Unless you’ve been lucky enough to build your house from the ground up, you will at some point be stuck with somebody else’s ideas of interior decoration. You may decide to live with the royal blue living room and daisy wallpaper in the kitchen, or you might feel a sudden urgent desire to paint the house magnolia. Neither solution is ideal, as in neither case are you permitting your own style preferences and creativity to find expression. But just how do you pinpoint your style?
One way is to turn yourself into a sponge. Absorb everything you come into contact with even if it doesn’t seem relevant at the time. I was once asked to design a bright, colorful and “fun” kitchen for a family with young children. I poured through design magazines, and visited countless shops for inspiration. But it wasn’t until I found myself watching a 1950s Tom & Jerry cartoon on television that the idea struck. The turquoises, blacks, yellows and pinks of the cartoon looked fresh and fun. A 1950s-style kitchen with all mod cons was the answer!
There is very little in modern design which is completely new. Most styles and changes in fashion are amalgamations, adjustments and improvements on previous designs and trends. Today’s stream-lined contemporary look harks back to 1930s modernism combined with a dash of 1960s spirit. And, yes, today’s turquoise, yellow and pink toasters, kettles and lemon squeezers have the 1950s to thank for their design. No one should blatantly copy the work of others as this is an empty exercise, but rather mulch together sights and sounds from your environment to create the style that suits you. Actively seek out inspiration from museums, stately homes, art galleries, show rooms, furniture catalogues, magazines, books, films, TV programmers and nature. Remember the colors, sounds and sights of your last holiday. Why did they make you feel happy? How can you use these elements to recreate that contented feeling in your own home?
Start a file in which you can put magazine cuttings. Take photos or buy postcards of places, buildings, furniture, beaches, sunsets… anything that inspires you. Carry a small notebook in which you can sketch ideas. Often the secret to why an architectural feature works is hidden in the proportion of one part to another. Photographing or sketching this accurately will be the only way of reproducing this later. The ancient Greeks were very keen on geometry and used it extensively in their buildings. Try to analyze why a particular room or building looks and feels right to you. What are the proportions? Is it symmetrical or asymmetrical? Are there a lot of decorative features, or is it very plain? By finding answers to these questions, you are finding your own style.
Once you have a store of inspiration, you are then ready to source materials, chose colours and buy furniture that fits your style. Perhaps you’ve been inspired by a holiday on the English seaside. You’ve taken photos of the flint houses with their maritime blue trim, the long stretches of sandy beach with its tufts of marsh grass, the colourful beachhouses lined up along the shore. Translate these images and feelings into your own environment by sourcing sofas and chairs in a relaxed design, upholstered in sandy neutrals; paint your walls with a creamy wash; let the sun stream into the room with modern voiles, linen blinds or plantation shutters; accent it all with those beautiful sea blues and greens. Keep your accessories natural – wood, stone, shells, flowers. If you stay true to those elements which gave you a sense of pleasure on your holiday, you will create a happy space in your home.
You may prefer a more formal environment. Perhaps you live in a Georgian house and want to highlight its elegant proportions. Visit stately homes of the period, walk through areas of your town where Georgian architecture exists. Visit Brighton with its light and airy Regency and Georgian buildings, or Edinburgh with its solid grey stone Georgian terraces. Consider combining elements of historic Georgian style with contemporary accents to add freshness and wit to the interior.
The more you explore and make a conscious note of the things that inspire you, the more confident you will become with your own style preferences. Always stay open to new influences. Keep your eyes and ears open. Your style is something which should grow as you grow. Your style is part of who you are. Why not make it part of your home environment?