10 Tips on Developing Your Own Style

published Feb 17, 2014
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I’ve always thought that the best House Tours on Apartment Therapy are the ones that clearly reflect individual styles and tastes. These looks into others’ homes definitely inspire us all to want to create spaces that show off our own personalities, but that sometimes can be easier said than done. If you are feeling stuck, here are some tips to help you be mindful and stay purposeful about developing your own style!

1. Surround yourself with inspiration. You are already on your way because you are here! Spending time on websites is a great way to see the range of what is out there. The benefit of being part of the online community is that you get a glimpse into different homes and styles from all over the world. But don’t just stop there: be aware that viewing different kinds of interiors is a way to help you develop your opinions. As you look at a photograph of a room, decide what you like and don’t like about it, and why. Remember that the point is not to perfectly imitate a photo that you like; it is much more interesting and special if you can cull the elements that you like from various sources to build your own vision. Collect photos that appeal to you on a Pinterest board or in a desktop folder. Over time, as you look back at your collection, you will see unifying themes and will have a better understanding of your likes and dislikes. It may also be helpful to make notes about the designer or stylist of your favorite interiors as you go.

2. Think about this process of developing your style as a long-term process. You do not need to determine what your style is overnight. The learning process is extremely valuable in establishing a strong sense of style. No one is born with good taste; it is born out of putting in the time to build the knowledge base, thinking about what goes on behind the scenes, and understanding what makes something beautiful. This process will help you trust the opinions that you do have and give you confidence in your style choices. Practically, this means that you don’t have to put pressure on yourself to ‘finish’ a room or a house all at once if it seems like a daunting and expensive task; instead, embrace the pace of adding things one at a time, learning as you go. If you don’t know where to start, it may be helpful to designate a project for a specific period of time. For example, I have been wanting to replace my coffee table, but since we don’t have the money right now to buy the exact table I want, I have decided to makeover the one I have now, and I have given myself the deadline of the end of March to finish it.

3. Get personal. Take a day to sit down and go through your favorite personal belongings. It could be items that you’ve brought back from a trip, or things that you have collected over time, like bowls, old photographs, posters, wooden animals, cigar boxes, or rocks. Think about the things that you love – it could be food, cooking, maps, a particular culture, a color, illustrations, books, movies. Take time to brainstorm about how you can incorporate all of these things into your environment in a way that is visually appealing. Integrating these pieces into your home will help determine your own personal style and make your home feel like a reflection of who you are. Noa Santos of HomePolish says that one of the ways that they determine a client’s style is to take a look at what they collect.

4. Mix and match. A refreshing trend in the field of interior design these days is the move towards mixing different mediums and styles. I love this because I think it makes for a really interesting overall aesthetic. You may like an old vintage chair that you found at a thrift store, but you might also like the super modern clear coffee table you’ve been eyeballing from ABC Carpet & Home. Take note of these two different styles and think about how you could create a room that blends modern and vintage pieces.

5. Walk through the space that you have. Make sure you understand your space by taking a walk through your home with an objective eye. Make a mental checklist as you go of things that you like and don’t like about your space right now, and figure out why. This inventory will help inform the decorating decisions and purchases you make in the future.

6. Think both functional and beautiful. When you look at a picture of an interior you like, ask yourself, “Would I like relaxing there?” “Would I feel comfortable living in that space every day?” It seems like such an obvious question to ask, but sometimes we forgo the practical for the aesthetic, and this puts an unnecessary pressure on the way we decorate and design our home. Think about how you will use the space that you have every day, in conjunction with the overall beauty.

7. Only splurge on things that you really truly love. While you are in the beginning stages of developing your style, you don’t have to spend a ton of money on fancy items. Look into ways that you can clean or convert old furniture, go thrifting, or look up IKEA hacks. Having to be creative with the budget that you have right now will also help further develop your style. And since your style will most likely change and develop over time, you don’t want to commit to a sofa or dining table unless you know you will love it for years to come. By the time you do have a budget to buy some of your favorite things, you will be able to purchase with confidence.

8. If at a loss, start with neutrals. This will give you a foundation upon which to build. If you have to buy a big piece of furniture and are paralyzed by having to make a decision about the color, go with a neutral. A neutral can be black, white or beige, but it can also different shades of grey (or in my case, gold!). You can always add more colors, chairs, accessories, arts, blankets, plants, etc. to style your space as you go. If you feel like you are at the blank slate stage, it’s a great place to be, because you already have the foundation on which to build your style. If you feel like your space is cluttered, take this as an opportunity to simplify and de-clutter! In the simplifying process, you could trade pieces that don’t work for you, sell them on Craigslist, or donate them to the Goodwill or Salvation Army.

9. Notice spaces. When you go into a store, restaurant or an office, make observations about how they have placed furniture, and the colors and textures that are being used. These places are usually designed by professional interior decorators, and once you start taking notice, you will begin to see design choices that were made to bring a space together and create a specific atmosphere.

10. Take pictures of your own space as you go. As you paint that wall, put up those frames or rearrange your furniture, take photos to document your progress. It will be eye-opening and educational to look back on some of your decorating choices in the past and see how far you’ve come.

What are some of your tips on developing a personal sense of style, and what kinds of things have worked for you in the past?