I wrote a post a couple years ago (and stuck it up in the tabs up yonder), then followed up with This Post, both of which I will attempt to condense here for old time's sake and for my new followers (but I do recommend reading the original as it's more detailed and, well, funny). It's about how I go about distinguishing LIKES and LOVES in my home, which hopefully also helps my readers in pursuit of their own style. It's not a perfect science, and my presto-chango personality will probably never land on a particular 'style' and stick with it forever. But whenever I go about redoing a room, start searching out inspiration images, clearing out the library shelves of country/cottage/farmhouse decor books, I find myself heading back once again to my list of LOVES. They are the anchor for my DaDD (decorating ADD).
It's helpful to make a scrapbook or binder or inspiration board in real life with examples of those LOVES 'cause in this day of pinterest and tumblr and shelter blog eye candy....it's easy to over saturate your brain cells and get overwhelmed or worse, distracted by the periphery and end up spending time, money and energy on something you're not really gonna be content with for the long haul.
By the way, it's also important to recognize your LIKES too, because sometimes they are the little bits of 'trend' that find their way into your space, a way to 'date' a look to see if you're compatible for a lifelong commitment after the initial lust, and they can score you lots of blog hits/pins. Just being honest here. Plus they can be a nice way to give your home a quick updated look if you're staging for selling. But don't go spending too much time and energy on those LIKES 'cause more than likely you'll tire of them quickly. At least I do.
Mostly I hope this exercise in interior design saves many of you from the trap of 'trend' and helps you begin or continue along the journey of defining your own unique style. I can tell you that after 2 years, I'm WAAAY better at teasing out those elements that make my heart sing and those whose tunes I only recognize from other visual venues that are considered 'trendy'...and I don't fall as easily or as hard. I say, "Oh, that looks like so-and-so's style. Pretty. Not my thing, but pretty."
And I'll admit that it's kinda depressing to see someone who I felt nailed their style be lured away into something more Pottery-Barnish or Shabby Chicish or Industrialistic or whatev., knowing they are compromising. If you get anything from this post, grab on for dear life to this: TRENDS are fickle. They can't be trusted. And they don't necessarily look good on everyone. It's gonna take a certain bravery to turn your back and stop your ears to their siren-song, but you and your house (and your budget) will endure a 10 year odyssey off course if you don't. Trust me on this.
Defining your 'look' is akin to discovering your true self, and that's wicked hard work. Anyone can pop into Gap (unless you're a size 2X like me) and come out looking trendy. But do folks notice YOU or just your clothes? Same goes for your house. Wouldn't you rather find stuff that compliments who YOU are instead of letting others' idea of a 'trend' define you and your dwelling? It's a holy exercise, this 'finding your style'.
Besides don't ya sorta like to rebel against trends? Isn't there a part deep inside everyone that yearns to express it's own uniqueness? I mean I'm sorry, but that tangerine orange color just named this year's newest faze makes me want to barf. No offense of course. I love tangerines and I do indulge in a teensy bit of orange when I get my fallishness on, but seriously?
Along that line (vein?), be sure to read THIS post too (also on my sidebar because I know how much y'all want to spend your whole ding dang morning/afternoon/evening on ::cottage instincts::).
Anyway, here's my attempt to give you a 'cheat sheet' on how to recognize and define your style.
Questions to ask when you've landed on a particular image whilst trawling for inspiration:1. Can I visualize my family in this space? (if no, then move along)
2. Does this space have a timeless appeal? Too trendy? (be aware when you're simply recognizing a trend or if you would actually like it if you'd never seen it before...SO IMPORTANT!)
3. Do I already have furniture/accessories to pull this off? (be respectful of your financial responsibilities)
4. Why did I stop here? What specifically caught my eye? (BE SPECIFIC. I use post it's to write things that caught my eye)
5. Would this play nicely with the style of my house and my other Loves? (this can be hard to answer until you've actually begun to recognize the difference between your Likes and Loves...save it for when you've had some practice incorporating what you've learned into your real life.)
As you gather a collection of images, you can begin to compare them against each other. I often do a 'face off', especially if two images seem very different, but both spoke to me in some way. It can also be helpful to compare very similar images in order to more closely define particular elements you aren't sure are LIKES or LOVES. This is the nitty gritty of differentiating your LIKES and LOVES. And why is that important, nay paramount???
