Design 101: The Aha Moment! Discovering Your Style

     I had planned on creating a whole series on how to determine your style & what to do with that knowledge.  But, as mentioned in my previous post, I stumbled upon Darlene Weir's Style Bootcamp, & was so blown away by what an incredible job she did that I didn't think I could do it any better.
     Instead, I thought I'd expand on what I learned (& what you will too!) from her series.  Go on, grab a coffee, visit Fieldstone Hill, & come back to me when you're done.  I'll wait....

     Pretty great stuff, right?  Let's talk about my favorite aspects of the Style Boot Camp: the personal style words & the signature style board.
    Two things surprised me when I finished this exercise.  One is the fact that none of my style words are  visually descriptive design words - in other words, you can't use my style words to paint an exact picture of a room in your head.  Instead, they describe how I want my home to feel; this is much harder to pin down, but also much more helpful in making decisions for my home.
    So what are my style words?  Classic, charming, kid-friendly, sentimental, joyful, cozy.  My next post will delve further into what these words mean to me, & how I achieve them in my home.

Via http://pinterest.com/hcbinteriors/cozy-classic-character/

    The other thing that surprised me was the pictures I ended up choosing for my signature style board.  I went through Pinterest, & chose the pictures that made an instant connection.  I didn't think through what I liked about them, or if they would go together in a collage.  If I loved it after a quick glance, it went into my "favorite images" file.  Narrowing those favorite pictures was harder, but I finally chose the ones that drew me in over & over.  Again, I didn't think about why I liked them until the whole process was over - I didn't want to put too much thought into it, because then it wasn't as likely to be a gut reaction.  And this is what I came up with:

Via http://pinterest.com/pin/210402613813719896/

     What surprised me about the pictures I chose?  They are full of blues, a little bit of green, creamy whites, warm woods & metals, and natural textures - all things I have said before are my preferences for a home, so no shocker there.  But when I compare it to my previous homes, even though there are a lot of similarities, I can see that there is way too much brown & beige (the safe neutrals).  If you look at the above collage, brown grounds most of the pictures, but as an accent, not as the main color.  Even the one picture that has a lot of brown neutrals in it, as seen close-up below, has lots of white, warm metal tones, & some pattern.  I do not have any colorful patterned drapes in my home - only neutrals - and I am ready for some fun!  It's time to cast aside the safe stuff & go after what makes my heart sing.

     In trying to be safe (because I tend to "tweak" my house a lot), all of the big items in my home are brown, tan, etc.  The reasoning behind this isn't necessarily bad; my thought was that the more expensive items in my home should be neutral so that I can add in accents that can be easily changed out (& I still think this is a good plan for a lot of people).  But here's the problem - my accents ended up being neutral also!  Too much color can overwhelm me on a busy day, but not enough can lead to my home feeling flat & blah.  Finding the happy balance is the solution.

     I think the style boards are a good idea not only for discovering your personal style, but also for planning a room from scratch.  As an example, when designing a kitchen, I prefer painted (usually white) cabinets, wood countertops &/or floors, and lighting that makes a statement.  However, mixing these 3 things could create millions of different combinations.  So, creating a kitchen style board can give me a good starting point for my overall design.

    All of the pictures above have at least two of the three elements that I mentioned.  In addition, blue cabinetry/wall color, open shelving, & lots of natural light can be found in most of them.  This helps me narrow my preferences down even more.  Seeing some of my favorite kitchens side by side also helps me determine those aspects that I don't really care for & would leave out of my planning.

     I hope that this information has been helpful in guiding you toward determining your personal style.  I know the process was helpful for me!  Stay tuned for the next post - we'll figure how to translate your style words into design ideas.



Design 101 - What is Style?

     One of the things I hear the most from my clients is that they're not sure how to define their style.  Figuring out exactly what you like is a difficult task.  I'll be honest - I still struggle with this.  As a designer, being exposed to so many resources & ideas can give me design ADD. However, after a lot of experimentation & contemplation, I can finally discern the difference between what I actually like and what I admire as beautiful but isn't for me.  Sometimes figuring out what you don't like can be just as, if not more, important as what you do like.

     I take issue with the magazine articles that try to define your "style" in 10 questions. First, they usually only include a few (very general) style terms: country, cottage, modern, traditional, vintage or romantic.  Those terms are way too broad to be of much help.  Second, how many people can actually be pigeon-holed into only one style?  Even if you know that you love all things country, what type of country are we talking about?  Rustic, woodsy, Americana?  French or English?

    The 2 images above show how subjective naming a style can be - they both appear in the same post about Americana style, but one is definitely country while the other has modern touches.    By the way, this subjectivity is one reason why it can be helpful to hire a designer.  If you went into your nearest home store & asked for Americana items, which of the looks above would you be hoping to get?  A designer can guide you toward your preference without a lot of costly mistakes.  

     Oftentimes, a person's preferences will lean towards one or two major stylistic influences, with an appreciation for other types.  For example, I love the cottage look, but for me, it has to be a mix of Southern traditional/prep + New England coastal with a dash of European influence thrown in.  The fictional story line of my home would be a Southern belle who moves to a weathered, shingled cottage on the Nantucket shoreline & marries an English farmer.  Sounds ridiculous, I know, but it also provides the perfect visual image for me to know if I will love a piece of furniture or fabric for a long time, or if it will be a passing infatuation.

cottageliving.com - tammy connor id - the holiday movie

Cape Cod + Southern + English

     I can't tell you how many things I have purchased in the past because I thought I loved them, only to give them away 6 months later.  I truly liked the table, chair, pillow, etc. at the time of purchase, but because it didn't fit my overall design style, I ended up tiring of it quickly.

