Decorating Style – Label or Limitation


Every client is so anxious to jump into a style discussion in our first interview – it could take your breath away. Who can blame them? It’s part of the “language label” that is forced down our designing throats by magazines and HGTV. Kind of like a “What’s your sign?” pick-up line but for interior design.

When it comes to creating a spectacular interior – one that thrills my clients aesthetically and experiential-ly – and one that has 10-15 year staying power (no lie) – I say…Style Discussions are Not Enough. But that, my peeps, is a topic for another blog (Hint: Next week)

No for now – let’s look at how limiting design style labels are. I’ll do so by way of sharing with you an interesting study I came across a while back about design style and the design style habits in our country. The breakout was as follows:

*Traditional Style: generally found in the South West and Eastern Great Lakes

*Casual Style: generally found in the South and Western States

*Country Style: generally found in the North East and Midwest.

“Country” here includes French, American, English, Shaker, Cottage, Mission)

So where are you in there? Do you fit the labels? Do they fit you?

Here are more!

*38% of people will design in a Casual-Contemporary style

*35% of people will decorate in a Traditional Style

*27% of people will decorate/design in a Country Style.

Do they mean all the time, in every room? In a 2nd home too? Are you in here yet?

How about this?

*People living in the North East are TWICE as likely to hire a professional interior designer.

(Hmmmm…..that means I’m busy! Hold my calls!)

People want labels: “I’m a people-person,” “I’m a Leo.” “I’m a neat-nick.”

But as your designer, I say – be very wary of labels…from the high end ‘oh-daahling’ labels for fashion and home (know why you want them so you can own them rather than them owning you). Beware of any labeled “concept” you slap on your forehead to label yourself personally. And yes… be careful not to use an indelible ink marker to write your design style label on your forehead either.

From where I sit and from what I see – there is a lot of eclecticism out there. And heaven bless it. Dreary is the interior that adheres too strictly to 1 period, to 1 style so vehemently. Not only is eclectic the way of the day – but without knowing it – you’re probably already there. Surprise.

I remember being at a window installation for a client and walking in with 2 unexpected lamps to show her in order to finish of her just-about-completed “Traditional” “Urban-chic” Living Room we’d whipped up together during the preceding months.

“Oh,” she said with quiet alarm, “Those lamps are way too contemporary for me.” As she said this, I caught a sideways glance from the head of my window workroom who was helping to put the finishing touches on the install. I could read in an instant that she too thought the same thing: Those lamps are too contemporary for in here.

“Well, just look at them,” I said lightly, as I set them up. “See them in the space and notice and feel what they do in the space and then tell me what you think.”

And so, I set them up, strategically primping the table tops upon which they rested in order to create excellent balance and line. Then, I turned on these lamp-marvels and stepped back. We all stepped back. The immediate consensus – “AHH! – those are really good in here!” (And I added in my head…I AM GOOOOOOD in here!!!” 🙂 ) “Those lamps have really grown on me, ” my client gushed….”I think I love them now.”

The lamps worked because they were carefully selected for their contrast and in this case – their lightness. The combination of contrasts was just perfect to make this particular living room go from beautiful to spectacular. Do you need a profesional to show you how to masterfully blend flavors and when and where it’s appropriate, interesting or exciting to do so? Most likely – but hey – I can’t give myself an eye exam. Nobody’s perfect.

So when next a new client speaks to me about their “Style” – and how they “Hate a certain style” – I will continue to listen, nod and smile. Knowing full well – that they are far more intricate and interesting – as people and as interior dwellers – then they even know. That they already own and live amongst a likely eclectic mix of things. And that together in our work – we’ll do wonderful things – and OH!….the things they will learn about themselves as we walk the design path together!

Style does not the woman make. The woman makes the style. It is all in how she orders & places a style: how and where she plays it and places it – and yes – reconstructs it. This is what makes the “babe have class.” This is what makes the interior sing. Sensitivity to style – yes. But never strict, laborious adherence to it.

Labels are limiting peeps. Use them amongst a wider breath of adjectives in order to communicate an idea but never as a definitive. Never as a limitation.

Next week… a deeper look at how I coax fabulous interiors by working underneath my clients style… 🙂 and in so doing – create rooms and interiors they love to look at and never want to leave.