Choose an Interior Design Style Without Taking a Quiz

Or: How to choose an interior design style the DESIGN BADDIE way

Picking a design style can feel like being at a high end buffet.  How are you supposed to choose when everything looks good?


Your starting point

To sort this problem out, I’m going to first ask you to put yourself into one of following three categories:

  1. I have no idea what I like at all
  2. I have some idea of what I like, but I need to narrow it down
  3. I know what I like, but I need to fine-tune the details

ONE – If you are number one, don’t feel bad.  This is where everyone starts out.  

You might think you like just about everything, or you look at different styles and don’t really know what to look for or how to judge it.  

The good news for you is, this is going to be a genuinely fun thing to figure out!


TWO – If you are number two, you’re in a good place to build on some of your established preferences and it will be easier for you to start making some good progress in choosing a design style.  

All you need now is to know what steps you should take next!


For number ones and twos: If you haven’t read my article on “Finding Your Interior Design Style – Yourself”, I’d suggest going there first. 

In it I explain some good ways for a beginner to get started figuring out their design style for themselves.  

Yes, there are online quizzes you can take, and I recommend doing some of those as well, but don’t let a personality quiz be the only thing you go on when determining something which should be uniquely yours.

It will be so much more rewarding, I promise, if you take the extra effort to examine your personal preferences and do some of the work interior designers do in determining which style or look to go for.


THREE – If you’re number three and you already have a sense of what you like, then consider yourself ahead of the game. 

For you it will come down to ironing out some snags and getting a strong sense of direction about action steps for bringing your vision to life!


Design Style Basics

For our number threes and those still with me, I will sum up my main points for getting started choosing your design style here:

Can you articulate the difference between these two styles?
  1. Learn the difference between traditional and modern styles and determine which you prefer.  Keep in mind the third option, which is a mix of the two.
  1. Look at the style of your home and the architectural detailing in rooms to determine which style or look you already have in place and decide whether you want to play those features up more or whether you want to bring in a different style to create an eclectic look.
  1. Consider your fashion sense when determining your preferences for color and pattern.
  1. Look at your personality and lifestyle.  
  • If you are introverted and prefer alone time, choose furnishings and plan your space for your real needs.  
  • If you are extroverted and want to have people over a lot, you’ll want to accommodate visitors.  
  • It’s important to think about kids and pets too.
  1. Add in your cultural preferences.  
  • Do you want to go with a style that suits your climate and environment?  
  • Do you want a casual, easygoing vibe or something dressed up?  
  • Do you want to include aspects of your personal heritage or elements of a style you picked up on your travels?  

I say yes.  

Yes, also to your photography and your quirky artwork collection.  This is how you are going to personalize things for yourself, rather than just replicate someone else’s good taste.  


DESIGN BADDIE’S Design Style 5 Basics Tables

The following tables will take you through four major elements to consider when it comes time to plan a room scheme.

They are:

  1. Architectural shell
  2. Adornment and decor 
  3. Color profile
  4. Pattern profile
  5. Artwork considerations 

In my opinion, the four major elements are enough to get you a very good sense of how you plan to decorate your space.  It is the basic logic I work with when I get a new client from scratch and try to help them with this very question.

After that, I would suggest that you throw your cultural and style preferences on top of your findings to achieve the finesse that you will be looking for in nailing your style or your client’s. This falls under the fifth category.  

Please note that the following tables reference very broad and general concepts in design theory that are not specific to the names of furniture, fabrics and decorative items.  
Rather than spit out a very specific design style in answer to the question, “how do I choose a design style”, the divisions I’ve listed will do you one better.  
My offering is, instead of a crystal clear answer, a general organizational system that will help you to categorize the endless options for yourself.

So, without further ado, we’ll start with the first and most general division, the architectural shell.

The Most Important Consideration: Respect for Architecture

The three main “architectural styles” or what I also term interior shell stylistic varieties are divided by traditional, eclectic and modern.  

If you have historical architectural elements in your home your immediate work is to identify what they are so that you can figure out if they would work with the styles you are interested in decorating in.  

  • While traditional architectural-type features can be created from scratch (for example, moldings), it can be hard to cover heavy or dominant undesirable features where a more modern look is desired
  • But this need not restrict you entirely.  As an example, French classical elements can work with quite a few modern and contemporary styles, despite their traditional heritage
  • To go more modern with an originally traditional feature present you would simply need to ensure that the rest of your choices in color, pattern and decoration leaned to the modern side in order to swing a more modern look
  • If you are deeply unhappy with the interior architectural features in your home then your decision will be whether to work around them or to remove or cover them entirely
  • Whatever it is that you want to achieve; a more traditional or a more modern look, the traditional vs. modern question, or alternatively, working to achieve some ambiguity in style, is paramount to you getting the rest of the look right


I plan to continue expanding this article if there is any interest in a visual gallery of architectural molding elements for the traditional side and perhaps elements and features for the modern side.  

