After years of looking at decor sites, blogs, books, and magazines, I've noticed that it can be hard to determine what my own style really is. New things come, old things go, and when you're faced with an ever-revolving set of choices, it's easy to lose sight of the things that really speak to you. Here are some suggestions for holding on to your own taste when you're (often unconsciously) guided by a sea of inspiration.
1. Think about the other objects in your home that give you joy. You've already got some stuff in your home that gives you that "ah, yes" feeling every time you use it or look at it. Consider those objects and ask yourself just what it is about them that gives you joy. Do they have a similar style? Are they in a palette of related colors? Do they all have a vintage vibe? Are they all shiny? Elegant? Modern? Cozy? Handmade? Do they have great back support, or do you like them because they look just right in the sunlight? Do they make you laugh, or are they dark and moody? Whatever it is, see if you can come up with those ineffable "just right" qualities. Whether they're physical characteristics or psychological ones, they will help you figure out what it is that you find meaningful in your home.
2. Oversaturate yourself and see if it still strikes a chord. When it comes to online inspiration, I know that I have a tendency to gravitate toward certain items or styles. But, especially if it's trendy, it's hard to know whether I'm truly in love with something that just happens to be trendy or whether that feeling will fade in a few weeks. For example, I keep saving images with white walls and leather sofas. Do I love this look, or do I just love it for now? Look through every photo you've pinned, saved, or clipped that embodies that trait, and if you find yourself getting bored with the look after seeing umpteen interiors with the same look, then it may be a passing fancy. If it's got staying power, you will keep feeling delight, even though it's been pinned to death.
3. Take a step away. On the other hand, if you're just feeling way too confused, jumbled, and stimulated, there's nothing wrong with giving up on magazines and blogs for a month or two. Give your brain time to rest and recharge. By missing out on a few months of trends, you probably won't be missing out that much at all. And you might gain clarity about what it is that makes you happy about design. Coming at it with fresh eyes is always more inspiring than being exhausted. I always have to remember that just because I work with interiors, there can be such a thing as too much exposure.
4. Be a patient decorator. We've talked before about the value of being a slow decorator, but here's another instance in which it's a great idea. If you've been wanting that same print on Etsy for eight months, and you still love it just as much, then go for it. If you've been pinning rooms with purple walls for two years, then chances are, your love of purple walls isn't a passing whim. Try to resist impulse buys unless you are certain that they are something you love. But don't give into the temptation to get it just because it's okay, it's cheap, or it's something you saw on a blog somewhere. And if possible, give yourself time to come back to it. If you still savor it, think about it, and long for it after the initial delight of finding it, then the odds are good that it's something you truly love.
5. Try to articulate what it is about a particular style that you like. See a picture of a room that you think is absolutely the bee's knees? Try to sort out just what it is about that room that speaks to you. In fact, you may even want to write it down! By putting it into words, you're transforming visual stimulation into developed verbal concepts, and you may find that your love of the room has more to do with the quality of the light, the soft look of the bedding, or the simplicity of the furnishings than with the more obvious decorative elements. Shifting into this contemplative mode will also help you to engage more deeply with the picture, and you may find even more to love (or you may find that, when it comes down to brass tacks, you're not so smitten after all).
6. Tune out the judgments. Sure, you may have bought that beni ourain rug while it was trendy, and sure, you may see them everywhere now, and sure, you may read ten blog posts a week about how "over" they are. But when push comes to shove, none of that matters. Do you love it? Are you glad you bought it? Does it still give you joy? Then great! Just because someone is sick of your rug doesn't mean that you are. Conversely, just because everyone suddenly touts painting your room pink doesn't mean that you have to like pink rooms. Listen to your gut. Advice, trends, and decor guidelines are meant to help you create a home you love; they aren't meant to be hard and fast rules that dictate your tastes.
7. Don't be afraid to make mistakes (and to admit them). So, a year ago you went ahead and bought that same piece of art that everyone else on the internet bought. You've seen it so many times, you're sick of it, or maybe you've realized that you never really loved it in the first place. That's totally fine. While it may be ideal that every purchase you make is one that lasts, we don't live in an ideal world. When it doesn't hold you like it used to, then give yourself the freedom to move on. Give it to a charity shop, give it to a friend, sell it on Craigslist—whatever. Someone else is out there who hasn't seen it a million times and who may think it's the best thing they've ever seen. Don't fear mistakes. Acknowledge them and then just keep moving.