Design Exercise: What's Your Personal Style?


(Image from Carlton Varney's Wisconsin lakehouse featured in House Beautiful)


While always evolving, I think it’s really important to hone your personal style or design philosophy into something you can wrap your head around & define. It makes us better designers/ decorators/ homeowners & more equipped to make decisions. When you really know who you are (or who your client is)and what you’re trying to achieve, it’s much easier to look at an object, a color or any other type of design-decision & know if it’s right for a space or not. Check out my first apartment (Ah! I can't believe I'm showing you this!!! haha I found lots of cool Asian objects & just decorated the room around the objects instead of what I actually loved. I used lots of bold colors because they created that "wow" effect I was after.) But looking back I really can barely stand this picture because it's just so not me & I've really found my style since then:

Now compare it to my townhome (below) & you'll see how much I changed & was able to sort of find myself (That was a summer pic of my townhome & even looking back at it I can see how I leaned towards a cottage feel. I still wouldn't say it's "totally me."):


Once you know your design style or philosophy, you can ask yourself some really important questions: Do I love it? Even if I think it's amazing, does it fit with my design philosophy? (Which was my problem with all the Asian objects- they were really cool & interesting, but they didn't strike any notes within me & as a result, the design rang hollow.) What’s the overall impact it’ll have on the space? Will it add or detract from what I’m trying to do? (For example, "If I want an uncluttered space, even though I love this set of antique prints, I know putting them in the room will make it feel too busy.")
(By Carleton Varney featured in House Beautiful)

But how do you figure out your personal design style/ design philosophy? Well, most of us crazy bloggers are doing it daily- writing posts about rooms we love, objects we think are beautiful, designers we admire… Scrolling down any blogger’s posts, it’s really cool to see how the collection of images (even from separate posts) creates this really telling ‘whole’ that gives us a peak into the writer’s style. Many of these bloggers have an amazing handle on their personal design styles. --- But I think it can be helpful to go further than that & really try to get our design philosophies into words.

(Philosopher from fineartprintsondemand.com)

As I’ve written in the ‘About Me’ section on the blog page, “My design philosophy, "pure style," is based on keeping things simple, beautiful & fun. “ But I’m in need of breaking it down & defining it further. I’m talking something deeper here. (And I don’t mean “Early American” or “Modern Asian” or “British Colonial” …. I mean something that can be translated across styles… Something more core, more innate.)


I think it’s really cool to see yourself begin to have a signature look that can be translated across many homes & styles. If you really get down & dissect what it is you love about rooms & what your recipe for a great room is, your personal style can translate across other design styles & I think that makes you a stronger designer. For example, what designers personally do in their homes is usually not exactly what clients want in their own homes, but there’s something about the designer’s style that clients see & love. – a signature look, a design philosophy, a personal style that comes across in every room. (Think Darryl Carter, below)


I think the more rooms you do, the more experience you have, the more your signature look will become apparent. I’m noticing this in my own work & it’s a really cool discovery. But it takes a lot of time & I’m SO not even close to where I hope to be one day. Blogging really helps you get a jumpstart because people start to say “Oh that’s so you” or “your style” and you start to realize that you actually are developing a concrete style. (Just scroll down blogger’s entire pages, quickly through all the posts & see how cool it is to get a glimpse of that blogger’s style!) -- Like Eddie Ross's signature style very apparent in his gorgeous living room below:


There have been some elements I’d never thought about until I started blogging. Here’s what I’ve got (SO FAR) for my ingredients in the recipe for a perfect “pure style” room: sculptural elements (such as spheres, large lamps, branches in a vase, certain furnishings that are just beautiful on their own like this table (below)from a Belgian-style home in House Beautiful:



A green element (such as plants/ flowers or moss) Here's a gorgeous fern in Carlton Varney's home:



A natural element (such as raw wood or coral or seashells or animal or nature prints,) like weathered wood & olive branch in this photo from House Beautiful:




White (& lots of it!) or another neutral or “huetral” (remember that article from House Beautiful?) like the white bowl (made by one of my best friends, Lindsey Augustine) combined with the white sofa & table:



A touch of pretty or maybe even something a tad fussy (such as an antique compote or a vintage plate, a fabric or a luxurious throw) to add some interest, like this pitcher in a room I did for my in-laws:


A hint of a Neoclassical/ Garden feel (I love topiaries, busts, urns & putting them in unexpected places or having fun with them). I love the feeling in the conservatory at Dumbarton Oaks in Georgetown (we were supposed to take our wedding pics there but it rained-- no poured!! )


A raw or rough element (such as weathered wood, linen, burlap), a feeling of age (architectural details in a home, an antique table, etc.,) like the table below and weathered finishes below from House Beautiful:


Style contrasts (a modern painting hanging over an antique console) like this modern stainless oven paired with the antique linen dishtowel & botanical prints in my dad's kitchen:


A “WOW” element (like a huge hutch or tall ceiling or an insanely gorgeous mirror over a mantle, or beautiful furnishing or fabric or a striking color scheme) like this tub from Ina Garten's home:

Something quirky/fun or unexpected (like cute little porcelain busts on a dining room table or the flea market froggy) Check out this lady we've had in our family for years. She used to hold fake fruit (My Grandma Maestranzi was an old Italian lady who put plastic on the sofa) & I stuck her in my dad's bathroom to hold the soap as a joke but we actually ended up loving it:


A clean, well-edited look like this room by one of my FAVORITE DESIGNERS, Nate Berkus:



"Something off" like this surfboard in the picture below from Leslie Klotz's home featured in House Beautiful:

And, finally, enough room for change (I never want to be “finished” and our rooms are constantly evolving, be it seasonally or just when I feel like it… I love having a neutral base that I can inject punches of color or pattern into.)

Ok, so here goes my attempt at defining my personal style, or shall I say "pure style" haha. Pure Style is clean & simple, well-edited, natural, beautiful, sculptural, a blend of old & new, neutral with splashes of color/pattern & a little quirky & fun.


That was hard for me. Haha. It's a mouthful! I'm sure it'll evolve just like my rooms but it feels really good to define my style & really break it down. So, what I’m asking of you is that you tell me your personal style. Think hard & really dig deep. Whether you're a design enthusiast, do-it-yourselfer, designer or decorator, this can really help. If you’re reading & have never commented before, please do!! List your ingredients for YOUR perfect room recipe. If you can break your elements down into a philosophy, go for it!! (If you feel you need pics to explain like I did, you could always do a post on your blog & come link it up here in the comments section too!! :) I can't wait to hear everyone's!!!
xoxo,
Lauren
 ...

23 Jan 2009