Stay tuned, and in the meantime don’t be shy if you have anything you’d like to ask about the Design Baddies 8 x 2 Design Style Method.

Notes on the Design Baddie Design Style Tables and the 8 x 2 Method


The system is called the 8 x 2 because I based this stylistic design ‘personality’ quiz on the well-known Myer Briggs personality test

The Myer Briggs test uses four categories divided into their opposite traits, introversion and extroversion, intuitive and sensory, thinking and feeling, judging and perceiving.

After whittling down the sides you fall on, the quiz then assigns you a four-letter combination, one of a possible sixteen personality types.

There’s even a catchy character namesake for your type.

I was pleased that mine, INFJ (introversion, intuitive, feeling, judging) and also known as The Advocate, is one of the smallest personality subgroups, making up only 2% of people.

If you have never taken a Myers Briggs test, I highly recommend it.


Using the Myer Briggs classification system for my version of a big sixteen personality test engineered for interior design:

  • I wanted to see if by defining four fundamentally distinct and broad parameters into their opposites I could devise a basic and  well-blended  system for traditional, modern and eclectic styles
  • In the Myers Briggs the very first category is extroversion and introversion.  These two opposite types of people make up one of the broadest categories you can sort humans into besides male and female, old and young.  The fact that these two opposite extremes in personality exist is clear to everyone regardless of their cultural background
  • I see traditional lovers and modernists in the same sort of juxtaposition as introverts and extroverts.  Purist traditional and purist modernist architectural and design mentalities are really opposite mindsets.  The former one is focused on the past and finding ways to replicate it, while the other only needs the principles of design to build a radically different future 
  • Perhaps a happy medium in the world of style is finding your perfect balance or at least achieving a harmonious synergy between traditional and futurist

An interesting segway from the topic of style is the study of psychology as related to interior design

If you’re curious about this topic, look into anthropometry and ergonomics, which are very important considerations in interior design theory and practice.  


TABLE 1, ARCHITECTURAL SHELL FEATURES

Building Interior Envelope

Please note that the term eclectic is my personal interpretive use of the word for the purposes of classification. The style profile ‘eclectic’ tends to borrow from multiple other styles.

Another term widely used for the meeting point between traditional and modern is transitional. I wanted the word to stand apart from traditional since they are too lexically similar, hence my use of eclectic.


TABLE 2, ENVELOPE AND DOMINANT FITTING AND FURNISHING COLOR

Interior Color Profile


TABLE 3, APPLIED FINISHES AND SOFT FURNISHINGS

Interior Finishes and Soft Furnishings


TABLE 4, FURNITURE AND DECOR DETAILING

Furniture and Decor


TABLE 5, ARTWORK FEATURES, FIXTURES AND WALL HANGINGS

Art Work and Sculpture


How to Use these Tables

Discovering your design style has just been made that much simpler!  

All you need to do is: Track the (red, purple or pink) colors of the squares you choose for each category, which describes either: 

  • What you had to start with (architectural elements or furniture, etc. if applicable)

or 

  • What you prefer taste-wise (always applicable!) and see which, out of blue, pink and purple, you have more of.

In Conjunction with the Big 5 Style Genre System


1. If you have more pink squares then you fall into the traditional camp.
2. If you have more blue squares, you prefer more modern.
3. If you are getting a lot of purple, you are eclectic. You can look to see which of the adjacent color categories there is more of (blue or pink?) to see if you lean more one way or the other.

Do you have more blue than pink?  

–If so, then you are eclectic with more traditional leanings.  

–If you are purple but have more pinks than blues, then you are also eclectic with modern leanings.  

And yes, it is totally possible to be fully eclectic; even what we would call “pure eclectic


room interior with lamp and vases on table near wall

Style and Identity

So, go ahead, give yourself a style hashtag.

Now you can say, I’m a Pure Traditionalist, an Eclectic Traditionalist, Pure Eclectic, Eclectic-Modernist, or Pure Modernist Interior Style Personality Type and you’d be pretty right on the money, just using these five metrics. 


Style Personalities

The gaps between these five metrics we can fill in with my (as yet unreleased) 8 x 2 method.

This quiz we developed tells you your style genre (no email required) based on the tables in this post.

Check it out!

Were you able to figure out how to use the above method? I’d be interested to know! Drop a couple of lines below!

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vonsassy

Designer, writer & educator living in East Asia since 2001

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