapsulate your style with some two or three word description is nearly impossible anyway.
Oh and remember that our we-know-what-we-like confidence didn’t happen overnight. It was all thanks to decorating in stages and taking the time to figure out what worked and what didn’t (the wrong paint color can be painted over & the wrong pillows, rugs and blinds can always be returned or upgraded down the line). Sometimes it’s the mistakes that tell you the most about what you like and get you a lot closer to pinning down your true style. So don’t be paralyzed with indecision- it won’t get you anywhere! You have to start somewhere, and after you try out these three style sleuthing tips you’ll hopefully have a nice little map that will get you closer to your own personal decorating holy grail.
But enough about what we think. We’d love to hear any and all tips that you guys have on the subject of pinning down your style and making your house feel welcoming, chic, and oh-so-you.
Psst- Looking for more decorating advice when it comes to pinning down your style and figuring out what will work. Here’s a post all about avoiding decorating ADD and here’s one about keeping things looking layered and lovely as opposed to hodge podge or matchy-matchy.