I need to be transparent about something. As a lifestyle writer, I've learned a lot about interior design over the years, through the tips and tricks from pros I've worked with to create content. I know where you can get the good stuff for less, what kind of pieces are worth the splurge, and the latest trends that instantly transform your space for the season. That said, one major question looms: What the heck is my home decor style?
This sounds like it should be easy for a woman in her (ahem) late 30s to answer. And when it comes to what I style on my body, I'm quite confident about what fits me well, what will make me comfortable, and what feels like — for lack of better explanation — me. Sadly the same can't be said for my very meh apartment decor. And it's certainly not helping to see everyone's perfectly curated homes on Instagram as they tackle rearranging and spring cleaning during quarantine like a total professional.
I suppose you could describe by current interior design situation as "eclectic" in that it's a mishmash of stuff I bought at flea markets 10 years ago, IKEA pieces, and a few acquisitions from ex-boyfriends or friends who moved or outgrew them — which doesn't sound so bad, but as I compare the finishing product to the homes of my peers, I'm always left feeling like not only is it not aesthetically where I'd like it to be, but it doesn't really reflect me. For example, I love the minimalism of a modern hotel room, but I also want a space to feel personal and lived-in. And I pore over photos of plant-filled bohemian homes but I know I'd never be able to sustain all that greenery. No wonder my apartment feels so confused.
Thankfully, there are people for this, including the folks over at Havenly, a sort of digital design concierge. I knew such services existed but have always been a little unsure about how it works. But after taking the online style quiz and chatting with Heather Goerzen of Havenly's Create & Design team, revamping a few rooms seems a whole lot less overwhelming. The process starts by identifying your favorite among a set of interiors. (I chose one with a Navajo rug, overstuffed furniture, a marble coffee table, and some vintage accent pieces.) You also answer how well-versed you are about interior design ("I've dabbled"), what rooms you'd most like to decorate (living room and bedroom), and how thrifty you are (quite).
Based on this criteria, Havenly's algorithm decided my main style was Midcentury Modern with Bohemian, Scandinavian, and Global sub-styles. So then what? Well, if you want to proceed, you can choose a matched designer who can assist you (style advice, product selections, etc). The most affordable tier is $79, which gets you a mini update, but even before you decide to sign up for such a service, Goerzen suggests some ways to learn more about your personal style before you spend a single dollar on another piece you're not absolutely in love with — from adopting a Marie Kondo-like approach to carefully examining the contents of your closet.
Ahead, find her sage advice if — like me — you're struggling to find an interior style that defines you as well as your favorite pair of jeans (or flowery dress, or whatever your '"thing" is). And just know that if you come out the other side realizing you're not the kind of person with all-white-everything and plants everywhere, that's okay, too. I can admit now that I'm not, and my future layout will only benefit from this realization.
Personal Home Decor Style Tip: Your Closet Can Be A Good Indicator
Turns out that knowing your personal fashion style can help you navigate these murky waters. According to Goerzen, the clothing you're drawn to is probably a good indicator of the home decor style pieces you'll love. "If your closet is filled with floral maxis, you’re probably going to want a style that’s more relaxed and effortless, with a little boho flair," she says. "If you’re drawn to button-ups and timeless neutral sweaters, your space should also likely feel classic and timeless, refined and not too daring. If your wardrobe is a sea of vintage, stick to flea markets and weave antique collectibles into your home decor. And if you’ve got a lot of ruffles, sequins, and a fair amount of animal print, you’re probably more luxe and glam in your interior design aesthetic, too."
Personal Home Decor Style Tip: Don't Rush It
If you're like me — and hate about 80 percent of your current pieces — you can feel the urge to replace everything ASAP. But Goerzen suggests not rushing the process if you really want it to feel authentic to you. "Take the time to collect pieces and furniture that mean something to you," she explains. "This goes for big and small pieces alike: Wait to discover that sofa or sideboard with statement charm, or bring home that chipped vase from the flea market that just makes you smile."
Personal Home Decor Style Tip: Don't Over-Shop
Before you blow your entire stimulus check on pieces you've spotted in the homes of Instagram influencers, know that working with what you already have might be a good first step (and it don't cost a thing). "One of the best things you can do to create a home that you feel good in is to learn and embrace the art of editing," says Goerzen. And the current quarantine is a great time to tackle this project.
While you're evaluating what to keep and what to toss, consider creative ways to repurpose and rearrange. "You likely have statement serving bowls stored in your cabinets, or perhaps beautiful glassware that could make an interesting display on an open shelf. Also, books are a designer’s best styling friend. Remove any jackets for a more sophisticated look, and stack both horizontally and vertically for layered height."
Personal Home Decor Style Tip: Ask Yourself Key Questions
When it does come time to purchase a new piece or two, ask yourself some key question to know if it's worth splurging on. For example: Does this piece feel like me? Can I envision where it would go in my home? Does this add something that's missing? And then, of course, there's the mantra made famous by Marie Kondo, Does it bring me joy? Goerzen believes all of these answers can help steer you towards pieces you'll love forever — not just ones that match the current trends.