-And why you don’t have to be “creative” to find your own style!
10 minute read
“Style” is something anybody can have, regardless of whether they are following someone else’s “rules” for decorating or not. Often the most stylish people you’ll meet (and those with the most stylish homes) are people who have their own uniquely personal sense of style.
In this post we help you understand the process that will set you on the path to finding a look that is uniquely yours.
Style, Experience, Creativity
There are three main ways to get an interior design style which is personal to us.
The first way is learning about style by studying existing styles, and the second is developing your style over time through trial and error (And all designers will tell you, practice makes perfect). The third way is to be a creative genius.
I suggest that you make use of all three methods.
If you’ve ever wondered where interior design style comes from and how people just like you come up with their own unique style expressions, this is for you!
Creativity and Style
Most of us can tell a room with good style from a room with bad style – even if we don’t really know how to create a stylish room ourselves.
When it comes to the specific elements in a design, we may all appreciate different things, yet we can all agree when a room is well designed. The reason? What makes a room look ‘put together‘ is that the elements that make up the space have been carefully thought out.
Remember this for later.
Two Ways for ‘Styles’ to Develop
The first thing to know is that personal as well as recognized “styles” can all be learned.
Two important ways are through mimicry and invention.
If you’ve never watched “Everything is a Remix” by Kirby Ferguson, it explains how art and style evolve really well. Do yourself a favor and check it out.
Mimicry and Invention
a) Mimicry – Basically “copying”. A sense of style can come from what we learn through observation, and through simple imitation go on to adapt for ourselves.
b) Invention – As we copy we are forced to improvise. “Style” can be learned through trial and error, and eventual creative self-discovery.
How Do Designers Design?
Most interior designers are doing a little loose copying as well as allowing for adaptation each time they come up with a new stylistic choice on one of their projects.
Ideally an interior designer wants it to look like it is in the ‘spirit’ of any original styles which were referenced for the design, and not an exact copy of any of them, which is just lame.
Copied Style vs. Achieved Style
If some styles are “copied” from others and some are “achieved” ourselves, isn’t one better than the other?
Surely it’s better to work at something ourselves without slavishly and mindlessly copying others!
You are right.
Don’t Be Afraid to Copy at First
Where we make the exception is when we are new to something.
With decorating, for example, you might have a great overall sense of your style but if you are new to picking paint or flooring, you should probably do a little homework before embarking on your project.
Listen to Professionals
A lot of professional people have spent many years dedicated to the decorating and design problems that seem to be new problems when we are starting out.
Don’t be afraid to get some advice.
Always make sure everything works together as a scheme before you commit to purchases.
Study the Masters
Did you ever hear that old adage which says that we should “study the masters“?
Well, it’s true for decorating and interior design too.
What a lot of people don’t understand is that we are copying only until we are able to work without needing the reference.
Most decorating beginners and design students are doing a lot of imitation when they start out.
It’s how we learn.
As we grow in our abilities, we can begin to improvise more.
We do it over and over, until we are masters of the craft.
Someone like this has achieved their personal style by practicing and honing that ability over and over.
The creative genius, on the other hand, is the one who is able to play the creative game on such a high level that we don’t even understand exactly how he is doing it.
He is on the level of a ‘magician‘.
Creativity and You
Today I want to tell you about the potential that you have to be more creative and to do well in creative endeavors, like figuring out your own design style.
Enhancing your creativity is extremely helpful when taking on a big projects (like executing on a design style in your actual home or dorm room.
You Are Your Own Touch-stone
We all have these ‘built in’ or innate aesthetic preferences in each of us which will come to the fore as we do creative work. These mark the dots which make up our learned preferences.
Creativity is the ability to connect dots in new ways.
We need to create connection and cohesion.
You could say that we already have the makings of our own style within us.
Such a Thing as Natural Style?
When someone has a good sense of “style” naturally, they are a person who finds it easy to put a room or an arrangement together and make it look good.
For them it almost seems to happen effortlessly.
They might be what we call a decorating or design natural.
If we think about it further, the question might arise: how is it that a person like that is ‘creating their own style?’
Before you start thinking that being able to develop your own style is impossible because you “aren’t creative enough”, think again.
Here’s how so-called “creativity” affects the development of new design styles, from your favorite celebrity designers to your talented friend who designed her bedroom in three hours.
You might be surprised!
Discovering Style: Is Creativity Spontaneous or Learned?
We all know of those incredibly talented people who seem to find making things look beautiful so easy.
My own grandmother never ‘learned’ decorating but had a design eye with the best of them and a very unique and cultured home.
Do these lucky people just have a gift?
An ‘Original’ Pattern
When a talented person finds it easy to decorate or design a room or interior “off the cuff”, a person like this can be said to be creating an “original composition“.
In other words, they have produced something which seems almost 100% unique to us, and probably a lot of other people.
