Creating Your Style

PSSSST...I'm no longer blogging here!
You can now find me at


I wrote a  post a couple years ago (and stuck it up in the tabs up yonder) 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.  

So tell me.  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?  Enquiring minds wanna know.

(All pics in this post are of my home over the last 3 years)


NanaDiana said...

What a great post. I read every word. I want you to know that when I first started blogging I started yearning..and thinking I should do this..or do that...or show more of my home...but that is not what my blog is about. My blog is about sharing my precious family moments...and showing things I love once in a while..but not doing the whole house tour. I find that I love MANY styles but my own home is a compilation of things I LOVE-truly love. Oh, I might have an object here and there that someone ELSE loves and I just tolerate but I stay pretty true to ME!

I am not a trend follower..and now I am seeing trends that are just redos of things from the 80's, etc. Updated but still..from the 80's. Tangerine? I had it in the 70's when it was IN. I would not have it again unless it is in a Fall arrangement..I love it there.

Thanks for putting together a wonderful post. I hope a lot of people read it. I hope a lot of peopple GET it! I hope YOU have a great day- xo Diana

Rose Garden Romantic said...

Wonderful post! Such great advice! It's all so true! I think we all get seduced by those fun and ever changing trend sometimes. I know I do! I read your previous post about this and was happy to hear it again today because I really do have a hard time ignoring what's popular and sticking to my loves! Thanks for the reminder!

Amy @ Five Kinds of Happy said...

Nice tips. I'm in the process of discovering my signature style!

Kathy said...

Honestly this is the best blog post I've read in quite some time. Such true words and so well said. Thank you so much! :)

fixitfaerie said...

I love your home. It is pretty and light, and well just PRETTY!
Thank you for sharing it with us. Paula

rebecca @ older and wisor said...

Was that original post featured somewhere years ago? I clicked on the link and I JUST KNOW that I've read that before. Somewhere. Which is weird because I didn't even know you then.

I mean, not that I know you NOW, but still.

Here's my two cents: we evolve as people (hopefully), but some things always stay the same. At least for me. Even in my first house back when I was 20 (last year, right?) I can pick out stuff I did that I still love. Chunky molding, lots of contrast, earth tones, kinda plain with some graphic patterns thrown in to keep it from being too boring. That's me forever and ever, because that's what makes me drool. I have an appreciation for other styles, but only do what resonates with me. That being said, sometimes it's ONLY by experimenting that you discover who you're not.

Also? I have been known to sell lots of stuff on Craiglist once something I have gets "popular." I know. What I love should be what I love. But I can't love something if I see it in 12 of my friends' houses too. Which is the problem with the internet. Now matter how unique you'd like to think you are, you can find hundreds of people who have done the same thing - BOO.

Comeca Jones said...

My style is quite different than that of many bloggers with my african mask and dark colors but it works for me and I still love what you and others have to share. In my kitchen I notice I like a lil country its a wide mix at our house and thats ok too. For me different is good!

~ B. said...

Oh so wise Cindy! LOVED this post! I used to be all over the design boards/blogs when I was in my self discovery stage. But once I figured out what my style was then they lost a lot of their hold over me. I know I like greens, creams, a few touches of blue and a little sparkly glass and mirror!

Deborah Anne said...

Well said Cindy!

Clara said...

Well, you've been to my house... and I think we may agree... I don't have a style. It all seems to work together, but it is truly undefineable??? Do we need a word... maybe eclectic? I think it's possible to fill your home with things you love without settling into a "style" as long as they all sort of go together?

Sissie's Shabby Cottage said...

Guilty here! (raising my hand)
When I first started blogging I had a real sense of my decorating style and didn't really care if it was trendy or not. Then after blogging for awhile I started to want what I would see on the blogs, like french style and more shabby chic.
I too have had to stop and take a good hard look at heartfelt likes and dislikes. It's easy to be drawn in and buy something just because so and so made it look wonderful in their home.
I'm with you on the color of the year thing. I didn't like last years and I definitely do not like orange,gads who uses it!

