A while ago, I wrote a blog post about “themed” rooms – the sorts of rooms that you used to see on corny decorating programmes from the 1990s, where a big room reveal would display a pirate themed room, or an Arabian nights themed room or something along those lines.
As you can imagine, I’m not a fan of themed rooms. In fact I think they are naff and clichéd. Unless you are decorating a young child’s bedroom, or decorating for a party, a theme should be avoided at all cost. Themes are for parties, not for your home.
Recently we have been talking about how to bring your style preferences into your home, and it’s important to be able to do that, without it tipping over into the realms of “theme”.
Some themes are pretty obvious. If you’re thinking of decorating your room like a circus big top, a medieval dinner hall (when you live in a 1930s semi) or a forest walk, that’s a theme.
A Roald Dahl themed bedroom. Perfect for a child’s room, but that’s where it should stay!
But what about if you like something like a coastal style? At what point does it turn from style into theme?
In my style workshops, I teach my students how to identify the key design elements that they are drawn to within each style, rather than blindly following a traditional label such as “coastal”.
If you like the coastal style, for example, you need to dig a little deeper to find out what that means for you. Is it the light and airy colours you like? Is the blue and white colour scheme? Is it the natural materials used for knots?
Identifying your unique home décor style is about knowing the colour schemes you are drawn to, the intensity of colours, the mood you create, the feelings you evoke. It’s about knowing the style of furniture, the types of fabrics that you like to surround yourself with.Distilling what’s at the heart of your design preferences helps you to create a scheme which encapsulates the parts of a design style you like, without becoming themed or clichéd.
In last week’s post, we looked at all of the different decorating styles that are out there. We learned about the key elements in styles like shabby chic, farmhouse, mid-century modern and more.
Undoubtedly, there will be certain styles that you are more drawn to and that appeal to you than others. Perhaps you like the comfort of country style, and minimalism leaves you feeling cold. Perhaps you find a glamorous look a bit too ‘buttoned up’ and you prefer a more laid back, perhaps industrial scheme.
We’re all different, and that’s great!
Different styles suit different people, and getting to know your preferred style is a great start.
So when it comes to decorating our homes, we should just pick one of the styles we are drawn to and copy it in our homes, right?
Choosing one of these styles and just importing it into your home is invariably a recipe for disaster!
By selecting one style and trying to replicate everything about that style in your home, you will probably find that you end up disatisfied with the results. Getting to know your own style preferences is a great place to start, but it certainly isn’t the whole story.
As we saw in last week’s style descriptions, there are key elements which make up each design style.
Let’s use “country” style as an example. Country style tends to be defined by elements such as log baskets, checkered throws and painted wooden furniture. However, some people who like the country style may like uncluttered, simple design, whereas other people who like country might like their rooms to be full of accessories, animal busts and wall art of the local hunt.
There are so many interpretations of what “country” means. There is a French Country, Modern Country, Traditional Country, Farmhouse Country and more. Using the term “Country” isn’t specific enough.
What country means to one person will mean something completely different to someone else.
So choosing one style is not the end of the process. More work needs to be done!
When we choose a design style for our home, we need it to reflect who we are as a person. Our homes are a reflection of our personalities, a place for us to express who we are.
The famous interior designer, Kelly Hoppen knows all about tailoring your home to fit you uniquely:
Although we can identify some of the key elements of a particular style, that’s not the whole story. There will be certain parts of a style that you love, and other parts that you’re not so wild about. You can’t just import a whole style into your home. It won’t quite fit you right.
You home decorating style needs to be tailored to you, and as unique as you are. It’s rare to identify exactly and exclusively with one type of style.
Let me use a food analogy here. In the same way that most of us like a variety of different cuisines, some of us like Chinese food as well as Indian food as well as Italian food, most of us have more than one preference when it comes to what we like in our homes too.
Most of us like one of the design styles, but also enjoy other styles too.
If you restrict yourself to just one design style, what do you do about the other elements that you like?
If you like traditional classic design, does that mean that you can’t have something modern and funky in your space too?
If you stick slavishly to one design style, then yes!
