Monday, August 9, 2010

What's Your Design Style?

My eight-year old daughter's bedroom is bright and vivacious like her, painted in a chic yet audacious Tiffany box blue in honor of her love for (now plastic) bling. The dad balked at the color when it was being rolled on the walls and called the hot pink lamp trimmed with crystals 'tacky.' Of course, I said. How could he know? The point was that her bedroom was all decked out in details that define who she was at the moment. This is a concept often missed when as grown-ups we attempt to design, decorate and furnish our spaces, not in terms of who we are, but in terms of the image of us that we want to project to the world.

Ultimately, our rooms should be decked 
out to impress us, not the people 
we think we'll invite into them.

As a result we end up with rooms that speak nothing of us. When our goal is to hastily fill a room to the rafters with every single thing we think it's supposed to have,  the room either looks like a corner in a furniture showroom or a hodgepodge of things that do not even go together. The rooms in our house must be personal, with an intimate connection to who we truly are. To be enjoyed for years, each item and element must be carefully selected. As somebody once told me, "Do not bring it home unless you're in love with it." Ultimately, our rooms should be decked out to impress us, not the people we think we'll invite into them.

Everybody has a style preference. Some are savvier and know immediately that they are 'minimalists,' or 'eclectic,' while there are some who are less articulate about what they like. Nonetheless, a simple exercise of looking at your current possessions or picking out a sofa can tell you a lot about your personal style preference. 'Personal' is the operative word here, because it is possible to like more than one style but there will always be one that you will be happiest living in the most. For example, I really adore the spare minimalism of a Zen decor, but I don't think I can live with the inherent emptiness of a space decorated as such. I like it, but I wouldn't want to live in it. See? Two different things. Understanding this helps prevent not only design mistakes but the countless impulsive purchases that will inevitably end up being donated or garage-saled.

A good designer and or architect will talk to the client and find out, through a series of conversations that lifestyle, personal tastes and cultural background that should all be factored in the design of a home. In residential contracts, the job is not to sell a design, but to find out what the client truly likes and translate this into a beautiful home styled to be enjoyed for many years.

Here, some of the most common style preferences, translated in design terms. Find yours and keep them handy for those trips to the store.


Formal, and classic. You like period pieces; heavy wooden furniture with a lot of detail such as curved and turned legs, multi-beveled edges on tables. Oriental rugs, gilding, heavy upholstery and mostly neutral colors. White walls and dark floors. Heavier, ornate drapery.

Below: A traditional wing-chair in traditional 18th century French Regency design.
Lorraine Chair from


Simplicity, subtle sophistication, texture and clean lines help to define contemporary style decorating. You prefer sleek, modern pieces with minimal patterns and adornments. Furniture legs are straight. Simple drapes without tassels or fringes. Black, white or neutral ground with bold splashes of color.

Below: Sophisticated yet relaxed and uncontrived.
Madoxx Chair from


This style can go in a lot of different directions. The photo on the left shows a relatively spare, clean almost Swedish cottage style. The one on the right is a more common country cottage style with a lot of varied patterns and colors.
If this is your style you like relaxed, antique, distressed, 'Shabby-Chic' furniture. You like the traditional look yet less formal.. Quilts, chintz florals, lots of pastel colors. Cozy and comfy and collected. Rustic, handmade.

Right: This French Provincial chair in medium wood tone and rush seat is very country-typical.
Avignon Armchair from

To be continued:
Mid-century modern style, Global-Eclectic style

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