If you are trying to figure out what your decorating style is, this simple 5 step process will show you how to figure it out, and make interior design decisions so much easier.
If there’s one thing that a lot of people seem to have trouble with when it comes to decorating, it’s deciding on a style.
With so many beautiful pictures available on Pinterest and Instagram and blogs and home magazines, it’s easy to get confused.
Everything looks stunning! How can you possibly figure out which one is right for you?
I usually live by the mantra “if you love it, it will go”. And I do still believe in that saying.
But sometimes it’s hard to tell the things that you love to look at in someone else’s room…versus what you would love to live with in your own home every day.
And so you end up buying that beautiful blue distressed leather ottoman.
Only to get it home and find that no matter where you put it, it just doesn’t look right. (Yes, that was me!).
You keep moving it from one room to the next because you really love it, but it doesn’t fit in anywhere.
Or you like it for a while and then get tired of it (and it finds a new home at the Goodwill).
Even though you like the way it looks, it’s not really your style (that blue ottoman was a little too traditional for my style).
That’s where defining your own personal decorating style can help.
When you see something that you like, you can ask yourself if it fits with your style…before you lug it home and decide that it doesn’t.
And I’ll let you in on a secret…it probably won’t be just one style.
For most of us, that’s good news! It’s too hard to choose only one style to love 🙂
But how do you figure out what your decorating style is? That’s what we’re about to find out.
Step 1 | Find Pictures That You Love
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For the first step, all you need to do is collect pictures that you love.
You don’t have to love everything in them. And they don’t even have to be pictures of rooms.
If you find a beautiful picture in a magazine, tear it out (or take a picture of it with your phone).
If you see a beautiful garden or a painting or have a favorite piece of clothing or even one of your own rooms that you already love, take a picture for your collection.
If you stumble across a sofa online that you absolutely love, save the picture.
Save everything that inspires you!
Step 2 | Store The Pictures In One Place
The later steps in this process will be easier if you store all of your pictures in one place.
So decide whether you want to go with digital pictures or printed copies. (If you are going to print them yourself, it helps to have a color printer.)
If you want to take the digital route, Pinterest is a great way to store your pictures.
Create a board for your style inspiration.
Then save (or upload) all of those pictures that you love to that board.
For those of you who aren’t too familiar with Pinterest and need some help, click on these links to get more information:
- How to create a board
- Install the browser Pin button that will let you pin from almost any website
- Pin images to your board, including pictures you have taken yourself
If you are going to stick with printed pictures, get yourself a file folder, large Ziploc bag or a bulletin board where you can store all of the pictures in one place.
Then keep collecting for a few days.
Once you have at least 50 pictures saved (and it could be more if you like saving pictures), then you are ready to move on to the next step.
Step 3 | Review Your Choices
Ideally, you should wait a day or two before doing this next step.
It helps to look at the pictures you’ve saved with “fresh eyes”.
Then go through them all and decide if you still really love them.
Don’t be afraid to delete (or throw away) some of the pictures.
Every time I have done this exercise, there are always a few pictures that I can’t for the life of me figure out what I thought was so great about them 🙂
Step 4 | Categorize The Pictures
Next, you’re going to identify common elements.
Look at each picture individually and decide what you like about the way it looks.
Is it the color? Is it a particular style of furniture? Or the type of fabric? Do you really like the metal color? Or the type of stone used? Do you like how uncluttered the room is? Or the funky accessories? Or the pattern?
Write down what you like about each one.
If you’re doing this on Pinterest, you can also edit the pin description to add a few words there if you would rather. (Go here to read the “Edit, move or delete a Pin” section of the Pinterest instructions to learn how).
If you’re doing it on paper, number each picture so you can tie it back to what you wrote down.
If you want, you can group the pictures by their main element.
Put all of the ones with bright colors together. All of the ones with clean lines together. All of the ones with zebra print wallpaper together.
That will make them a little easier to refer back to.
Then go back through your descriptions and pull out the ones that were repeated a lot.
Did you have a whole bunch of white marble and gold? Or rustic wood accessories? Or bright colors? Velvet sofas? Mirrors? Whatever it is that you see over and over again…each one of those items becomes an element of your style.
Step 5 | Give Your Decorating Style A Name
The final stage is to figure out what decorating styles all of those things you like fit into. And chances are it won’t be just one.
Kimberly at Swoon Worthy suggests using 3 words to describe your decorating style, and I think that works perfectly! (She also has some great tips on how to find pins on Pinterest that help define your style, so be sure to take a look if you need some more inspiration).
Three words give you just enough room to come up with a decorating style name that is personalized for you, without being so broad that it includes everything.
Of course, if you only need two words, or can’t narrow it down to anything less than four…that is fine, too. It is your decorating style 🙂
You can use the names of the decorating styles themselves as in “Bohemian Industrial Cottage”.
Or if there is another descriptive word that you like better, feel free to use it.
Use whatever will help you remember your choices whenever you need to make a decorating decision.
Here’s How It Worked For Me
Going through my board, I love textured fabrics (like velvet), mirrors, gold (and silver), black lacquered furniture, chandeliers, bright colors, black and white, animal prints, geometric patterns, Chinoiserie, Chesterfield sofas and architectural elements (like panel moldings and ceiling medallions).
So I came up with Transitional Deco Glam.
The chandeliers, Chesterfield sofas, and architectural details that I love are traditional but usually with a modern twist that make them more transitional.
The black lacquered furniture, metals, textured fabrics and geometric patterns are all Art Deco.
And the mirrors, colors, animal prints, and Chinoiserie are Hollywood Regency…which I shortened to Glam since I didn’t want to limit myself. I love all kinds of glam decor!
Now that you have your personal decorating style defined, you’re all set to get out there and decorate!
But How Do I Know The Styles?
Not sure what elements go with each style? Don’t worry, you’re not alone!
A good place to start is to look at the descriptions of your pins or pictures. You can see “Glam” and “Art Deco” are actually in the images of 2 of my pins.
If you’re still having trouble figuring it out, you can use my decorating styles matrix to help you narrow down the list of potential styles for your design elements.
Use Your Style to Make Decorating Decisions (And Avoid Mistakes)
Finally…the big benefit of creating a decorating style?
You can use it to make the right decisions.
I now have a replacement for the blue ottoman.
The new version is still tufted leather, but the black and white colors, round shape and glass top all make it fit much better with my Transitional Deco Glam style.
While it may not seem necessary to actually have a name for your style, I think it makes it easier to make design style choices.
First, it can help you choose the stores that represent your style.
And second, before you buy anything, you can double-check your purchase against your decorating style to prevent buying mistakes.
Like when you are trying to decide if that farmhouse desk will go in your new glam home office (the mistake that I almost made during my home office makeover).
If “Farmhouse” or “Country” isn’t in your decorating style description, then you will probably want to reconsider that purchase!
Now it’s up to you to start collecting your pictures and finding your own personal decorating style.
Did you find your decorating style? Tell us what it is in the section below.
Pin It So You Don't Forget It!
This post was originally published on June 23, 2017 but was updated with new content on May 25, 2021.