How to Figure Out Your Design Aesthetic
So! You’ve decided to renovate or remodel! Or perhaps you’re just buying fresh bedding or a new couch! I’m thrilled for you! But before you start the project, you need to get a firm grasp on your design aesthetic. It’s time to find your decorating style!
In a world of endless design options, how do you know what you want? How do you know what your personal decor aesthetic is? Knowing your interior design style is so important before you start making your decisions.
Making Decisions is hard!
Making a decision to remodel or build a new home is a gigantic decision. It’s a decision that intimidates most people. The reason renovation is hard is because you know both what a disruption it will be to your life, but also how many decisions you’ll have to make during the remodeling process.
Sure, renovating is expensive. It will likely go over budget – that’s a post for another time. But it’s the decisions that can really make the process arduous and stressful.
And the decision of what type of look you want for your home will be among the very questions people will ask you when you start creating a home design, and it may be the most difficult one for you to answer.
What is your home decor style?
Good Decision Making
I’ve always been a good decision maker. You could lay out ten fabrics in front of me and I’ll choose the one I like within a minute. You could show me a map of the entire country and ask me where I want to go on vacation, and I’ll have a decision within five minutes. It’s a trait that has served me well. But I understand that making decisions is not easy for everyone!
But here’s the thing – I’ve had a lot of practice. I’ve done three large remodels and several home facelifts over the years. Each time I do it, I get better at it. But each time I learned that my design style is pretty consistent. Rarely do I vary from it. There’s very much a blue/gray/gal theme in my design aesthetic and personal style!
Steps to Figuring out your Design Aesthetic
Before we even start using words like traditional, modern or farmhouse, we are starting with the basics. And the very basic thing is to feel design not talk about design.
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Step 1: Stop Thinking and Start Feeling
The first step to figuring out your design aesthetic is to stop thinking. I mean it! Stop. Thinking. You want to listen to how you feel when you walk into someones home or view a photo. Does a certain image make you smile and make you breathe deeper? Do you recoil when you look at a dark kitchen? Do you think your friend’s home feels welcoming?
Re-read that paragraph and notice a few key words: smile, deeper breaths, recoil, , welcoming, feel.
An important part of the discovering your design aesthetic is to take mental note of your emotional reaction to something. It’s the same way people react to art. Some people see Picasso and feel joy, intrigue, curiosity, passion. Some people look at Picasso and feel confusion, turmoil and chaos.
Don’t over think design and instead start over feeling design.
Step 2: Information Gathering
To discover your personal interior design style, start buying every home decor magazine you can get your hands on. Start following designers on social media, and sign up for a Pinterest account and make some Pinterest boards.
At this time you won’t be analyzing the photos you love. All you’re doing is pinning the image, saving it on Instagram or ripping the page out of a magazine.
Again, don’t over think it. Give yourself less than 5 seconds to react to something.
Example: you turn the page of a magazine and immediately make a sour face and shake your head in disgust. Flip the page quickly.
You turn the page of a magazine and your eyes open wide and your heart soars. Rip it out! Now move on! This is like speed dating. Quick reactions, you like it or you don’t.
Do not look at details of the design, instead have an emotional reaction to it. That’s all you’re doing in this first phase of discovering your style aesthetic.
Step 3: Quickly Analyze Your Saved Images
Once you’ve spent some time doing this (and that could mean weeks, months or years) it’s time to look at the overall. Look at the pins you saved, the magazine images you tore out, and the images you saved on social. Are you seeing a theme?
Perhaps you have a theme, perhaps you don’t. Or perhaps you don’t yet recognize the theme.
At this phase, you aren’t yet dissecting tile pattern, or even looking at hardware choices. You’re taking a quick glance to see if you find any patterns.
If you don’t yet see the patterns, it’s time to move onto Step 4 of discovering your design aesthetic…
Step 4: Ask yourself Questions
In order to find the pattern in what you like there are a few questions I want you to start asking yourself about the images you’ve been collecting:
- Are the colors all the same? Are they different?
- Do the fabrics in the image have bold patterns, or are they soft and neutral?
- Is the image bright and airy, or is it dark and moody?
- Does the image look peaceful and simple, or is it vibrant and full of color and life?
- Do you see dark wood in all of them, or lots of light colored wood?
- What about the furniture choices – are they masculine and heavy, or all wood with no fabric? Or perhaps every piece of furniture is covered in fabric and no wood in site?
- Do you see wallpaper? If so, what kind? Floral? Geometric? Grasscloth?
- Do the cabinets have exposed shelves?
- Is the backsplash colorful and bold?
I’m trying to get you to start thoughtfully analyzing the photos. Use a pen paper and start writing down words to describe each photo you have.
Example, here are photos of my own home in collage format. If I were to describe this myself, I’d use words like:
- Soft blue’s
- Light Gray’s
Step 5: Take a Cue from Your Closet
Take a look at my closet below. Is there anything hanging that’s red? What about in bold prints? What about anything overly traditional or brightly colored? It’s not a coincidence my home is designed in soft blue’s and gray’s!
Almost everything in my wardrobe airs on simplicity. What you decide to wear out into the world says a lot about you and what you like. Take a good long look at your closet and take mental notes. The pieces of the puzzle are all there for you to connect!
Step 6: Time to Play Detective
Alright, now we are diving in to really decode those patterns. I want you to start noticing color palettes and whether they are the same. Are you gravitating towards taupe? To blue’s and gray’s? To bold navy’s?
When you see a kitchen, does it have open shelves? Does it have two islands? Does it have a colorful backsplash?
Start staring at the image to dissect what you’re reacting to. It’s at this point you may be able to start putting your finger on your design aesthetic.
When I first starting learning my personal design style, I began noticing there were always a few cohesive things:
- I love tone on tone. I love various shades of taupe layered in one place. I love various shades of blue’s layered in one place. Never ever did I mix a strong blue with a strong red. I consistently liked rooms layered in all the same color, just with various shades of it.
- Rarely did I gravitate towards patterns. I seemed to like neutral fabrics.
- I liked bright and airy spaces, and nothing too dark.
- Nothing too busy, nothing too colorful – just peaceful, clean spaces.
When it came to the specific details, I started to notice I really loved:
- Simple design with a clean backsplash
- Two islands, one for sitting at, one for cooking on
- White cabinets
- Adding in my favorite blue/gray color somehow but. not an overly blue or gray kitchen. I didn’t love blue cabinets.
- I liked closed shelves in my main kitchen to hide clutter
- An overall feeling of lightness, simplicity and a clutter free environment.
If you can’t yet see the details and dig them out, save your photos and look at them every week with fresh eyes. There’s a pattern there, I’m sure. And if there’s not, show a friend and see if they can decode it. Better yet – a designer!
Step 7: You are More than One Thing
That last step involves some self acceptance and grace. You are not one note. It’s very possible to be a modern traditionalist or a simple, bold person! The same is true in design.
Interior designers are experts because they can execute so many different designs. Accept that you are more than a collection of three design words. Accept that while you may want your kitchen bright and airy, that you still may want a dark and moody office!
Design is fun. Design is playful. And tastes are ever changing and evolving. Follow what you feel is the right path for you at that time, and know that – hey, you can always change it in five years time! When you find your design style, embrace it and be proud of it. Your home is a representative of who you are – in the best way possible!