It does mean that you have straight-jacketed yourself to one look.
In reality, most of us like a mixture of different styles.
The key to creating a home which reflects you personally, includes all of your preferences and allows you to express your personality, is to get clear about your own unique, personal design style. What’s YOUR vibe? What are YOUR quirks? What is unique about YOU and YOUR taste?
How did you get on with last week’s home decorating style quiz? If you haven’t taken it yet, be sure to take the quiz before reading on:
The first step in your journey to creating a cohesive home is about defining the decorating style you want to use.
In the same way that we all have preferences about what we like to eat and drink, and the entertainment we enjoy, we all have a decorating style that we are drawn to, even if we don’t immediately know what that it.
In actual fact, most of us like a mixture of different styles, and different parts of different styles.
We might like a little bit of industrial mixed with a bit of country and the odd contemporary piece thrown in for contrast. Or we might like some really traditional pieces but with something more wacky thrown in too.
That’s all good!
But as a starting point, we need to know what ‘styles’ are out there, so that we can begin to piece together a complete picture of what we like.
Here’s a glossary of the 10 most common design styles to get you thinking about which elements you like in your own home:
Country style is one of the most popular decorating design styles. Country schemes focus on comfort, and so we see fabrics made from natural materials such as wools, and chunky knits, Colour schemes are often pared-back muted greens, creams and browns. A roaring log fire is a must in a country home, and cosy is key. Country style is further split into sub-categories, such as French country (see shabby chic), farmhouse (see below), and modern, where some of the more rustic elements are replaced with neat painted wooden furniture.
More rustic than country, farmhouse has been popular for many years now. This style is characterised by rough hewn wood and repurposed metallic objects (farm machinery used as wall art for example). Vintage and mis-matched furniture is key to achieving this look. Scour flea markets and reclamation yards for authentic pieces.
A pretty take on the Country theme. Shabby chic tends to focus on an all-white colour scheme, with painted wooden furniture and lace table coverings, which also crosses over with the ‘French country’ design style too. Called shabby for a reason, the more worn the furniture the better, and upcycling and vintage finds are perfect for this look.
Scandinavian design has exploded into the main stream in recent years. Characterised by simple, unfussy design, Scandi is a fusion of practicality and comfort. Colour schemes are usually white, or pale grey, and softness is brought in through animal furs and sheepskin. There is a real focus on practicality, but in Scandi schemes, form and function usually marry together well.
Like country, coastal is a popular look too. It usually comprises a white and blue colour scheme with splashed of red, with ticking stripes and natural fabrics used in abundance. In more predictable designs, stereotypical seaside paraphernalia such as fisherman’s knots, life rings and lighthouses are included, but more modern coastal designs steer away from these predictable accessories and focus instead on creating light and breezy spaces.
Industrial design draws inspiration from utilitarian buildings such as factories and warehouses, and hails back to the days of New York loft living. Think bare bricks, worn leather sofas and exposed industrial pipes. Concrete surfaces and vintage furniture fit right in here.
Inspired by the interior design of the 1930-1960s, mid-century modern design is as popular today as it was back then. It’s characterised by both geometric and organic shapes and patterns, simple framed furniture and bold colour schemes. Iconic designers of this period gave us design classics such as the Eames chair and Andy Warhol artwork.
Boho is a good look for people who want to live relaxed, freely and with lots of cultural references. Boho style is colourful and eclectic, full of ethnic fabrics, patterned rugs and tie-died cloths, moroccan lanterns and plenty of houseplants.
For those who dislike clutter, and enjoy a clean and ordered life, minimalism could be for you. Some people think of minimalism as cold and hard, but it doesn’t have to be. Inspired by Japanese interiors, minimalist spaces use the bare essentials, but what is included is beautiful and makes a statement.
The polar opposite of minimalist style, eclectic schemes are difficult to categorise, as they comprise so many elements. Bringing together many disparate elements is actually quite tricky to pull off, but choosing items in a consistent colour theme helps to unite the room. Ideal for rule breakers, the eclectic style really lets you express yourself in your home.
