How to Find Your Personal Design Style, According to the Experts

updated May 3, 2019
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(Image credit: Emma Fiala)

Fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent was onto something when he famously said, “Fashions fade, style is eternal.” Your personal style is so much more than haphazardly throwing on a T-shirt and pair of jeans; it’s a reflection of who you are. It’s as much a part of your identity as your job or Instagram feed.

So why should your home be any different? Let’s face it: With the exception of your office, you probably spend the most time in your home so it’s important your space reflects you.

Of course, your personal style doesn’t just emerge overnight. It takes time, some soul-searching, and a few rounds of trial and error. To help you dive head-first into domestic bliss, here are five tips for finding your personal style.

1. Get Into the Mood

With so many beautiful design trends and styles to choose from, it can be challenging to find an aesthetic that feels uniquely your own. For Jessica Davis, interior designer and founder of Nest Studios, it’s all about creating a comprehensive moodboard.

“A collection of images that speak to how you live, then hone in on images that strike a chord—even if you can’t figure out what it is,” she says. “When you start to see it all together, you then find the common themes.”

While you can create your moodboard the old-fashioned way (read: cutting and pasting magazine clippings), you can always streamline the process by creating a Pinterest board. Pssst… don’t forget to follow Apartment Therapy’s Pinterest for some serious design inspo.

2. Put Your Lifestyle First

We’d love to live in a pristine house filled with fancy furniture as much as the next person, but the truth is it’s not the most conducive with your lifestyle—especially if you have kids or pets.

Your home should be a place where you can actually kick up your feet and unwind, so it’s important to design it with that in mind.

“Instead of spending a lot of time trying to name that one complete look that is precisely ‘you,’ focus on your space and your lifestyle,” says Donna Garlough, style director for Joss & Main. “Are you more casual or do you like a more polished home? Do you have kids or pets? Do you have small rooms that require compact furniture with a lot of hidden storage? Then, let that information help steer you while you shop for pieces that speak to you—you know, those items that make you say, ‘Oooh, I love that!'”

3. Experiment, Experiment, Experiment

Just because your closet is full of wardrobe staples in neutral color palettes doesn’t mean you’re going to gravitate to Scandinavian or minimalist design.

“How we present ourselves can be very different from where we want to spend our lives,” says interior designer Barry Goralnick. “I’ve had clients who dress in monochrome palette with hard clean lines and little accessories, who respond best to lush, rich, colorful rooms with layers of details.”

While Goralnick asks his clients a series of questions to better understand their personal preferences, you can also hone in on your personal style by paying close attention to what you’re liking on your social media feeds.

4. Take it Slow

They say that Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither was your home’s jaw-dropping decor. When it comes to building a home that speaks to you, slow and steady wins the race.

“Collect pieces… as you come across them,” says Joy Cho, founder and creative director of lifestyle brand Oh Joy!

That way, you can purchase items that you truly love, versus settling for whatever you see at the store or online right when you need something.

Speaking of taking your time, it’s important to understand your style will likely evolve over the next few years.

“My design style today is completely different than it was 15 years ago,” shares Abbe Fenimore, interior designer and founder of Studio Ten 25. “After college, I acquired a hodgepodge of furniture, art, and random accessories from family and friends, and by the time I moved into my first home with my husband, I realized that I had no idea what I even liked!”

So while you shouldn’t rush into any big design decisions, don’t be afraid to discard the decor that no longer fits your aesthetic.

5. Get Happy

Not to get all Marie Kondo on you, but your home should be a place that sparks joy in your day-to-day life. And while you don’t have to cleanse your entire space, it’s important to fill each room with pieces you really love.

“Think of the things that make you happy, whether it’s a travel destination, a color, or a favorite restaurant,” says Caroline Grant and Dolores Suarez, co-founders of Dekar Design. “That will give you a great starting point to refer back to as your style evolves.”

We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.