Thanks for keeping it real and for reiminding us to do the same.


gertie @ The Old Block House said...

Very wonderfully written. I'm so fortunate in that my boyfriend and I both love the same design style. We are the vintage, farmhouse kind of folks, because that's what we've been our entire lives. Both country raised in old farmhomes (mine was a rental that was falling down around our ears, his the family farm), homes filled with old "junk", and taught to make do with what we had and take what is there to it's greatest potential.

Does he get aqua? No, but it's been my favorite color since first grade when I noticed my mother's birthstone pendant. So when vintage farmhouse begins to fade and aqua is becoming out of vogue, I'll be there scooping up whatever is being tossed aside.

Sonnie said...

Great blog post, Cindy. And I still LOVE your home, your style. It's so comfortable and cozy. Great advice, you said it so well. I'm learning that just because I really like a "look" there is no way I'd be able to live happily with it. You are one smart cookie :)
Take care!

Suzanne@Meridian Road said...

I'm with you on the tangerine. Euww. The 70's left a big
orange scar on my soul. Or something.
Defining likes from loves is a hard thing in home decor. Thanks for the post~lots of smart advice in there!

Dana-Northwest Texas said...

Love your home; love this post. I am so inspired by your words. Thank you for taking the time to craft a post with so much 'meat' and such lovely pictures. I feel like you were the voice of many of us.

Anonymous said...

Loved your post. When I first came to Blogland, I had a pretty good idea of what my style was and then the blog envy started making me doubt myself.

I go for the darker jewel and earth tones, but it seems everyone is going towards whites, creams, beige and grey. It is lovely, but it isn't me.

Blogs are a powerful thing and they can really mess with your confidence and self esteem. After a few years of reading and looking at blogs, I have decided to be true to me and my tastes. I have never really liked to follow the crowd. I have always wanted to express myself in what I wear, what I do, and how I decorate in what makes me happy. Why should that change now? It shouldn't and thanks for reminding me to be who I am.

BTW, I really like your home. It looks like a real home. Warm, cozy, and inviting.

Unknown said...

EXCELLENT post! I don't think I can say more. {Wait, maybe I can.} It is sometimes SO hard not to want to become a "popular" blog, full of popular posts of popular things. Sounds like I'm back in high school wanting to run with the "in" crowd. But, in reality, that's kind of what it is. Wanting to do what everyone else is doing, so I can be "cool" too. :) Or perhaps worse yet, trying to think of something new and different, so I can stand out. But I challenge myself constantly to be true to myself. Be true to what I love and what will work for my family. My mom encourages me to blog my life - not live to blog. So yeah, this post really struck a chord with me. Thanks for sharing. :)

Unknown said...

Cindy, this is a wonderful post and so very true! I have shared my authentic design style and loves vs. likes before, but you have nailed it so well my friend. I am learning to admire other images, but know what I truly love and work it into our home, yes even on a tight budget. I'm getting there. Just this past while I have been tempted by the french settees on Craigs and in blogland, and also modern elements, but it is just not my love nor would it work for our family. I have learned to admire that look, just in someone else's home. Today I posted a design dilemma of sorts on the guest bedroom I am working on and would love if you found a moment to stop by for an opinion. Take care, girl!

Unknown said...

Oh, and once again thanks for making me smile today.

Anonymous said...

Excellent post! I really enjoyed your words of wisdom. I spend WAY too much time in blog land. I don't have my own blog though. My husband and I recently remodeled our 50's brick ranch kitchen. We love it. We did every bit of the work ourselves over the past year. We still have some odds and ends to finish...waiting now on our pantry door to be delivered. We honored our 50's ranch with knotty pine paneling that we installed to match that in our adjoining breezeway. We stained it a soft green and love it. Definitely not part of the trends in blog land now, but it fits our style, family and the vibe we wanted for our home. We did use some trendy things like open shelving instead of upper cabinets, but at the same time, open shelving is one of my loves. Thank you for such a thoughtful post containing such good advice. Sincerely, Patti Hill Livonia, Michigan


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