Interior design can seem daunting. What’s my style? Will it fit our current home? Is it a fad that’s going to look dated in a year or two? Can I even afford to do that???
Let me tell ya a secret, it doesn’t have to be that way…
There are 3 simple questions you can use to define your vision making sure you curate a space that suits you perfectly without all the hemming and hawing over things that don’t fit.
I can spend days dreaming that I’ll come home one afternoon & our farmhouse will be flooded with light from floor to ceiling windows, marble countertops gleaming, and limed white oak floors throughout… but the reality is a much different story and bringing that vision to life takes time and a lot of money.
When I’m helping a client remodel the most common anxiety is making a bold decision. More often then not we default to the safe choice and use ‘band-aids’ (decor) to cover up lackluster decisions.
Depending on your personality and taste sometimes being bold is what you need to do to get results!
Paint colors of course!
It’s cheap, easy, and packs a big punch, which is what we all want!
The trouble comes after the painting is complete and it’s time to choose drapes, flooring, furniture, and fabrics to go with the new color.
So I’m proposing a simpler way to get the result we’re after & a story of how I learned this lesson the hard way.
A Different Approach:
Look around your home for a moment.
What items do you love the most?
If your favorite item is a vibrant photo taken during a memorable trip or the leather armchair that’s worn down after years of use then its a possibility that color will suit you much better than the all-white interior fad.
That doesn’t mean white isn’t an option, it just means colors have their place too!
Be brutally honest with yourself.
Turn off the computer and for god sake please stop looking at Pinterest until you have an idea of WHAT you should be looking for!
Trust me on this. Muddying the waters by looking blindly at beautiful homes without a general idea of your ideal style is only going to make it impossible to choose what’s right for YOU.
It’s possible to have both a Pinterest worthy home that also functions for the life you enjoy living!
Try starting out a design process by answering these questions:
1. “What do I want to change about my current space?”
What stands out the most (either good or bad)? This will serve to help you decide which areas to focus the most attention on to create a result you’re happy with.
Even if you can’t afford to fully deck your space out like a magazine, removing that wall or adding windows to let in more light will make you excited to keep working toward that dream!
2. “What look or feel am I most drawn too?” (Comfortable, Modern, Farmhouse, Etc)
This question helps describe likes & dislikes. Be flexible with your answer! You may be drawn to more than one style and that’s perfectly fine, in fact, the best interiors are usually a mix of styles brought together in harmony.
For instance; I’d define my style as traditional/eclectic. The same way that antiques mix well with the ethnic mudcloth prints & whitewashed walls- your taste may require a few different mixes to create a dream space!
3. “Which items in my home bring me the most joy?”
This is the most important question.
If its a blanket; what about that blanket do you love the most? Is it the texture, colors, pattern? Make a note of all the keywords that describe items you love touching, wearing, using, and looking at.
Now use the answers to implement your design vision:
- Circle the Keywords from Question #3 that most stand out to you (style, textures, colors, and feelings)
For example say you’ve written down: Blue, Antique, Leather, Soft, Linen, Plaster, Wood, and Bright Light….
- Which of the styles under #2 do the keywords most seem fit into?
The keywords from above bring up thoughts of Traditional, Farmhouse, French, or California Bohemian
- Using your selected style(s) look through the answer to #1 and select the items that are most important to change or update in order to a make this vision a reality.
Possibly it’s removing the wall between your kitchen to open the space up and allow more light to flow through. Now that the dining room and kitchen are opened to each other maybe wall molding is next (if traditional is a style you gravitate toward) or a Venetian plaster finish that allows light to reflect lending to the organic feel of your keywords.
- Use the item selected from #3 as a compass for your entire design!
It will serve as a reference point for the style, fabrics, flooring, paint, and decor. If possible take it with you everywhere you go!
If it’s a fabric, see if you can find a swatch to put in your purse. If it’s a painting or photo, see if you can find paint swatches that match the colors or take a picture with your phone.
- Choose paint colors last!
I know this draws out the process. I’m not good at being patient either but the result will be well worth it! Trying to match upholstery, rugs, and decor to a paint color is hard to do while shopping since swatches will look different depending on the lighting.
- Be Patient!
The best interiors are curated slowly and over time. Designers take their time finding the right pieces, fabric, and architectural elements for clients based on their vision of the final look. Filling our space’s with items that we absolutely LOVE and cherish is the best way to go, even if it means saving up for a while instead of purchasing something that isn’t right.
Each of us is drawn to different styles, colors, and even smells. No answer is right or wrong, only what fits your lifestyle and likes/dislikes.
Using the ‘Compass Item’
There are so many beautiful fabrics and furniture pieces that it can be tempting to impulse buy (especially when its a great deal)….
Don’t do it!
I’m a sucker for a good deal and beautiful things. Sometimes it kills me to walk away or put something back but it will only get in the way of creating the space your after. Trust me.
Let’s Look at an Example
Say you choose this high contrast photo from a trip as your design compass. It matches the modern style with traditional elements you answered for #2, so let’s design our room!
There are a lot of bright colors in this photo but that doesn’t mean they need to be the focal point. You’ll notice there are varied shades of blue, green, and beige to choose from as well.
Fabric Options for Drapery, Upholstery, or throw pillows:
(mixing large, medium, and small prints).
I notice the aqua blue that darkens to a deep navy toward the dock, these fabrics pull from those elements.
A sunset sky provides a stunning option for fabrics and patterns! The orange and coral found along the horizon served as the inspiration for these fabrics.
The more muted and subtle tones to these fabrics draw again from the Aqua area while also throwing in a dash of creams and whites to break up the color and create a more soothing appearance.
The wood under the missing dock has light coloring with visible graining similar to these flooring options.
The furniture & design elements change depending on fabric choices but the possibilities are endless!
The coffee table mimics the dock support, plank style, and the nailhead trim.
The rug incorporates almost all the colors from the photo!
The ottomans bring the modern and classic style together with the table.
The Chairs can be either modern or more traditional depending on desired taste.
The floor pouf is done in a similar fabric to one above and brings out the teal elements.
Paint Colors (Bold & More Muted Options):
Since paint comes last the color is easily chosen depending on your fabrics and upholstery. Large swatches painted on a primed white wall will easily tell you if the color is right! .
Using something you already love to create an interior space is the best way to achieve a space that will make you happy long after the trends have come and gone!
This concept is not something I came up with, designers and home decorators use every day.
When they ask questions about your taste or Pinterest boards they’re getting a feel for answers to the questions above. From that the entire design takes shape….so now that you know, you can do it too!
What is your design process like? Do you have any key tips or tricks that help you create spaces you love?