As a part-time designer, one question I am asked frequently is, “How do I find my style?” This question usually comes from frustrated homeowners who regularly consume images of well-appointed, complete spaces on social media or Pinterest but can’t figure out how to achieve that in their own homes. My hope is that these “5 Steps to Finding Your Style” will help ease that frustration.
Over time, and through a lot of observation, I’ve discovered that there are two categories of people looking to define their style:
1) Those who are content with adopting a style, such as farmhouse, and taking it all the way, from shiplap to subway tile.
2) Those who are tired of trends, lost in a sea of sameness on social media, and want to carve out a personal style in their little corner of the world.
“Style is a way to say who you are without having to speak.” Rachel Zoe
I have been in both categories believe it or not. Once upon a time, my husband and I slapped some shiplap on the wall, chose subway tile for our backsplash, installed open shelving, and built a farmhouse table. We were ALL in (before everybody else was)! After realizing we didn’t live in a farmhouse, I found myself restless and wanting to change the things I could to more accurately reflect our home’s style and our family’s point of view. It took a lot of intention and time, but I finally discovered my style and was SO happy that our house looked and felt like us. From our first house that I drenched in early 2000’s décor to the house that shaped me as a designer, my experience with finding my own style has run the gamut. So wherever you are in your style journey, rest assured, I get it.
Before I was here…
I was here:
And before that, I was here:
One frustration I’ve heard and had myself is that this process of creating one look in your home only to discover it isn’t really you, then changing it so that it IS you, is a waste of time, finances, and brain power. But I’m here today, more confident in my style than I’ve ever been, to tell you that it’s NOT a waste of anything…it’s actually a necessary part of finding your style.
I’m sorry and you’re welcome.
I’m sorry that, like me, you will probably have to go through a few iterations of a space before you find the look that most accurately reflects who you are. I’m sorry that this probably means a lot of returns and/or exchanges. As you’re standing in the return line though, take comfort in the fact that those of us who have found our style paved the way ahead of you and stood many hours in lines just like the one you’re in. I’m sorry I cannot give you a formula to instantly find your style so you can go out and purchase everything you need to make your home feel cozy, welcoming, stylish, and most importantly, like YOU.
You’re welcome for the dose of reality. Unless you start young, have a designer for a parent, or are a genius in the design department, it will take years to fully discover your style, then fine tune it, and finally be confident in it. I remember meeting two seasoned designers at my first trip to market a few years ago, and they said, “Don’t buy anything. You’re here to train your eyes.” I quickly discovered market was an exercise in discernment; learning to shuffle through the myriad of stuff you can use to design a space and extract only that which delights your soul and speaks to you or serves a purpose beautifully.
THIS is what you must learn to do; discern.
It’s what we’ve ALL had to do to get to the place where we can tell others what to put in their homes in a way that is special only to them. It’s what we’ve ALL had to do to arrive at a place of confidence in our personal styles for our own homes. Instead of market though, you have Home Goods, Target, and thrift and antique stores, among other retailers to choose from. But the concept is the same, and it’s just like anything else…it requires work.
Though there is no formula for finding your style, I have condensed my years-long style journey down to five steps you can take to put you well on your way to finding your own style. If this seems like too much, I suggest looking into hiring a designer; we’re paid to do this work for you in a short amount of time.
Step 1: Take a few design quizzes.
It may sound hokey, but they’re a start and they can actually help you begin to identify what you like and don’t like. I’ve taken several style quizzes (and took about five new ones in preparation for writing this post) and I’m sharing only my favorites with you. *Make sure you check out the giveaway related to these quizzes at the end of this post.
- This quiz from Apartment Therapy asks you one visual question and is BY FAR the easiest way to get a general overview of your style. I was surprised at how spot on it was!
- I was hesitant about this Houzz quiz’s results being accurate but lo and behold, they were!
- I liked this quiz from Lonny because it described styles differently than most quizzes, which I found to be helpful.
- This is the final quiz (from Decorist) that I found to be both helpful and accurate.
I like to say there is no label for my style (I like what I like), but if I HAD to put words to it, these would be the most accurate:
Step 2: Take a tour of your house and make a list of the things that make you happy and are representative of you.
