Discovering Your Interior Design Style
Unless you've been lucky enough to build your own house from the ground up, you will at some point be stuck with somebody else's ideas of interior decoration. You may decide to live with the decorative tastes of the previous owner, or you might take immediate remedial action and paint every room with off-white or magnolia emulsion. Neither solution is ideal, the second idea is preferable to a do-nothing approach but neither solution allows your own style preferences and natural creativity to find an expression in your personal living space. But just how do you find your interior design style?
One way is to turn yourself into a style sponge. Try to consciously absorb the details of everything you come into contact with, even if it doesn't really seem very relevant at the time. Our designer was once asked to design a bright, colourful and fun kitchen for a family with young children. As usual she pored through her collection of old design magazines and visited countless kitchen design shops searching for some inspiration. Nothing seemed to click into place. Then one night, whilst she was relaxing with a glass of wine, an original 1950s Tom and Jerry cartoon came on the television. The turquoises, blacks, yellows and pinks of the cartoon looked fresh and fun. The next day a 1950s-style kitchen with all mod cons was duly designed at the drawing board in the office.
Look back through time and you'll realise that there is very little in modern interior design which is completely new and original. Most interior design styles and changes in fashion and even music are amalgamations, adjustments and perceived improvements on previous designs and trends. Today's stream-lined contemporary look harks back to 1930s modernism combined with a dash of 1960s spirit. And, yes, today's turquoise, yellow and pink toasters, kettles and lemon squeezers have the 1950s to thank for their design inspiration. Of course no-one should blatantly copy the work of other designers. As well as being unlawful, this is essentially an empty exercise that will bring you scant satisfaction. Rather you should seek to mix together sights and sounds from your everyday environment to create the style that suits you.
Actively seek out inspiration from museums, stately homes, art galleries, show-rooms, furniture catalogues, magazines, books, films, TV programmes and nature. Can you recall the colours, sounds and sights of your last holiday abroad (for instance)?. Why do you think they made you feel happy? Think about how you might use these elements to recreate that contented feeling in your own home.
A good first step is to start a file in which you can put magazine cuttings. Take photographs or buy postcards of places that you visit. These can be of buildings, furniture, beaches, sunsets - anything that inspires you. Be sure to get permission to take photographs if you are on someone else's property or in a shop. Photography is banned at most interior design and home-building exhibitions - be sure to check the rules before you start snapping.
You might like to carry a small pad of paper on which you can sketch ideas as they inspire you. Often the reasons why an architectural feature works well are hidden in the proportion of one part to another. Photographing or sketching this accurately is the only way of faithfully reproducing this proportionality later. Try to analyse why a particular room or building looks and feels right to you. What are the proportions? Is it symmetrical or asymmetrical? Are there a lot of decorative features, or is it very plain? By finding answers to these questions, you are moving towards finding your own style ethics.
Once you have a store of inspiration you are ready to source the materials, chose the colours and buy the furniture that fits in with your newly deifined style. Perhaps you've been inspired by a holiday on the English seaside. You've taken photos of the flint houses with their maritime blue trim, the long stretches of sandy beach with its tufts of marsh grass, the colourful beachhouses lined up along the shore. Translate these images and feelings into your own environment by sourcing sofas and chairs in a relaxed design, upholstered in sandy neutrals; paint your walls with a creamy wash; let the sun stream into the room with modern voiles, linen blinds or plantation shutters; accent it all with those beautiful sea blues and greens. Keep your accessories natural - wood, stone, shells, flowers. If you stay true to those elements which gave you a sense of pleasure on your holiday, you will create a happy space in your home.
You may prefer a more formal environment. Perhaps you live in a Georgian house and want to highlight its elegant proportions. Visit stately homes of the period, walk through areas of your town where Georgian architecture exists. If you can, visit Brighton with its light and airy Regency and Georgian buildings, or Edinburgh with its solid grey stone Georgian terraces. Consider combining elements of historic Georgian style with contemporary accents to add freshness and wit to the interior.
The more you explore and make a conscious note of the many things that inspire you, the more confident you will become with your own style preferences. Always stay open to new influences. Keep your eyes and ears open. Your interior design style is something which should grow as you grow. Your style is part of who you are, so why not make it part of your home environment?
© Adrienne Chinn - London