Updated: Aug 9, 2021
One of the most frequent frustrations we hear when clients call to inquire about our design services is that they are not sure what their design style is.
In their minds, they have to have a defined style when they approach an interior designer.
I don't know about other design firms, but it is quite the contrary for us. We don't expect our clients to know exactly what their design style is, or even the specifics of the design they would like.
Unless a client has done a ton of research, including historical references, they will most likely not know how to communicate what style they would like to see in their home.
It is actually our job as the designer, to ask the right questions, analyze their needs through their lifestyle, hobbies, routines, background, aspirations, personal style, and assess the existing space.
What we have found, if we ever ask a client what their design style is (which we typically don't), is that their style tends to be whatever is trending online.
Without a deep knowledge of interior design styles throughout history, most consumers are going to want what they see in the mainstream market place as good design. This is why the farm house design style and the Restoration Hardware catalog decorating became so popular.
There is nothing wrong with wanting a popular design style if it truly speaks to you and it is how you want to feel in your home, but usually what happens is that homeowners will simply conform to what's available, even if is not really true to them. Consumers no longer really have their own ideas of what they want their home to be and how they want it to feel, because big box retailers have been very clever with their marketing.
They send out large catalogs with well styled spaces right to your home, they show up in your feed as you scroll on social media, they even re-market to you if you've shown any interest in their products or that of their competitors. Simply put, catalog decorating is so in our faces, it is no wonder that's what homeowners think they need, and even what some designers default to.
Designing your home is all about expressing yourself. It is about individuality. And just as you are unique, your home environment should reflect what's unique about you.
This is where our design firm comes in. We make it all about you - not the products we are trying to sell, like most big box stores. Their first order of business is to make a sale. Ours is how you feel in your home and what will bring you the most joy.
Once we have assessed your space and have gotten the functional aspects squared away, we want to understand how you want to experience your home. What will bring you the most joy.
Because the decorating phase is more subjective and experiential, our approach is to make sure we are asking the right questions. This includes, how do you want to feel in your home? This question is much easier for a client to answer than "what is your decorating style?"
These are not necessarily rapid fire questions we are asking our clients at the consultation - that would be super intimidating. Haha. Instead, we get to know you. This information comes up in regular conversations we are having. Or as we are touring your home, we may see something that piques our interest, and we will ask more about it. Some of this information you will feel compelled to share with us without us having to ask. It is a very organic approach that we find helps us truly understand your design goals.
Your family history and family life now
Your personal fashion/style
What you do for a living
Your favorite travel spots
Trips you'd love to take one day
Your hobbies and interests
Your normal routines
Now this doesn't mean that we don't have clients who know exactly what they want. Maybe they will show some inspiration photos (although our clients rarely do), or they can sum it up in one word or object, and then our job is to interpret that into their space.
We are working with a client now, who told us from the initial discovery call that he wanted everything ancient Egyptian. I mean he wanted it to be literal. Of course we don't have access to the things that were available in ancient Egypt, but we can definitely take our cue from the historical references we have and interpret it in his home - without being literal
Without giving away too much of what we are doing for this client, since we are still in the early stages of this whole house remodel, I am sharing the dining room concept (3D rendering) that we created for him.
This client clearly knew what he wanted, although he may have been more interested in a more themey approach, our job was to interpret this in a more sophisticated way that would work for everyday living. This is carefully analyzing his needs as well as the space.
The home is a traditional style home in its architecture, with red brick facade. Therefore we are bringing in the wainscoting to give a nod to the home's architecture. We also recommended that he installs walnut engineered wood floors. The dining room currently has inexpensive red mahogany looking floors that cannot be refinished.
The dramatic art deco inspired wallpaper is the big hint at the Egyptian style he wanted, and notice the animal style legs on the dining room chairs - something you would see in ancient Egyptian style. We are also bringing in black silk draperies, green mohair on the chairs with a metallic gold trim detail for a more regal flavor. Even the light fixture has the palm detail that is very popular in Egyptian architecture and design.
The tall sculpture and art we are making very literal to satisfy our client's original request. These elements are more temporary and can be moved out of the room in case his style/mood and desires change over time. Otherwise, the other Egyptian-inspired elements are pretty timeless and can work with other design styles.
Here is another situation where a long time client who LOVES color, maybe even more than I do, asked for a restful retreat in one of the rooms in her new home
This was the living room where they planned to spend time as a family and entertain friends.
She asked for whites and calm and subdued, with not much color.
This is not her typical style, but this is the mood she wanted for this room. We did several other rooms in this home, and they are all pretty colorful.
This is the master bedroom in the very same home.
The key to achieving a home that you will always love and will be just your style for years to come is to create a more "storied" and "collected over time" design.
This means that you include elements from the life you have lived (your family heirlooms), the things that are meaningful to you (things from your travels or gifts from loved ones), the things that you love (maybe a favorite color, motif or object), things that are unique to you (your collections) and even some things that are on trend.
You should avoid matching sets of furniture at all costs - that is by nature the very definition of catalog decorating and not honoring your individuality.
The spaces that look and feel the best includes furnishings from several genres and periods, even if they are reproductions, and even if a designer came in and installed them all in one day. They should be thoughtfully curated for you, once all your needs, wants and other factor addressed above are considered.
Function, form, balance, harmony, rhythm, color, pattern, beautiful, specially designed details that resonate with you and uplifts you some way is the result we are after. This is why the spaces we design for clients will always include beautiful textiles, wallcoverings, pattern-mix, finishes and textures. The layers matter.
One thing to note as well, not because something is trending now, doesn't make it a bad thing. Actually, I am for including something that is on trend in your space. This makes it feel fresh and in line with the times.
What I mean is don't avoid marble countertops for example because it is trending now. Marble is one of those very timeless elements that will always be relevant. Some things that are trending lately are actually great. Wainscoting, wall paneling, coffered ceilings are great examples of that. They are architectural gems to include in your home - although I see too many liberties being taken with the more abstract, geometric types. I addressed that in our June 2021 Newsletter - Lux Domain HERE
Color seems to be the biggest trip up for homeowners, because they tend to follow the trends or they try to fit it into what they think their style is, based on what is mainstream. Remember how popular gray was a few years ago thanks to Magnolia home? Gray is still trying to hold on, but as people are recently trying to create a haven in their home since the pandemic last year, they are more interested in their home telling their story and speaking more to their personality.
If you love black (like I do), go for it, whether or not it is on trend.
This study above was created for the ASID showhouse a few years ago, and there was a client involved, and her style informed the casual french style of the rest of the home. Because this was a showhouse and not designed specifically for this client, I went with the aesthetic that I personally love.
Bunny Williams is right. Your style simply boils down to decorating with what you love.
If you buy what you love, you will see that there are many similarities, and they will naturally go together. Of course, design principles still play a role in artfully arranging them, but the point here is to surround yourself with what you love.
Maybe you love collecting original art and supporting local artists - display them as a gallery wall, whether gallery walls are on trend. Of course you can then decide if you want a more maximalist or modern version. Whatever will be more pleasing to you.
Before you fall for the room package in the glossy catalog, think about what you want to be surrounded by all the time. Think about what will still appeal to you years after the current trend is passe.
Design should never be about keeping up with the Joneses. It should never look like your neighbor down the street, and it should never be straight off a showroom floor.
Start with identifying what the challenge is you are having with your space now; what negative feelings it brings out in you, and then think of how you would like it to look and feel ideally. Think about your functional needs, the things that will bring you comfort and the little things that will bring you joy.
If you need help creating a home that will uplift you everyday, we would love to help. Schedule an in home consultation and let's start the conversation
Wishing You Beauty And Inspiration