Unique, Personal Style

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!


10 thoughts on “Unique, Personal Style

  1. Gorgeous!”Squint and ask yourself under what style they come”.Thats a good one.I’d say unique:)Its truly defining, like you said. It might be a mush-mash of all things, but at least its what we like. Thanks and good luck!


  2. I have to compliment you on a thoroughly enjoyable and extremely well written article on the personal aspect of design.

    During my travels around and abroad I’ve found that the “country” style best expressed the local cultures. It’s perhaps a result of the main social characteristic among all country folks worldwide: Permanency! A home is for life, if the life is to be a happy one. Although geographic and climatic variations bring regional uniqueness to the country homes of an individual area there still is this overwhelming commonality. A statement that we (as owners) are here to stay and so are our furniture, utensils and artifacts.

    Once a person strays into the urban scene(s), cause this is where the essentially divergent design styles evolved after artistic mutations, this sense of permanency is lost. We start looking for our own self on the pages of magazines or even hire the services of professionals to help us decide what is best for us, essentially help us find out who we really are.

    I’m still looking for my home, one that is an uncluttered fusion of my geographical fidelity to a birthplace and the open privacy of a magical dreamland.


    1. Abufares, what an astute observation. I absolutely love your comment. What more can I add except that I’m sure when you find your home, it will be a beautiful reflection of you.


      1. Sonja
        I haven’t lived yet in a house that I considered irreplaceable. Even the house I grew up in and that no longer exists, the only one I ever felt like “home”, for I still call it my “home by the sea”, had that transitional urban feel to it.
        On the other hand, I’ve been to some country homes in the Middle East, in Europe and in North America where I was immediately greeted by that unique oneness between the space and its inhabitants. It’s like: “No, we’re not going to replace that old couch by the corner. It might need to be re-upholstered but they don’t make them like that anymore.” Or when the reclining chair finally reaches the end of its useful life all effort is made to bring in something as faithful to the “deceased” chair as possible. Then the owners win the lottery and are able to replace all their furniture. If they bring in something modern, thus necessarily ephemeral, it changes them and they won’t stay there for long anymore.
        This is more descriptive than judgmental on my part. (You can substitute lottery with a significant increase in income of course).
        If and when I find my last home, I wouldn’t want it to be a showcase of a particular design school nor a manifestation of someone’s else latest fancy (cause that’s how I feel about modern art in general). I just want to find my slippers where I left them the day before, visible, reachable, and if anything, enhancing rather than detracting from the simple beauty of my living space.


  3. LOVE the EGG chair!! lmao!! sat in one the other day and was in heaven! Is it possible too that we can grow into a style? Or even change drastically over time? I am a big fan of the modern style but admit that what I love is the juxtaposition of antiques in an ultra modern setting. Nothing like a Louis the 14th mirror next to a ghost chair (my favourite item to lust over) … but that is it isn’t it? that unique “wow that’s different” moment. I couldn’t agree more that it must be YOU and it must be HOME. I love walking in and I always sigh a big happy sigh.


    1. Sure we can grow into a style. Sometimes styles become a way of life because, for instance, we can’t stand clutter so we go to a streamlined decor. Or perhaps we travel a lot and have a collection of beautiful things from different places we want to show off and we develop a true eclectic style. My home is not, currently, a true reflection of me, but it is a reflection of two things. An almost obsessive need to have continuity and also a need to have less clutter. For all intents and purposes, it’s modern but it’s also a foundation which can be built upon and added to. I think I’ve accepted it as is for now because I can envision its future – a future that screams unique…that screams ME!! 🙂


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