So now we’ve covered some of the main styles, next week we dive into looking at why choosing just one of these styles is a big mistake- and what you should be doing instead!
If you haven’t yet taken the style quiz, click below.
Back before I trained in interior design, I was pretty useless at decorating my home.
I’d have an idea in my head, and I’d start to decorate, buying new things and bringing them home, painting my walls or changing out my décor.
But once I’d finished, I’d stand back and be disappointed. The end result never really turned out how I wanted (or expected it to).
I couldn’t understand it.
I would spend hours drooling over the stylish pictures in magazines (I had a serious magazine subscription habit) and I’d spend hours in Pinterest, only to be disappointed and frustrated that I couldn’t achieve the same looks.
What I didn’t know then, but I do know now, is that there is a process you need to follow when you are designing a room.
You can’t just start with buying a few things and hoping for the best.
It starts with a plan!
And that plan has to have an end vision of what you want the room to look like.
And that means, before you do anything else, you have to be crystal clear on the sort of style you want to achieve in your home.
So you’ve probably heard words used to describe different styles like, ‘shabby chic’, ‘farmhouse’, ‘boho’ and ‘mid-century modern’ design styles, for example, but it’s difficult to know what all of the styles mean, and whether they are a good fit for you, let alone how you start to achieve them.
You see, style is about so much more than the clothes you wear or the items you choose for your home. Style is about who you are as a person. If you’re a relaxed, laid back and casual sort of person you’re going to have a very different home décor style to someone who is a go-getting, city-slicking kind of person, right?
And that’s why it’s so important that you define your style before you begin to decorate.
The starting point to find out your style is by working out the sorts of things you like to have in your life and your home, the elements of your personality that you want your home to reflect.
To help start you on the journey to defining your own home decor style, I’ve put together a fun little quiz for you.
Now I’m not going to pretend that this is going to make you into a style expert overnight, but it’s going to put you on the right path towards defining your style.
So, take the quiz below, and be sure to stay tuned for next week’s blog post, where I’ll be giving you the low-down on all of the different styles that are out there, and some more information about your style results from the quiz. It’s going to be epic!
Take action now. Here’s the quiz:
Until next time x
If you’re a home décor enthusiast, and you’re anything like me, you will glue yourself to the TV whenever there is a home decorating programme on. Not only do I soak up the UK programmes like the Great Interior Design Challenge, but I also delve into some of the shows from across the pond, like Fixer Upper and Property Brothers. Now I know these programmes can be pretty corny, but I just can’t help myself!
For those of you too young to remember, back in the late 1990s to early 2000s, there was a programme in the UK called Changing Rooms. The programme’s structure was always the same: two homeowners swapped houses with their neighbour, and allowed a decorating team, led by an aspiring interior designer, into their homes to completely makeover a room from top to bottom.
At the end of the programme there was a “grand reveal” and the homeowners would be allowed in to see the transformation. Pretty formulaic so far, right?
However, the room designs were often crazy, off the wall designs that no right-minded person would choose for themselves. The designers chose a set “theme” for the room, and decorated it with wild abandon in line with the theme.
We had rooms with an Arabian nights theme, rooms with a Greek temple theme, and one room, which- memorably for the poor homeowner who burst into tears on the reveal- resembled a tart’s boudoir!
Changing Rooms earned itself a reputation for naff design and over-the-top decoration, like this Queen Anne themed dining room, complete with mock flagstones.
It may have been good for ratings, but it certainly wasn’t good for tasteful design.
One of the downsides of all this “inspiration” was that people started decorating their homes around a theme. So we started seeing coastal themes, where every possible seaside paraphernalia from life-saving rings to knot pictures to messages- in- a- bottle and miniature sailboats were stuffed into every available space. We had Indian themed rooms with rich embroidery, floor cushions, silk paintings and incense everywhere, in a 1930s semi in Birmingham. And don’t get me started on the paint effects. Rag rolling anyone? *shudder*
Luckily, popular design has moved on since then, and the more modern shows generally produce competent and cohesive designs. The likes of the Property brothers and DIY SOS actually create functional and aesthetically pleasing rooms that any of us would be happy to live in.
