Sure, the design mags make it all look so straightforward. Here’s Modern, here’s Traditional, here’s Country, and here’s Urban. Here’s Victorian, here’s Colonial, he’s Retro, and here’s Bohemian. You squint at the photos and hem and hah and ask yourself under what style you can place yourself. For some it’s easier than others but I would dare to guess that most people would say that they tend toward a certain style BUT…they would change this, this, and that. Certainly, this is a great way to start. These well-known styles have been honed by the design world over the last century and by following a few of the rules associated with a particular style, you can create a balanced base upon which to build. I think it is essential, though, to see them only as a base.
There are several problems with following a style down to the letter. Like airbrushed models in fashion magazines that make us run to the closest cosmetics department and overspend on useless, exaggerated products, design magazines boast homes that have been completely staged and make us look at our own homes and crave what we don’t have or can’t afford. This can lead to frustration and even unhappiness. The key is to see the photos for what they are and to take from them what ideas we can and, within reason and budget, apply these ideas to our own homes. You may have seen a photo of a gorgeous 4500 square foot farm-house with an incredible dining room. If you live in a town home with eight foot ceilings, you cannot, ever, have clearstory windows and vaulted ceilings with wooden beams over your dining room as shown in the photo. You can, however, brighten your room with paint and appropriate window treatments, and introduce rustic wooden furniture to give it a similar feel.
The other problem, and I think the greatest one, is that if you don’t make your home YOU, even if you have perfected a particular style right down to the salt and pepper shakers, you will end up unhappy with it. I mean, a country girl cannot, no matter how hard she tries, feel at home in the straight edges and cold stone and steel of a modern home. She might appreciate the uncluttered look of modern, and even lust after an Egg chair, but she, for the sake of her soul, needs the patina of well-worn paint, floral patterns, and a collection of antique bowls lining the pine hutch in the dining room. Supposing she does sacrifice these things for a cohesive, modern look. Her friends come over, and although they are surprised at her choice, can’t but compliment her on a beautiful home. This may satisfy her for a while, but taking away the elements that make her feel comfortable, will eventually lead to a displeasure and uneasiness about her home. With frustration, she’ll eventually start looking for ways to bring back what she needs. The fusion of styles may or may not work. If they don’t, she’ll probably claim that her style must be eclectic because her style suddenly seems incoherent.
Eclecticism has become the catch-phrase for folks who don’t think that they have style or are that what they truly appreciate isn’t cohesive enough to have a style associated with it. First of all, eclectic is actually a term associated with an art movement that incorporates several artistic forms from different periods or origins. Secondly, it certainly can be applied to interior design, but is not done haphazardly but rather with intent. A true eclectic design, will, in the end look as perfected and well-balanced as any other categorized style.
So, then, what do you call your style that doesn’t seem to match any category? I call it Unique, Personal Style and it is the best of anything out there. It reflects who you are and it speaks to you. Well, then, how do I show my personal style without everything looking mismatched, tacky, or chaotic? You have to do three things. One, you have to identify the objects that you own, or wish to own, that bring you pleasure. Perhaps there’s a painting you saw in a local gallery, or a set of nesting tables you inherited from your grandmother you can’t live without. Make a list of the top five. Then consider what makes them so important to you. Is it the colour or the subject of the painting or both? Is it the turned legs and ornate brass pulls or is it simply the neatness of the stacked tables? Next, do look at magazines and try to identify with one or two of the categorized styles. Perhaps you will like a combination of urban and country. Make a collection of inspiration photos. Lastly, you need to purge. You need to get rid of anything that does not please you esthetically or creates clutter – but do consider that some objects can be re-finished or re-upholstered. Take the unwanted to a charitable organization.
Essentially, once the above three steps are done, you should have a clean slate and a direction to work toward. First consider the bones of the space and look at your inspiration photos for hints on how to best arrange your furniture. Second, and this is key, highlight your choice objects within your design. Place a beautiful piece of pottery front and foremost on your buffet. Select cushions for your sofa that pick up your favourite colour in your favourite painting (ensuring, of course, that it doesn’t clash with your sofa). Create an arrangement on your nesting tables that draws the eyes to them – a pretty lamp, framed photos, and a delicate ornament. If you can’t afford to implement everything you want right away, don’t worry. Keep the desired item in mind, leave a place for it, and acquire it when you can. Your style is something that will metamorphose over time anyway and therefore your home design should never be considered finished (although you want to make it look as finished as possible). Your home should always reflect who you are and continue to make you comfortable and happy. It should be a place that exudes your unique, personal style!