How to Decorate Series: Finding Your Decorating Style

Several years ago, I hosted a “How to Decorate ” series on my blog and had 20+ talented bloggers share their top decorating secrets. This week we are doing it again! Twenty-five talented bloggers will be sharing with you their top tips and tricks on how to decorate your home. I hope you’ll tune in each day! I am kicking off the series with tips on how to find your decorating style.

How to Find Your Decorating Style

So what are you? Are you contemporary? Traditional? Transitional? French Country? Rustic? Industrial? Mid-century modern? Coastal? Cottage? Eclectic? Overwhelmed and confused? If you google “how to find your decorating style” a myriad of quizzes will pop up promising to help you pinpoint your unique style. I know myself very well at this point and can tell you my style…and yet I received a slightly different decorating style conclusion on all of these quizzes. Some told me I was cottage, others said I was traditional, one said I was transitional, and another determined I was coastal. Quizzes that ask your favorite lipstick color, favorite dog, ideal drink, and ideal vacation, aren’t necessarily going to get to the root of your decor style! And the truth of the matter is that most of us are a healthy mix of several of the above categories. And the even BIGGER truth is that unless we live alone we are typically decorating with several personalities and styles in mind!

So let’s approach the question differently. Let’s first define what some of these styles look like today, and then explore ways to pinpoint how your unique (family’s) style fits into the mix. Before I start defining these, I should add a disclaimer that all of these definitions are up for debate. I’m going to do my best to define the styles as I see them, but know that you are free to disagree with me!   There are just too many styles to cover in one post, but I will highlight some of the most popular ones which should hopefully give you a sense of where you might fit in.

1. Contemporary

Contemporary style is often interchanged with “modern” which isn’t accurate. Contemporary decorating is about the “here and now”. It can best be characterized by: less is more, clean lines, emphasis on lines and form, neutral and tonal colors paired with bold pops of color, open spaces, and natural lighting. Here are some examples below that encapsulate the contemporary style.

2. Traditional

Traditional decorating is about comfort, coziness, rounded sofa arms, elegance, symmetrical arrangements, rich moldings and attention to woodwork. Classic traditional conjures up images rooted in old-English style—dripping in dark woods, heavy draperies, hunter green, and persian rugs. NEW traditional however is different. New traditional is classic and comfortable, but allows for some fun and youthfulness to be interjected.

3. Transitional

If contemporary and traditional got married and had a baby, that baby would be named transitional! Seems sort of like it should be named Trademporary or Contempditional, but those are harder to pronounce and might elicit teasing in the schoolyard. Transitional decorating finds the sweet spot between the comfort and warmth of traditional style and the clean lines and metallic goodness of contemporary style. This look usually has contemporary staple pieces of furniture paired with warm woods and sophisticated metallics.

4. Cottage

Cottage style decor is light, airy, personal and casual. Under this decor style umbrella you could include: rustic, farmhouse, coastal, country, french country, shabby chic and even industrial decor. Each of these styles has their own unique look, of course, but they share many commonalities. Cottage decor incorporates modest moldings such as plank walls, well-worn or reused vintage pieces, second hand treasures, and painted furniture. It is a look that is easy to achieve on a tight budget.

5. Eclectic

Eclectic decorating refers to mixing together styles from several different time periods and trends. It is a hodge podge of decorating styles and cannot be pinpointed one way or another. Sometimes bohemian and Moroccan styles are lumped under the eclectic decor umbrella–probably because eclectic rooms often have collectibles from travels as part of the mix. Eclectic

decor can look amazing or disastrous depending on how it is executed. Here are a few examples of eclectic decorating done right.

How to Find What Style Best Suits You

Did you find yourself gravitating to one set of pictures over the other? I appreciate elements from ALL of the pictures, but I wouldn’t choose to live in all of the rooms.

1. Gather photo inspiration by asking yourself ,”Would we feel comfortable living in this space?” 

Create pinboards on Pinterest and save magazine tears that speak to you. However, don’t just pin things you like. As you look at each image, ask yourself whether or not you and your family would feel comfortable actually living in that space? This will get to the heart of your style much more quickly than just pinning what you like. I have a pinboard called “My Style” for this very purpose.

2. Pay attention to which shelter magazines and catalogs you most enjoy.

Do you love your House Beautiful and Domino magazines more than your Country Living and Southern Living? Maybe Romantic Home and Cottage & Bungalows are your favorites? Or perhaps you look forward to the Pottery Barn & Ballard Designs catalogs arriving more than anything else? Pay attention to what excites you and you will find answers to your personal style questions!

2. Assess what you already own. 

Take a look around your rooms and determine what items you adore and what items you would change if you were able. Gathering clues from the things you cherish most will help you define your style. Do you have a well-loved deep-seated sofa that serves your family perfectly–even if it’s not in a fabric you adore? Do you love the clean lines of your grandma’s hand-me-down mid-mod coffee table? Do you have a new shiny lamp from Target that makes your heart sing? Find what you love in your home and it will spell out your style for you!

Don’t be afraid to make what you own work for your style! I define my style as transitional cottage, and I loved this dresser we inherited from my boy’s great grandparents. This piece of furniture has a rich family legacy, and I wanted to keep it within the family. To update it’s look for my boys’ room, I gave it a two-toned paint job and changed out the hardware to brass card catalog pulls. The piece is still traditional but fits my “transitional cottage” look much better than before.

3. Embrace what you love and forget about all those labels.

I know it’s weird to have my final tip on how to find your decorating style  basically telling you not to worry about finding your style! While it is important to know what you like, finding the exact words that box-in and neatly describe your style is much less important. Your ultimate goal here is to create a beautiful safe haven where you and your family feel nurtured and cared for. Defining what you like and what feels most like home will help you towards achieving this goal. Worrying too much over the exact words which describe your style will most likely stress you out! Stress is not the goal here, so to heck with the categories. Just focus on what fits and let go of finding the perfect words.

You can see in the collage above of my home that all of the rooms feel like they go together. This brings peace and unity to the look of my home and hopefully to my family! Have you ever walked into a home where the rooms felt confused and jumbled, like the owners’ just couldn’t make up their minds as to who they wanted to be? These homes often feel tense–as if the house is disunited and undergoing an identity crisis. When you get to the heart of knowing which decorating style feels right for you and yours, you are better able to create a peaceful and cohesive home. And ultimately you are able to create the home and family life of your dreams!

Looking for more tips on How to Decorate? Then you are going to LOVE this week! Next stop on your hop is Courtney from A Thoughtful Place. Enjoy!

How to Decorate Series


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