Now whilst few of us would decorate our rooms according to a theme like this, many of us get stuck in a rut of decorating our rooms according to a pre-determined style. Most of us are drawn to one type of design style or another. Whether that is classic, or industrial, mid-century modern or country, shabby chic or minimalist, most of us have a natural inclination towards one style or another.
Now, there is nothing wrong with having style likes and dislikes (in fact, I actively encourage people to get to know their preferred style), but the problem comes when this is taken too far. Any style taken to its extreme will look at best twee, and at worst downright naff. Not only that, but putting a line in the sand and adhering religiously to one design style is very restrictive and leaves you little room for changes in taste.
So how do we incorporate our chosen style without going over the top?
The key to this is to identify what is at the heart of the design style you like, and to include a ‘nod’ to the look, rather than an in-your-face replica of it. Let’s take a look at a few examples…
Image via Vanessa Arbuthnott
At the heart of country style is laid back, cosy living. Built for practicality in the country, this style often has stone or wooden floors which can cope with muddy boots from the field, large farmhouse tables and a cosy log fire. Country homes often have traditional framed kitchens and lots of painted wood. It should be a little tired, a little rustic. In the image above, the country style furniture is balanced with a more modern floor light and an on-trend colour scheme.
How to get it wrong: go over the top with lots of stag heads, hunting paraphernalia and too much tartan fabric.
Via Ideal Home
The essence of scandi design is clean, functional and uncluttered. Think light and bright. Keep your walls white and soft grey, and use pale or lightly distressed wood throughout. Bring in sheepskin for softness.
How to get it wrong: Deer antlers everywhere and animal skins on every surface.
Image via Ideal Home
Coastal schemes reflect the openness of the ocean and the sea breeze. Stick to a colour palette of whites, aqua and blue, reflecting the landscape. Use fabrics in ticking stripes and use plenty of cushions. You can get away with a nod to the seaside with some coastal elements, for example a jute rug, a knotted door stop or a coastal painting.
How to get it wrong: cram your decor with seaside paraphernalia such as anchors, lifesaving rings, sailboats, faux fish and lobster pots.
If you’re not sure what the main elements of your style are, then check out this fun quiz below, which will point you in the right direction.
For those of us who have dreamed about having a home of our own to design and decorate since we were knee high to a grasshopper, moving in with our partner should be a really exciting time. At last, all of our plans and dreams can come true, and we can finally create the nest we’ve always dreamed of.
That is, until you run up against your partner. And their views. And you realise, the horrible, painful truth: they also have thoughts and opinions about your home decor, and they ‘aint like yours. At all. What started as a romantic adventure together can soon turn into a nightmare, without some decorating diplomacy to see you through.
In my last post, we talked about how to find out how your partner really feels about decorating. Do they have the same views as you about the importance of decorating, the need for it, how much it will cost, what it will look like? If you went through the quiz, and tried the ideas I suggested, you’ll be in a much better place with your partner already.
But what if your partner *is* on board with wanting to decorate, what if they *are* happy to spend money on creating your dream home, but (horror of horrors) their style is just so different from yours? How do you work together to create a home which combines the best bits of yours with the best bits of theirs, without it all looking like a confused mish mash of styles?
I’m going to take you through a seven step plan to help you to work together to create a cohesive home decor, which you can both love and be proud of. Download the worksheet to help you go through the steps below. Work through steps one to three separately and then come together to work through the rest of the steps together.
Put down the photos for just a minute. Log out of Pinterest and put down the glossy magazines. The first thing you need to do is to identify the sort of feel that you want from your home. What is home? What does it mean to you? What emotion do you want your home to evoke? Do you want a relaxed space? A formal space? A stylish space? Is it about hanging out with friends, or is it about being more formal and impressive? Think about the places you have been together that you liked e.g pubs, bars, restaurants, stately homes, friends houses etc. Don’t think about the décor, think about the feel of the place.
