how to find your style


The professionals make it look so easy but designing a room from scratch can be a tough ask for us mere mortals. There’s so much to think about and, unlike fashion, once you’ve committed to a certain colour or style, a change of mind can be a very expensive and time consuming exercise.

Knowing where to start can be the biggest challenge — from paint colour to big furniture pieces to accessories, ensuring everything goes together can sometimes be a bit of gamble if you’re a novice decorator.

Identifying with a certain design style can make things easier but for those of us who are confused at the difference between coastal and Hamptons even that might present problems. But, experts say, finding your style can be as easy as following your heart when choosing colours and pieces for your space.

“I always encourage people to think about what really gets them going,” architect, designer and House Rules judge Joe Snell says. “What gets you excited? What gets you up in the morning? If you can keep those things in mind when you’re creating a space then I don’t think you can go wrong.

“If you’re just doing something because you saw it in a magazine or on a TV show and not because you really love it, then that will show. Television and magazines are great for finding inspiration but if you’re going to live with something, then you have to love it.”

Mood boards

They’re a tried and true method, and even professional designers will admit to creating mood boards to help them envisage a space before they do anything else.

Creating a clear vision of what you want upfront “is essential and is a great reference to go back to”, says product designer, developer and style hunter for Target, Lisa T. “A good storyboard will make it a lot easier to decide colours, finishes and the overall feel of the space. It helps keep you on track when there are so many decisions to be made.”

Sarah Stephenson, colour consultant for Valspar paints and tutor at International School of Colour and Design, says putting together a mood board can help draw out the colours that are important to you if you’re unsure what palette your room should have.

“Going through the process of creating a mood board can also confirm colours you don’t like,” she says. “Once you have something together, put it in a prominent place in the room and live with it for a few days to see if it really does work.”

If a physical mood board isn’t your thing, there are plenty of online resources to get those creative juices flowing. “Online spaces like Pinterest, Polyvore, Instagram, Tumblr are a great way to view and explore images and ideas,” Lisa says. “I’m a self-confessed junkie for all these platforms and dedicate a substantial amount of time researching and sharing images and ideas. I’m continuously blown away with the talent and creativity of people and the time they invest in sharing with other creatives.”

Choosing colour

One of the first things you’ll notice when you walk into any room is the use of colour. Is the space neutral with bright accents? Does it have a feature wall? Has the designer worked with a pastel palette?

It’s no surprise the choice of paint can really dictate the mood and feel of a room before you layer with furniture or accessories. “Pastels or light colours are considered feminine and airy, and can actually make a space look bigger,” Sarah says.

 She advises considering what the space will be used for when choosing colours for your walls and furnishings. “For example, for a children’s play area, you’d want dynamics so you’d go for contrasting brighter colours. For a bedroom, though, you want something more harmonious so softer colours with less contrast are best.”

But actually choosing your palette and knowing what colours you’re happy to live with is the first hurdle. “It sounds silly but don’t think about it too much,” Sarah says. “The easiest way is to start collecting images and pictures from magazines and books and even things like leaves in the garden or your favourite jumper. You’ll soon see the types of colours you’re attracted to.”

Personalise your style

No two rooms are ever going to be alike so personalising your space is an important part of decorating. Even if your style is textbook industrial, layering items that are important to you — no matter what their style — will give your room individuality.

“There are so many interpretations of different design styles so if you like something that might not necessarily fit in with the theme or look you have chosen, my advice is to just go for it,” says Joe.

And, Lisa says, don’t be afraid to go with your gut. “It’s all a process and it takes mistakes to figure out what works and what doesn’t,” she says. “Don’t be afraid to go off the beaten track, invest in the long term pieces and accent with more affordable accessories. Remember, nothing is permanent and you can always change it up. That’s what design is about; being brave and discovering what works for you.”

First published in Home, The Daily Telegraph 23 May 2015

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