There are a few elements worth considering when developing and creating your personal decorating style. The great thing is that these elements are based on a common sense philosophy of everyday living and do not require complicated schemes or a degree in interior design. They are intuitive, fresh, and can help make your decorating style unique.
• Know thyself
This age old adage is very important in decorating. It helps if you know answers to a few simple questions: What are your favorite colors, design inspirations, hobbies? What is your living philosophy? Do you like a quiet, contemplative environment or one that is stimulating and always filled with people and events? What are your living arrangements – do you live alone or with family, a flatmate, etc.? Or do you want a space to incorporate alone time with socializing or family togetherness with private corners?
It is important that you can answer these questions clearly, because your environment needs to be as practical as it is aesthetically pleasing. For example, there is no point having a living room filled with white furniture and glass surfaces, if you have small children. Your home is supposed to be relaxing, harmonious and comfortable as much as it is beautiful. Constantly reminding your toddler not to touch things will be neither of those things!
• Begin with small steps
You don’t have to spend a lot of money to create a sanctuary in your home. There are plenty of ways to spruce up the look in a room by making small changes. These changes will inspire you to keep going.
Sequester a corner of the room for a creative nook, where you can sit, read, paint, write or do the things that will fire up your creativity. Scour the op-shops for interesting fabrics, big scarves, covers, bottles, candle holders, throws. You will be surprised what you can find. Soft furnishings and accessories really complete the look of the room, but they can be very inexpensive. Often you will find original pieces, which you cannot find anywhere else, giving your spaces a unique aura.
• Don’t over ‘thematise’
If thematise is not a word, it needs to be. I often see spaces, which are overly thematic in style, making them feel contrived and stunted. These spaces end up looking like a boring, uninviting, cold and unimaginative show pieces. You want to be hugged by your home.
Be brave; mix and match different styles, colors and patterns. To keep the balance, if you are mixing different patterns, ensure that they are complementary in colors to avoid over-stimulating the space. Keep in mind that some spaces can take more than others. You want your bedroom to be a space where you can completely relax and unwind, so you will decorate your bedroom accordingly – by using serene colors and gentle patterns, if any. Your kitchen and living spaces, however, can do with a more dramatic sense of style.
Vintage chic juxtaposes beautifully with an ultramodern or industrial style. Experiment, experiment, experiment needs to be your mantra! This is how you learn what works and what does not. Again, do it on a smaller scale, experimenting with wall paint or coverings can prove to be an expensive exercise!
• A well-decorated home reflects the spirit of the owners
Home needs to have your signature all over, reflect who you are and how you see yourself. If you have family, then this consideration will include all members of the household. You can put your children’s artwork or take a series of photos of your family and group them together. Do not worry about uniformity of the frames.
What is it that inspires you? What are your favorite things in life?
For instance, I love birds, trees, glass, mirrors and water, so I incorporate these in my decorating style. Water reminds me of clarity and fluidity with which I need to navigate my life as much as possible. Fluidity means that I am flexible in the face of the inevitable changes which sometimes come suddenly and unexpectedly, no matter how prepared I think I am. Birds and trees remind me of my deep connection with nature, and I want to be reminded of that daily. Glass and mirrors are for reflection and openness, not only of space, but also my life. They inspire me to see myself for who I am, rather than build my image on illusions. The point of successful decorating is this - it is the meaning that we assign to the space which is important!
• Keep inspiring yourself
An inexpensive but effective way to keep your creative inspiration alive is to create a mood board. Change it at least once a year. I change mine at least every six months, one for spring and summer, and one for autumn and winter. Get yourself either a magnetic board with magnets or a cork board with pins. Then find clippings in your favorite design and decorating magazines or inspiring words. I get inspiration from everywhere – nature, poems, books, imagery etc. Again, op-shops often have a surprising variety of recent publications. I often get 5 magazines for $1 in my local Salvation Army shop.
Another great way of finding inspiration is to have a treasure box. This box can be a shoe box covered in pretty gift wrap, or images from magazines. You can put in this box anything you find inspiring – little fabric off-cuts in your favorite colors and/or patterns, pictures, images etc. Mine always contain shells as well as bits of broken jewellery pieces from which I cannot part, because they are in my favorite colors or style, and I end up reusing them for making something entirely different. One year I used my favorite beaded necklace to bead the edge of a bedside lamp, for instance.
• Listen to your intuition
When you feel in your heart that something will look great in a space, it most often will. Even the closest friends don’t always know your most intimate needs and desires. Well-meaning friends have different taste and opinions, and if you end up listening to theirs, instead of your own, you might as well invite them to live there. I have seen firsthand what happens when people override their own intuition and listen to someone else’s opinion. An expensive mistake!
• If all else fails, ask for help
Some of us love doing this, some have natural ability, some have knowledge and experience and some of us don’t. If you are in the latter category, there are plenty of resources and people to help you in your decorating journey. Remember that a great designer will always listen to your needs and aspirations for your home, rather than impose his or her own personal taste.
I hope this inspired you to convert your home into a sanctuary you deserve and want!