Start collecting images which have elements of the feel you are trying to create. You can use magazines, Pinterest or photographs to do this exercise. Gather them all together in one place. Now you need to look really closely at these pictures and start getting a bit analytical. On the worksheet write down what you like about each image. e.g I like this shade of blue, I like the turned legs on this sofa, I like the light open feel of this room, I like the cosiness that the log fire gives. Make a list of the qualities that appeal to you most. Rather than saying “I like this room because it’s mid-century modern”, say “I like the clean lines and geometric patterns”. Be specific about what it is you like.
Using the worksheet, rank the elements you have chosen from your picture research by how important they are to you to have in your home. Split them into ‘Must Have’ and ‘Nice to Have’. Take time to do this, and be prepared to compromise on some of it.
Now that you have got a clear picture of your own likes and dislikes, present your list and your images to your partner. Allow time to really listen to each other and to elicit what it is that your partner likes. Why does this image inspire them? What lights them up? Allow them 10 whole minutes at least, and don’t be tempted to interrupt. Listen with open ears and an open mind. Your job here is to discover, learn and understand. Once you fully understand where they are coming from, swap places and repeat.
Most people like more than one decor style. They might really like modern country, for example, but they also might like some industrial elements or more sleek pieces. It’s in the overlap of these tastes that we find common ground. Discuss with each other the shared elements that you can both agree on and take it from there. Try to agree on some basics like the feel you want to achieve, the colours and textures you like. Even if one of you likes neutrals and the other likes a riot of colour, you can usually find a way to please both with a neutral backdrop with colourful accessories and soft furnishings, for example. Agree to play up one person’s tastes in one room, and another in another room if you need to. Open your mind to different ways of achieving the feel you want.
Time for you to start exploring ideas about how you can combine your styles and tastes. Sit together and create a joint Pinterest board, which has elements of things your partner likes, and things you like. Make notes underneath each image about how each of you feels about each picture and start to build up an idea of how different elements can work together. Remember that it’s not just ‘alright’ to have a mix of elements side by side in your home; in fact, it keeps décor interesting and more edgy to have a mix of different styles. Planning together in this way puts you on the same team and helps you to work together, rather than against each other.
Finally, you’re going to create a mood board together. Select specific paint samples, fabric samples and photographs of furniture and accessories that you both like, using the joint Pinterest board for inspiration. Suggest a range of paint colours, fabrics and furniture pieces so that you have as broad a range as possible to find common ground and that you can both agree on. And that’s it! Once your mood board is complete, it’s time to shop happily, knowing that you have listened to each other and accommodated both of your styles and tastes.
Going through these seven steps together will help you to take some of the heat out of design decisions, and help you to work together to create a home you can both love and enjoy. Always start from a place of love and respect for each other, and be open to listening to the other person’s ideas.
Let me know how you get on.
Moving in together with your partner can be an exciting time. It’s often the start of a new phase in your life: it’s an opportunity to put down roots and build a nest with your partner.
If you’re anything like me, moving into your ideal home with your partner will be something that you have dreamed about for years, even before you find the right place and get the keys.
You envisage trips to your local DIY store, carefully selecting the perfect shade of slate grey together, then heading out for a lazy Sunday afternoon shopping spree, picking out the perfect antique armoire which you both know will look amazing in your bedroom.
So when the big day comes and you actually move in, it can be a bit of a shock to find that the reality is nothing like you imagined. This person, who you thought you knew so well, this person that up until now had seemed like such a perfect fit for you, suddenly starts having opinions on paint colours, furniture, fabric and more. And what’s worse, those opinions most certainly do not fit with yours.
Or this person takes absolutely no interest in decorating at all and get cross when you spend money on home décor. (“Why do we need scatter cushions anyway?”).
And what if, sin of all sins, they want to adorn ‘your’ walls with their sporting memorabilia instead of the tasteful art prints you had imagined?
Since when did they have opinions like that? How could you not have known they had such different taste to you? Why can they not just see what you see?
That harmonious rapport you envisaged descends into frustration and petty arguments, and can even escalate into outright war if you’re not careful.
So why is decorating such a hot spot for arguments? For some couples, creating a home signifies so much more than just choosing a paint colour or a fabric pattern. It can raise issues around money, control and even the big questions in life about security and sanctuary. This is big stuff, people.