It might as well be magic.
We’ve all heard something along the lines of, “Whoa, this dude’s so creative! “, “Where does he get his ideas?”, or even “How does he come up with this stuff?”
“How does she get her designs so flawless?
“She must just be naturally brilliant.”
“They’re just really good at ‘X’“
In truth, the work of a “creative genius” is unique enough that we don’t associate it (strictly) with anything else that we recognize.
The work seems to stand on its own as a work of novelty.
But that’s only because we don’t know what the creative genius knows.
What this novelty actually is, is a sort of “happy amalgamation” of this unique person’s influences and ideas, and they are actually quite traceable!
No magic required.
Yes, just when the creative genius has you enthralled with his abilities and all the focus is on them, it’s time to turn your attention to the what’s behind the scenes.
What is even more interesting than this seemingly magical ability to pull off creative compositions is the fact that the ‘act of creation‘ isn’t actually as spontaneous as it appears to be.
And while it might not be pure spontaneity at its core, it’s not any less amazing.
Experience: The Wellspring of Creativity
While the decorating genius appears to be creating spontaneously, they are also doing what they have practiced.
And I’m not only talking about hard design skills.
It turns out that in order to be creative, we are, in fact, actually drawing upon a lot of existing mental resources and learned preferences which we as individuals all have.
Draw on Your Own Experience
No matter how bad we might think we are at noticing things which fall into the domain of “aesthetics“, we actually have more to draw on than we think.
Do you realize that everything that you’ve ever liked or disliked over the years has led you to evolve your own personal sense of what is noticed and given attention to, and what isn’t?
It’s actually as simple as attention.
Attention, Focus and Memory
The things that you like “light up” for you, while the things that you don’t like are often ignored, and thus tend to dissipate into the background.
But you don’t only remember good stuff!
When we have any kind of strong emotional response to something, including that of disgust or irritation, the thing which caused the response is more likely to be remembered by our ‘lizard brains‘.
Translating this to preferences in art and design, it could be disgust which arises from seeing a strongly hideous pattern on an old, moldy wallpaper in a dilapidated house.
We’ll probably always hate that pattern.
Making an Impression
On the other side of the coin, there is a feeling of pleasure we get when we see a beautiful piece of artwork.
Anything that reminds us of that artwork in the future will illicit the pleasure associated with that earlier discovery.
These are the things which make an “impression“.
Your brain is basically Pinterest.
You go around life snapping up images and saving them to your “pleasing” and “displeasing” mental boards.
We access these impressions every time we see something which reminds us of that all important memory we have stored about what we like and what we stay away from.
One bad wallpaper reminds us of a bunch of other examples of wallpapers we’ve seen and hated.
One good example of a Mediterranean style home reminds us of other similar ones we’ve loved before.
So, it turns out that your sense of what good aesthetics are comes from a continued back-and-forth-dialogue that you’ve been having with yourseIf.
When you are able to honestly examine why you really like something or don’t, and get to the bottom of it, you’ll always find something really personal to you.
As personal as your personally curated Instagram, Quora, Tumblr, Reddit or Pinterest feed.
Remember Your Preferences
If you want to discover your personal sense of style it’s time to get realistic with yourself about why you like and don’t like certain things.
Don’t forget nuances like, the way we might like how something looks but hate how it feels, or worse, how it works in real life.
Start collecting your preferences and taking notes!
Get Your Own Style
Now that you know how styles are learned and adapted and how we can each draw on our own preferences and creative leanings when it comes to creating our own styles, I hope that you will try something new.
It’s time to become your own creative stylist.
To do this you’re going to take all the influences you’ve acquired and combine them to create something that is unique for you!
You may not have realized it at the time, but all this time you were learning your own aesthetic preferences and they are all there for your own self discovery.
Here’s a game I used to like to play through design school while looking at interior design magazines like House Beautiful.
MIssion: Find an amazing room and challenge yourself to change one thing in the room.
Try it and I think you’ll learn a lot.
The Good Kind of Research
There’s almost no better way to find and hone your personal sense of interior design style aesthetics than to start making some Pinterest boards, or better yet, try some old school tear sheets.
You know, plain old magazine cuttings.
Let these data sets work with your natural preferences and real world project information to find a style unique for you and your poroject.
Go and have some fun!
-If you’d like to know more about finding your personal sense of design style and how to learn yours without using a quiz, go here:
-If you would like to learn more about mood boards and how designers use them, go here:
-To look at thirty mood boards of each major interior design style, go here:
You can also look at how I organize present day interior design styles across the modern and traditional spectrum.
Regardless of whether we love a particular style or not, it is truly a marvel to behold what has stood the test of time.
Do you like the established interior design styles or do you crave novelty? Drop a line in the comments or email me at email@example.com
Join us for a fresh take on style!