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Decorating your home can be intimidating — but it’s even more so when you don’t know what your style is. With the number of brick and mortar and online home decor stores, it’s easy to feel spoiled with choices when it comes to furniture shopping. Couple that with the fact that a new design trend seems to emerge every month, and the entire process can feel very confusing.
If you’re frozen in place, unable to decorate your apartment because you don’t trust your style yet, I’m here to help. I asked a few pro designers for tips on how to not only pinpoint your aesthetic but to also trust it. If you’re worried that every decor purchase you have made thus far is wrong, here’s how to learn to trust your gut.
Don’t underestimate the power of a mood board
If you’ve tried using Pinterest to cultivate your style and only ended up more confused, then you’ll be happy to know there’s a more efficient way to use the platform. Alessandra Wood, the VP of Style at Modsy, recommends using the platform as your “north star.” Rather than simply copying people’s rooms on Pinterest, use it to learn about your style.
“Create a Pinterest board with everything that you like and love, ” Wood says. “You will likely have a mish-mosh of styles that you gravitate towards, and that’s ok. But there will also likely be some patterns that emerge.” She recommends looking for similarities in what you are pinning. “Perhaps it’s certain styles, shapes, colors, or materials,” she says. “Once you start to identify those patterns, make a copy of your board and then edit it to keep only the images that show what you’ve identified in your patterns.”
Chris McGovern, principal designer at the New York-based firm McGovern Project LLC, recommends looking at elements of designs you like rather than just focusing on specific themes like “mid-century” or “farmhouse.” Identifying those elements will help you zero in on what kind of furniture and decor you actually like. “I caution [my clients] not to search for a single room that best reflects their style but to pin freely for any aspect of an image that resonates with them,” McGovern says. “Ultimately, when we take a step back, we’ll all start to see some common elements across inspiration images, like ‘moody colored millwork’, ‘heavily textured neutrals’ or whatever it may be).”
And create mood boards with specific pieces
You might not trust your style yet, but chances are, some major furnishings have really caught your eye. If you know for a fact that you love them, create a mood board surrounding each piece to tease out other furniture or decor options that could match with them. “If working independently without a designer, I suggest using any presentation software you’re familiar with — PowerPoint, KeyNote, Google Slides — to begin to develop a mood board,” McGovern recommends. “You can put that one coffee table you really love on a slide and then experiment with it by surrounding it with trinkets, chairs, and rugs that might go with it. Playing around this way will help you refine your style without actually buying anything.”
Many people don’t trust their style because they’re trend-oriented. It’s easy to get swept up in fads, which might make you worry whether or not you will still like something in a few months’ time. To remedy that, try to buy furnishings that you’ll be into for the long haul. “Ask yourself, ‘Will I love this in 10 years?’” Wood recommends. “When you buy things with longevity in mind, you’re building your own eclectic style you’ll always love. This will help you steer clear of trends that you might regret in a few seasons. Asking this question will also help you have more confidence in your decisions over time.”
Wait for that piece that makes you happy
Relatedly, if you find yourself constantly second-guessing your decorating choices, you might be buying things you don’t actually love-love. “Decorating a space is similar to dressing yourself,” says designer Michelle Lisac. “We each have our own style we gravitate towards when selecting clothing, and I think the same applies when selecting furniture and decor for a space. You can’t go wrong if you purchase items that speak to you and you naturally gravitate towards.” Obviously, Lisac says factors like dimensions, price, and comfort need to be taken into consideration, too. So you’re looking for something that falls within your budget and is both pretty and practical to you.
Don’t stick to just one style
This one sounds counter-intuitive and can be a little tricky to pull off, but if you can’t pinpoint your exact aesthetic, then try to incorporate a few styles to diversify your space a bit. “I often encourage clients not to get hung up on one specific direction that appeals to them and instead learn to artfully incorporate various vibes harmoniously,” says Caitlin Murray, founder and creative director of Black Lacquer Design. “I’m a true believer in mixing all eras and approaches when it comes to decor, which ultimately leaves a space feeling really fresh and a little unexpected. As the one of America’s first amazing interior designers, Dorothy Draper, said, ‘If it looks right, it is right.’”
In the end, if you’re really struggling to pinpoint your aesthetic, you might find it beneficial to work with an expert to help you create a space you love.”Working with a designer can be totally affordable and accessible,” Wood shares.
E-design might be the way to go, since it tends to be more affordable than working with a full-service firm. Many companies have software programs and proprietary quizzes to help you hone in on what you respond to stylistically, which can become a jumping off point for a whole room or home design scheme. Some companies to consider “hiring” include Modsy, Decorist, Havenly, and Spoak.