What stands the test of time for me?
  • Natural textures: seagrass rugs, burlap, & woven baskets
  • Muted coastal colors (watery blues & greens, the browns & grays of driftwood) with accents of brighter colors (especially artwork)
  • A mix of wood & painted pieces
  • Leather or slipcovered chairs
  • A mix of metals: brass & pewter, gold & silver     
  • Ginghams, Buffalo Check, & muted Toiles     

     I designed the Keeping Room idea board below based on my list above.  The basics of this room would work for me for a long time, & I could easily change out the art & fabrics with the seasons or as my tastes changed.

hcb interiors keeping room

     So, how do you figure out your personal style?  One of the best ways is to go through magazines (or the genius idea that is Pinterest) & tear out anything that catches your eye.  Then, review your tear-sheets for any common ideas or themes.  You should start to see some repetitiveness - maybe you chose a bunch of images of white slipcovered furniture or you notice that you seem to like clean lines & no clutter.  This is a great way to begin your style discovery process.

     For even more in-depth analysis, I highly recommend taking Fieldstone Hill Design's Style Boot Camp, by designer Darlene Weir.  Darlene's process of determining personal style is the best I've seen & was incredibly beneficial to me.  One step of the Style Boot Camp is to create a Style Collage.  I have to say, I was surprised to see what ended up in my collage (which I will share in my next post), but when I actually took the time to think about my choices, the collage I made is absolutely me - I just didn't know it!
If you do participate in her boot camp & style collage challenge, please be sure to let her know I sent you!

     If you would like more help with the process of determining your style or with any other interior design aspect, contact me at hcbinteriors@gmail.com.  I would love to work with you!



Big Dreams & Plans

     Wow!  Where did the month of May go?  The end of school/start of summer, combined with working on multiple client projects, has kept me going 24/7.  Sorry for my absence!

     I can't share all the details for another month or so, but I will soon be embarking on one of my biggest design projects to date (big as in an entire house.  The budget is on the modest side).  My wheels have been in constant motion, with ideas filling the pages of multiple notepads.

     What's more, I will be following in the VERY talented footsteps of another Southern designer (whom I will share more about when it all becomes final).  As a designer, I am excited to put my own stamp on these already beautiful interiors.  As a design fanatic, I am nervous to change a space that has been published in shelter magazines on numerous occasions & is all over Pinterest.  Will it seem like criticism if I make any big changes?  Will people like my ideas, or will it seem like I've ruined a great design? My ideas are different from the current design - not better, not worse (I hope!), & not even hugely drastic changes - just different.  I hope that when I am able to share the befores & afters, they will be seen for what they are:  my personal perspective of a beautiful home.  No two designers will see a space exactly the same way, & I think that's a good thing - variety is the spice of life, right?  OK, enough justification.  On to the planning. :)

     I don't yet have pictures to share of the space, so I will give a verbal tour of some of the main spaces I've already begun planning, & fill in with inspiration images.  In the near future, I will share the design idea boards for some, if not all, of the rooms.

First up - the Dining Room:

     How often do people use formal dining rooms these days?  Not much, I don't think.  I am a big believer in not having empty or non-functioning spaces in a house, so for this room, I've created a design that combines dining with reading, music, etc.  The room is fairly square, with a big bay window on one wall.  I picture built-in bookcases filling the wall across from the window & will have them painted a nice gray-blue to draw attention to the importance of the books & art filling the shelves. If it's in the budget, I'm thinking grasscloth wallpaper for the walls; if not, creamy off-white paint is the backup choice.

     I hope to find decently priced upholstered seating for the bay window that will pull double-duty as both a spot for reading and as the head chairs at the dining table when needed.  The table will be a round pedestal table floating in the middle of the room so that it can be used for reading, display, & dining.   These 3 images combined give an idea of what's floating around in my head.  :)

Color - atlantahomesmag.com
Creamy Buffalo Check & Round Table - southernliving.com

Built-ins & Ambiance - mynottinghill.blogspot.com

Living Room:
     This is a light, airy space with board & batten walls, a cathedral ceiling, & a fieldstone fireplace with a glass door on one side of the fireplace & a window on the other side.  The fireplace is the first thing you notice when you walk in, so I figure why not paint the door & window trim a dark color to pop with the fireplace.  I'm thinking Sherwin Williams Urbane Bronze for the trim.  At first, I was resistant to choosing Urbane Bronze because it seems to be a trendy color right now, but I have to admit it's a great shade of dark gray with a hint of brown.  I chose Sherwin Williams Accessible Beige for the walls for both light & warmth. 

Accessible Beige

SW Accessible Beige Board & Batten
Regan Baker Designs - houzz.com


Urbane Bronze

Restoration Hardware

 The Upholstery will include an English roll arm sofa in a neutral fabric & 2 vintage chairs slipcovered in this ticking stripe (from Walmart of all places!)

     I can't wait to get started on this beautiful home.  Look for more details (& plans) mid-July.

Happy Weekend!