Finding your design style can be a major challenge — after all, how are you supposed to know if you’ll love the decorating choices you make now in a year’s time? To help make it easier, we asked the team at BuildHer to share their top tips on how to find your home design style.
Four years ago, friends Rebeka Morgan and Kribashini Hannon launched the BuildHer Collective, an online global community aimed at empowering women to build or renovate their own properties with confidence. As part of their work, they seek to inspire and educate, which means they’re both intimately acquainted with all the possible pitfalls that can crop up during the design, planning, and building stages.
Discovering your personal design style can be an overwhelming process. From mid-century modern, to coastal cool, and sophisticated Scandinavian-style, there’s countless interior design styles to choose from. And they all have their quirks and charms! Here, Rebeka and Kribashini share their top tips on how to find your home design style.
Where to Start
Looking for inspiration for your home design style might come easily to you, or it could be excruciatingly hard. Among the BuildHer community, we’ve met women who feel they’ve spent their entire life looking for and collecting inspiration for their dream home, mapping out every detail in their head before they even begin.
Then there’s another group who, no matter how hard they try, are unable to nail down exactly what they want and which direction they’d like to follow. When it comes to sifting through your inspiration, it’s important to narrow down the direction you want to take.
But before you get to decoding your vision, take a step back and look at the resources available to you. Once you have a collection of images that inspire you, then you can begin to filter them to create practical mood boards. Here are some of the resources we recommend:
Hit the Books
These can be a bit hit and miss. Naturally, you don’t want to cut your books to pieces, so you will need to photocopy or scan the images you want to use. For bigger-picture inspiration, we like to look at reference books that explore some of the great architects and interior designers across the eras, along with public buildings that inspire creativity.
Flip Through Magazines
Print magazines are a fantastic place to look for more tangible inspiration because you can chop bits out. They are curated by editors and stylists with a keen eye for upcoming trends, and the content is generally professionally designed and photographed to really showcase builds or products.
The limitations here are the long lead times — it can take several years to build a designer’s vision and then photograph it, and editors usually work on a magazine issue months before it’s released. As most of us are looking to build classic homes, this is not necessarily a problem, but the images can take time to collect if you’re looking for multiple styles of inspiration that are not bound to a specific trend.
Scan Social Media
Instagram has fast become one of the best sources of inspiration for building and renovating. The content is fresh, up to date and abundant, and if you follow the right designers, you’ll find posts of what inspires them alongside their own work. You can save images onto digital mood boards and contact people directly with questions about products and processes.
We have had great success using Instagram to help people gain the answers to their home-related questions while also finding inspiration and details for upcoming projects. Pinterest is also incredibly useful for creating style collections, which you can then link to different products. The only problem with Pinterest is that it can be hard to narrow down your image selections when there is so much beautiful inspiration to look through. Try and pick a minimal amount of styles and stick to them.
Build Mood Boards
Once you’ve gathered your inspiration, we recommend creating at least one mood board. There are no rules when it comes to arranging your images: You might like to put together an overview of what you are trying to achieve, or maybe you’d prefer to create mood boards for individual rooms, focusing on fixtures and fittings, or perhaps you want to concentrate on colors, soft furnishings, and fabrics.
We like to start with a mood board for every room to help us determine where we are headed in each space. As you look through the images you are drawn to, you can become more selective until you are left with a handful of core photographs, which will guide your next steps. Once your room mood boards are looking pretty stylish, highlight what you particularly like in your favorite images and what you are less keen on in others. This will help you to further refine your aesthetic and draw out what is speaking to your vision. Each image will, generally, evoke an emotion.
When this happens, take note of how the image makes you feel and whether it reflects your values and feelings. Does the emotion align with how you want to feel in a space and, more generally, what a home means to you? Do the images reflect what you want to achieve? When there are so many styles and design choices available to us, narrowing down a concept can be a harder task than initially thought. Once you’ve refined your mood boards, see if you can find a common theme or view. Perhaps the images are cool and moody, or maybe they are light and bright.
Do they have a retro feel, or another thread that stitches them all together? There are many programs you can use to bring your mood boards together. PowerPoint is easy and commonly used, but Word, Illustrator, Style Sourcebook (a website that curates furniture and material samples), pinboards, and sketchbooks are just as good. The method doesn’t matter as much as the actual collection and processing of ideas, so use the tools or program you feel most comfortable with.
Create Materials Boards
Once you’ve created your mood boards, the next step is to take your selected materials and create a materials board. This means selecting specific paint colors, cabinetry materials and colors, splash backs, tiles, flooring, curtains and blinds, and any other fixtures in your home, to see how they all fit together.
A materials board is also a fantastic option for showcasing your inspiration and helping to ensure that what you’ve gathered is cohesive. We collaborate with many architects and designers and everyone works differently, creating everything from formally presented materials boxes, with samples cut and glued into place with a key on the side, to a box of samples that you can move around and play with. How you curate your materials board is up to you.
The technique doesn’t matter; the point is to bring your samples together to check that they work, both in terms of color and theme. Gathering materials may seem like an easy task, but finding cohesion can be harder, as it comes down to selection and composition, which may or may not be a key skill for you. It is lovely to have a finished collection of materials for a house.
Our preference is to keep materials loose in a box so we can play with them. We can switch them out, add details along the way, or replace materials if we need to. We continue to work on it as we build, staying ahead of the trades. Our years of experience enables us to do this, as we understand lead times and potential building issues, so it won’t cost us more to continually develop the design.
If you are working with a fixed-price build, you will need to select your materials ahead of time and make sure they all work together in the spaces they will eventually occupy.
This article originally appeared on our sister site, First For Women.