How to Find Your Decorating Style

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decorating style

Ah, yes. One of the great mysteries of the world. Decorating isn’t just about finding what you like–though that obviously comes into play; nobody wants to hang out in an ugly room–it’s about finding what works for your lifestyle. So I guess the real question today is: how the heck do you distinguish between what you like in general and what you’d like to live in?

I have BEEN THERE. When we first got married, we bought some new furniture by running around and picking what we thought looked cool. None of it was terrible, but you know what? All of it was DARK. This was the purchase that made me realize I liked brighter spaces, which was an annoying lesson to learn because we were totally high-fiving in the store thinking we were so cool. Thankfully we didn’t spend that much, so we were able to sell some of the worst offenders and get a do-over in this house.

Our taste is pretty nailed down by this point, but it did take us a couple of years to get here. Part of that may have been us growing up a little since we were pretty young the first go around; it’s totally normal for your tastes to mature. If you’re figuring out your style for the first time (yay!) or looking for a do-over like we did (also yay, because you’ll be happier!) here are some things you can do to make it easier on yourself.

>> Look at pictures. Tons of ’em. Pinterest is great for this because you can keep yourself hyper-organized by having a different board for each room if you want. Magazines are another good option and don’t forget about catalogs. The most important thing is to see what’s out there, otherwise you might make a decision that seems okay in the moment, but after a while you realize it’s not really your taste. (AHEM, the dark furniture debacle of 2009.) Decorating is an investment. You’d never wander into a car dealership without doing your homework, so treat a big furniture/remodeling purchase the same way.

decorating style samples

one  //  two

>> Think about your lifestyle. Do you have kids? Pets? Does clutter make your eye twitch? Keep these things in mind as you start to add pictures to your board. For example, I appreciate historically preserved Victorian mansions filled with antique furniture, but would I want to spend my days in one? Nope. I’ve been in houses like that and it’s hard to relax because they feel like a museum. My house needs to be a place where people can hang out around a big plate of nachos. Plus, we do plan to have (a) kid(s) eventually, and I wouldn’t want to constantly worry about them bonking their head on some pointy antique. If you really love something that you know won’t work for your lifestyle right now, make a separate board and earmark it for the future/your fantasy land. It’s totally fine to drool over something even if you’re not going to decorate that way.

>> Try to find a pattern. Once you start narrowing things down, pay attention to what all of those pretty rooms have in common. Do they have similar color palettes? What about the furniture placement? Fabric patterns? Overall mood? Let’s practice finding some similarities by taking a gander at these kitchens I pulled from my own Pinterest board. All of them are slightly different, but they’re definitely on-theme:

white kitchens

one  //  two  //  three  //  four

What sticks out for me are the white cabinets (duh), bits of wood tones, pops of color, and the practical styling. Three of them also have open shelving, silver hardware, and marble counter tops, so I guess I’m into those, too, even though I wasn’t consciously looking for them. You might be surprised by what keeps popping up once you start comparing, but that’s okay! Sometimes you need an example right in front of your face to make a connection. I did.

Looking at the other white-and-bright rooms I picked for this post, it shouldn’t surprise you that Casa Ronchetti looks like this:

house tour header

bathroom   //  kitchen  //  Yeah, we still need to change the baseboards downstairs. Sssh.

As for how I’d describe my style in actual words, I’d say it’s a mix of timeless finishes and eclectic furniture. I’m not overly concerned about things matching so much as coordinating. Like Stacy and Clinton always told us on What Not To Wear, “It doesn’t have to MATCH, it has to GO.” And also that pointy shoes make your legs look longer, but that’s another tidbit for another day.

What’s your decorating style? How do you figure out what makes the cut in your house? Anybody else make a weird furniture purchase during the folly of youth? (Don’t lie!) What style do you admire for other people?

12 Comments
  • Duni
    June 18, 2014

    A decade ago I foolishly bought a couch that looked cool, but was totally unpractical and uncomfortable. These days I will always choose comfort instead of the cool factor 🙂 Also, since we have way more dark, rainy days than necessary, I prefer light colours overall with a few decorations in bright colours 🙂

  • Splendid Little Stars
    June 18, 2014

    Great post!
    Looking at lots of photos and places in person, if you can, is the best advice! This definitely helps to define your style. Hubby and I have done this in several areas. One, 14 years ago in deciding on a house. (We looked for 2 years. decided to build. knew what we were looking for. still happy.)
    More recently we built a “library,” really a wall of built in bookshelves. We looked at lots of photos, chose our favorites, and dissected what we liked about them. We conferred with our friend who built them. We love that room now! It still needs some decorating work, however.
    I like light and bright, too.
    I like the organization of the photos on the wall in the 3rd photo.

  • Kim @ 2justByou
    June 18, 2014

    I have no definite decorating style. I’m always all over the place with everything that I do! I like lots of different styles. But I like simplicity – always.

  • Marieken
    June 18, 2014

    Glad to know there’s another Stacy and Clinton fan out there. In my opinion, they deserve their own channel! I love whites, grey’s and light pinks for the living room. A bit of metal and concrete and some vintage goodies. For the kitchen I am thinking about a bold colour, just not sure which one. I am really bad with making decisions….

  • Rose
    June 18, 2014

    Great tips as always! I’m still largely figuring out this area of my life.

  • Mary
    June 19, 2014

    It took me like 5 minutes to find how to comment. I’m getting sloooow in my old age. Anyway, all good advice. It’s kind of funny but I just did a post on how to find your style too, but more specific to furniture. I always hate when people are like “describe your style in 3 words or whatever,” because while most of the things I like have design elements in common, they don’t all come from the same era or design school or color family, etc. To say modern, or even mid-century, gives some people the wrong impression…like they’re either picturing Frank Gehry or the set of Mad Men, when neither is really accurate, you know? Anyhoozle, all those kitchen inspiration pics are dreamy. 🙂

    • Paige @ Little Nostalgia
      June 20, 2014

      I know, the comment button is SO TINY on the homepage. I just click on the post to get to the box instead, haha.

      I missed your furniture post! I’ll have to go find that today. I also get irritated by the “pick three words” school of thought, because it’s never that cut and dry. And I also feel like it doesn’t give a designer enough information.

  • DancingMooney
    June 19, 2014

    We have the same taste in kitchens Paige! We are putting in new flooring soon, (hopefully this year) and it will be about the color wood grain of your basement flooring. I already know I want to keep the cabinets in my kitchen white, but I can’t seem to make up my mind if I want a light/white counter top, or a gray/darker color… I keep going back and forth on it. Our kitchen is pretty airy, but the space is small and I don’t want a darker counter top and darker floors to shrink the space. Decisions, decisions!!

    • Paige @ Little Nostalgia
      June 20, 2014

      Oooooh, kitchen projects are always so fun! I like to have one darker finish in the room for contrast. I think you should do either the floors OR the counters if the space is small.

  • Sarah
    June 20, 2014

    And if all else fails – paint or collage your furniture until you do like it 😉

    I tend to buy thrifted furniture and just redecorate it myself – that way I don’t spend so much that I’m lumbered with the result, if you know what I mean?!

  • LeAnn
    June 22, 2014

    My decorating style is eclectic. But sadly, my house is currently thrift store shabby–not to be confused with shabby chic! But until the cat passes on to cat heaven, there won’t be new upholstered furniture or carpeting.

    When I eventually retire to my tiny house by a babbling brook, I’ll probably stay eclectic / boho with light-toned natural wood or light neutral paint and with colorful and quirky accents for a pop of color to brighten up the tiny space.

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