If you looked around my home today, you might assume style comes naturally to me. That decorating has always been a walk in the park. That I’ve never made a gigantic, embarrassing mistake.
You’d be wrong.
There were some style lessons I learned the hard way. The upside was I also learned how to fix my mistakes and avoid them in the future.
Now my home looks exactly how I want it to and it feels like us. I owe it to my signature style. It’s the common thread that unites every room in our home and helps us avoid decorating mistakes.
Today I’d like to share a few of the things I learned the hard way so you don’t have to.
Before I knew my decorating style, I made all the mistakes below. Hopefully I can spare you from making the same mistakes so you can create a home that feels like you faster.
Mistake #1. I Looked for Style Externally
We all say we want our homes to feel like us, but then we spend all our time looking outside ourselves for decorating inspiration. It’s backwards.
When we feel unstylish or uncertain, we look for external sources of inspiration and validation.
- Instead of making design decisions for our own kitchen, we browse the magazine stands to look at a gazillion glossy kitchen pictures.
- Instead of decluttering our closets, we browse Pinterest for pretty organizational ideas.
- Instead of considering our own style preferences, we pick a style from a book or an interior design celebrity and try to recreate it exactly.
The problem is those external sources don’t usually help the process a long. Often times they send us into an even bigger tailspin of ideas, options, and overwhelm.
Sometimes they even make us feel inadequate, because we don’t believe we can create something as nice for ourselves.
Can you tell I’m speaking from experience? My favorite example is what my family calls the “Kryptonite Green Bedroom.” So I saw a green bedroom I liked on a TV show and decided to recreate the look in my guest bedroom. After the first coat went up, I realized my mistake. The green color I chose glowed like Kryptonite casting green shadows down the hallway. It was scary.
For a hot minute, I thought, maybe I can work with this. Maybe if I paint the dark wood bed white it will neutralize the walls. Thankfully I came to my senses and realized my attempt to recreate the TV inspiration room was a failure. Even if the green didn’t glow like a rock from an alien planet, I also realized I don’t actually like green walls in my house. We repainted the walls the next day.
That was my wake up call to stop looking outside myself for the answers. What I needed to do was start trusting my own preferences.
Want to find your true decorating style faster? Look inward. The only way to find your personal decorating style is to do some self-discovery. It starts with recognizing a decorating style isn’t something you choose, it’s something that’s already inside of you. You just have to do the exploration and define your signature style. Once you do, your style definition becomes your guide to every decision you need to make in your home so decorating in your style becomes second nature.
I love leading my style students through this self-discovery process. If you want help developing your signature style, then check out my course Define Your Style Lab.
Mistake #2. I Experimented Piece by Piece
It’s hard to “try on” different decorating styles in your home. If you buy furniture and decor only later to realize it’s not the look you were going for, it’s not easy to replace everything. So maybe you move on to the next thing, but try a different style. Pretty soon you end up with a room where everything is mismatched.
That’s the point we got to in our second home. All of our style experimentation left us with a bunch of furniture styles that didn’t go together and random decor that wasn’t meaningful to us.
Once we defined our true style, we transitioned away from the things that didn’t fit our style. When we moved to our current home we let go of the remaining style misfits, even though it meant we couldn’t “fill” our new home. The empty spaces gave us room to grow into our true style.
Some experimentation is good, but must of us can’t afford to start over and replace everything to match a new style. That’s why I think it’s so important to start with a decorating style you know fits you. Then instead of a cycle of buying and replacing until you find your style, you can steadily build a collection of furniture and decor that you never want to replace because it already fits your true style.
Want to experiment with style without wasting money? When I got serious about finding my true style I put a FREEZE on all home spending. Because you do not need to buy furniture or decor to figure out your style. You do not need to try everything out in your home. I promise.
If you do it right, your decorating style should be so freakishly accurate before you spend any money that 99% of the things you ultimately choose for your home will be a great fit. So you won’t want to replace everything a few months down the road. Which makes decorating a good investment.
Here are three of my favorite ways to experiment with style to find your true preferences:
- Window shop furniture stores – Tell the nosy sales person, “No thanks. I’m just browsing,” and proceed to wander through every section of the sales room floor. Look at all the different furniture styles and room set ups. Bring a small notebook and write down details about the furniture you’re drawn to and the furniture you’d never want to see in your house.
- Create mood boards – It’s nearly impossible to make decorating decisions in a vacuum. It’s helpful to visualize everything in the room together. Putting together a mood board allows you to see everything together before you bring it home. A great tool for creating mood boards is Olioboard. They partner with tons of furniture and decor retailers so you can “try on” a variety of styles and even experiment with mixing styles to see what you like.
- Join Define Your Style Lab – Yes, this is shameless plug for my new course because window shopping and playing with mood boards can only take you so far and you’ve got a home you want decorated now. Define Your style Lab is a proven four-part style discovery process that will help you figure out your true style preferences before you spend any money on furniture and decor. It will also help you assess your existing furnishings and help you transition to your new style on any budget. Once you know what you love, then you can make confident purchases and decorating decisions for your home with a clear style guide.
Mistake #3. I Denied Myself What I Love
I honestly don’t know why we do this to ourselves. In our first home we painted our walls this beautiful light gray. It was the perfect subtle contrast with the white trim. And we LOVED it.
When we bought our second home white trim and cabinetry was a non-negotiable, but when it came to choosing a wall color we thought, let’s try something different.
Maybe it’s because there are a billion paint colors to choose from or because this was a new house, but for some reason we decided to ban the color we loved in our first home to try something new.
We robbed ourselves of years of loving our new home, all because we denied ourselves what we loved. Using the same color over again isn’t boring if it’s a color you love that makes you feel good. After years of hating the new color, we repainted using the color we had loved in our first home…and no surprise, we loved it again.
- I’ve stopped trying new things just to be different. Now I embrace what I love, even if it seems monotonous to other people (like my little brother who constantly teases me about everything in my kitchen being teal or turquoise).
- I’ve stopped trying to do what’s expected over what we prefer. I’m creating this home for me and my family first. Guests second.
- I’ve stopped trying to choose “timeless” pieces, because now I know the only pieces that are timeless for me are pieces I truly love. The ability to separate what you love from what you don’t– that’s strategic.
All of this happened because I defined my decorating style.
Want a home that feels like you? Your style definition gives you permission to be yourself.
It’s freeing to know this is what I like and this is who I am, then to build a home that reflects that—reflects you.
Your true style connects the dots of what you like, don’t like, and how they all work together to create a signature style for your home. I can help you connect the dots in Define Your Style Lab. You can get instant access to the full course now.
This is my fourth time offering the Define Your Style program. Here’s what some of my past students have said during just the first part of the course:
- “What a fun exercise!!!!”
- “Wow, this was really interesting.”
- “Just wanted to say this is AWESOME and so much fun!”
- “This has definitely been an interesting and eye-opening exercise! I probably spent way too much time on it, but it was quite fun.”
- “This was extremely revealing! I’ve felt wishy-washy for so long, thinking I liked so many styles, but could never choose.”
- “I was surprised at how quickly this exercise helped me to clarify what I do and do not like.”
And that’s just a few comments from the first three (of twelve) lessons in the full Define Your Style Lab course.