You're going to have to say no to some of the 'likes' in order to say yes to your 'loves'.
Repeat as needed until this is so ingrained into your cranium that you can breeze out of Pottery Barn under your own power instead of white knucking the newest $700 bedding ensemble and screaming I MUST HAVE THIS as your higher functioning friends try to coax you out to the food court for some MSG-laden chinese stirfry. Trust me. One day you'll thank me for making your memorize that bolded diddy up there.
Back to the exercise. As you compare your pile of images, you'll start seeing some common denominators. Those are going to start coming into sharper focus as you begin training your eye to see them. If you're wondering whether something is true LOVE, find that element in other images, used in different ways and see how those images grab ya. For instance, I was totally enamoured with the frenchy grainsack trend until I started noticing the spaces they looked best in.....which is not my style (although I enjoy and appreciate that look). When you're actually looking for specific inspiration for a specific room (say, my guest room and bath), it will eventually take a lot less time and trevail to nail some do-able ideas and leave the rest for some other time when you can't sleep and just need some decor porn. Not that I'm a user, you understand.
I want to re-emphasize again that just because you recognize a trend and feel that tell-tale pounding in your chest region doesn't mean it's your thang. If you find yourself needing triage in that instance (see: white knuckling PB bedding above) IMMEDIATELY apply this logic: If I'd never set eyes on this space/thing, would I find it so appealing? Or do I just want really bad to be a popular blogger so I'll feel all glowy inside thinking I'm acceptable and perfect because I can copy the Big Guys/Gals and my follower number and pins are on an upswing? I told you this is a holy experience. No shame or judgement from me. I type it 'cause I live it.
And it can be frustrating. Here's what I wrote in that original post:
Sometimes it's hard to let go of certain images that you think you love, but realize they don't work with your family, your budget, or your TRUE loves. You're mostly just 'in like' with them, not truly 'in love'. Or it might be a crush...real but fleeting, intense but hard to sustain. For example, I'll always be taken by the serene beauty and casual elegance of Rachel Ashwell's Shabby Chic style, but girlfriends, it will never fit me as well as a vintage farmhouse cottage filled with faded florals, ticking, homespun and linen. That's not to say it's still ridiculously hard not to buy all the glamous Simply Shabby Chic toiletry items in Target! In this case it's a choice to invest in what I know I have always loved instead of what I kinda love but wouldn't work with a family with 4 kids still at home and a house full of more rustic antiques passed down from my family.See, it's not all fun and games. Well, ok, it's a lot more fun than say being pulled from Pottery Barn throwing a tantrum. But just be forewarned that it can be hard to hear your own voice if you've given over to the dark side of magazine and mega blog chatter for any length of time.
One other thought that I will whisper....you sometimes just need to take a break from all the visual fluff and stuff and just LIVE in your space for awhile. Avoid the decor blogs and magazines, shun pinterest and tumblr for a slice of time. Let the voices recede and see if your heart is saying something. Maybe that little girl inside your heart has been tentatively but persistently singing about white eyelet curtains....like my inner child had been, but I didn't notice until I could. not. step. away. from that bolt of pristine holey fabric at JoAnns. You'd be surprised when that little girl pipes up, and what she pipes about if you take a bit of time to ignore the screaming frenzy of internet. If you find yourself overwhelmed, take your inner child to lunch and ask her what she loves.
I'll wrap this up and let you get to reading the two other posts about being yourself and defining then creating your own style with this personal list of my LOVES. You'll notice some 'trendy' elements. They are ones I flirted with and found I just really LOVED, and will continue to LOVE after the trends go bye-bye:
Coziness, antique and unique/eclectic furniture, all shades of warm neutrals, natural textural materials, faded florals, a painted and natural wood furniture mix, pops of pink and green pastels amidst warm whites. Slipcovers, bamboo shades. Black or deep brown accents. Worn-out denim. Aqua blue in any incarnation. Old farmhouses with wood floors and high ceilings. Old beach cottages with sun-faded and salty air-worn clapboard. Historic bungalows with deep porches and hefty pillars. Cape Cods with dainty gables. A touch of bling.
What are some design elements you know by heart are your LOVES. How have you learned to help yourself recognize those elements and shun other possibly more trendy themes?
(All pics in this post are of my home over the last 3 years)