Now, whilst I make no claim to being a relationship counsellor, I have had my fair share of decorating arguments in my time (including one particular show down in IKEA, which still makes my cheeks hot when I think of it). I have learned a thing or two about decorating diplomatically, and I’m going to share my top tips with you in this Decorating Diplomacy mini-series.
Today’s post is for those of you whose partner won’t talk about decorating, can’t see the point of it or just simply disagrees with you about the need to do it. In the next post, we’ll look at how to combine your style tastes with your partner’s to create a cohesive scheme without feeling that you’ve compromised.
So let’s get started:
It is rare that your partner does not care at all about their home environment. Even if they show little interest in home décor, you can bet your bottom dollar that they will have an opinion on some of it. Just running ahead with your own ideas will lead to resentment, and even sabotage. Like when we were children, we had to learn to share our toys, sharing your home environment is also something that you need to learn to do.
You know that out-of-town business trip that your partner has booked? It is *not* an opportunity for you to decorate that bedroom/ living room/ bathroom while they are away. After all, they’ll be pleased that you’ve done all of the hard work when they get back, right? Er, no, wrong. They will simply be annoyed that you went behind their back. This is pretty underhanded behaviour, which communicates that this is your space and that you will wait until they are out to do whatever you like. Don’t do it! Be fair, be assertive and plan your décor together.
“What do you think of this…?” is a loaded question, fraught with booby traps for the unsuspecting partner. If you have already seen something that you would like to include in your home décor, asking your partner’s opinion may not elicit the reponse you were expecting or wanting. Are you really ready and prepared for an, “It’s ugly and I hate it” answer? If you genuinely want their opinion, then ask, but if what you are really hoping for is reinforcement of a choice you have already made, then ask a different question. “I would very much like to have this particular vase. Do you have any objections to this?” is a clearer and less emotive way of approaching things.
If you have a partner who is reluctant to discuss home décor with you, make sure that you choose a good time to discuss it. Don’t pounce on them when they are hungry, tired, just got in from work, watching a TV show or a sport’s match, or even if they’ve just sat down for an hour’s relaxation after the children have gone to bed. Your decorating passion might be a priority for you, but it might be a chore for them, so respect their time. Tell them that you would like to discuss the issue, and ask them to give you a specific time when you can discuss it together. If they are reluctant to do this, see (5) below.
You may have spent years dreaming about what your home will be like before you even had one. For some people (and I include myself here) creating a home signifies security, comfort, a reflection of your unique personality, and it can even be a manifestation of love. But not everyone feels the same way about their homes. For some people a home is just somewhere to lay your head, and as long as you have furniture to sit and lie on, something to block out the light and provide privacy, then they are contented. If you and your partner are on a different page with this, then you need to communicate to them why this is so important for you. Be clear about how important achieving this is to you, why it matters. Have an open conversation about the things that are important to each of you. So for your partner, being able to go out with their friends might be important, or being able to do adventure activities, or having the latest widescreen TV. For you, having the home you desire is important. Once your partner understands how important this is for you, then you can find a way to meet both of your needs. And if your partner can’t see that your needs are important too, well then it really might be time to consider if this is the right person for you.
A partner can object to a home décor project for a myriad of reasons. Unless you truly get to the bottom of their objections then you will never resolve the problem. If they keep making excuses about not being able to afford it, for example, this could just be a smokescreen to disguise the fact that, actually, they don’t want to have their Saturday afternoons taken up with sandpaper and paint brushes. Once you understand the sticking points, you can begin to find ways to compromise and to achieve a happy outcome for both of you.
I’ve put together a quick quiz that you can ask your partner, to help you to get to the bottom of how he or she feels about their home and home décor. The answers will help you to understand each other better, and it’s a great starting point for further discussion. Download it here:
Next time, we’ll take a look at how to incorporate both of your styles, to help you to create your dream home in a more harmonious way. If you’ve experienced this as a sticking point, let me know in the comments below, or share it in the Facebook group. I’d love to hear your experiences.