Why do this? Because the past should be a guide to the future. If you walk through your house and say, “I’m over this,” then you already have guidance on what NOT to purchase going forward. When I wanted to change the breakfast nook in our last house, I still loved the planked wall, but was so over farmhouse and wanted a more modern take on everything else in the space. On the other hand, if you tour your home and still love your style of furniture, your pillow arrangement, or anything else, let that guide you when making future purchases and style changes. Once you’ve compiled your list of things you still love and things you’re “so over,” refer back to it every time you find yourself stuck in analysis paralysis or tempted to make an impulsive purchase. Stay true to you!
Step 3: Determine what category of homeowner you are…and OWN IT!
If you just want a finished space and farmhouse is your jam (does anyone even say that anymore?), don’t be ashamed of that! This is similar to type-casting for an actor. Some actors despise being type-cast into the same role over and over, and some are thankful for being type-cast because it’s job security and they are comfortable within that particular role. Some homeowners want their home to be completely original to them and others want their home to look like it was just featured on Fixer Upper. One is not better than the other. It’s just easier when you’ve determined which type you are so you can move forward.
Does this stir your soul and make you feel like you’re home?
Or does this evoke more of a reaction from you?
If you are the type that desires originality in your home, and you are looking to really hone in on what style reflects you, speaks to you, and would tell anybody coming into your home what your family is about, hold onto that, write yourself a note, do whatever it takes to remind yourself of that when you start to lose steam and just want to finish a space. Yours will be a longer journey, but the end result will leave you at peace with your home, and everything you place in your home will bring you joy, tell your story, and have staying power.
“Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” – William Morris
Step 4: Train your eyes.
As I mentioned before, everybody who is confident in their style has trained their eyes to discern not only what they like (I like everything from super modern pieces to chippy antique furniture), but what is truly representative of who they are. Walk the aisles at Home Goods, Target, antique stores, or whatever your favorite retailer is, and use your phone to take pictures of everything that catches your eye. Do the same with Pinterest and Instagram images. Once you have collected several photos on your phone or computer, take some time to review them, paying close attention to the things that STILL bring you joy or resonate with you after you’ve separated yourself from the retail or online environment. You can do this with furniture, fabrics, and accessories, and it will prevent you from buyer’s remorse…well, it will help cut it down. I DO believe in trying things out in your home and returning them if they aren’t right though, which brings me to the final step.
Step 5: Bite the bullet or slow your roll.
If you haven’t made any progress whatsoever because you are afraid of commitment, haven’t figured out your style yet, or are consuming too many images of different styles on Instagram, the best thing you can do is BITE THE BULLET. Make a purchase, big or small, to get the ball rolling.
Conversely, if you have a space full of things you’ve purchased on impulse or boxes arriving at your house weekly because you’ve been influenced by every different style on social media, SLOW YOUR ROLL. Take some time to go through steps 1-4 until you’ve calmed down, at least narrowed down what you don’t like, and can move forward with purchases that are intentional and represent you and the way your family lives. In either case, you WILL have to make returns, spend time tweaking, and live with decisions that may change, but taking action is the only way you will ever achieve the goal of finding your style.
“The most effective way to do it is to do it.” – Amelia Earhart
I’m a grand scheme kind of gal who needs to know why I’m doing something in order for it feel justified, especially with something as seemingly insignificant as a personal home style. After nearly 14 years of being a stay-at-home mom and 17 years as a homemaker, I can confidently tell you this is NOT insignificant. Nor is it trivial, shallow, or materialistic…all things I have associated with interior design in my past.
Home is important. Home should be valued and prioritized…with a heavy dose of perspective of course. Home is where we shelter our families, welcome guests and loved ones, and reflect the beauty of the One who created us. The only reason we should ever feel guilty about paying attention to our homes is if we’re putting our families into debt, not fulfilling our responsibilities because we’re obsessing over the look of our homes, or if our motives are wrong and we’re simply trying to keep up with the Jones’s.
Above all else, the goal of finding your style should be to create peace, beauty, function, and safety within your home.
I hope this 5-step guide to finding your style helps you achieve that goal. Do the work, give it some time, and you WILL find the style that represents you best. Perhaps my giveaway (below) will help kick start your style journey or add the finishing layer to your space.