I am asked what my personal style is all the time. The question comes up in almost every new project interview. And when I tell someone I've never met, I'm an interior designer and have my own firm, the question immediately following is, so what's your style? It's a hard question to answer quickly. There's so much nuance to style, it's like describing your personality. But having an answer and owning it simplifies your life in amazing ways.
Having a unique style and being able to express it articulately could be as unique as looking at your own fingerprint, yes it can be that special. Sure you could be Modern or Zen or even Bohemian and a combination of the three but there's so much more to it. You are not one note, or even two or three notes, why should your style be one dimensional? Once you understand what your style is, you're free to focus on honing it instead of trend based design or what other people are saying or doing. Imagine needing something for your home and knowing exactly where to shop and focus in a sea of new ideas and social media stimulation.
Earlier this year, we created the Casework Style Quiz. It's meant to be a starting point to help you break down and understand what style(s) you are most drawn toward based on about 20 questions. You'll get the top three results outlined as well as ways you can dive deeper and start understanding why you are drawn to certain styles. We also share ways you could incorporate this style it into your home, with shopping links. This is the first step in building your style and how we work with clients to hone in on theirs.
Understanding your style doesn't stop with interiors either. That's just one part. Finding your true style should also compliment your life. When we work with clients, we don't stop at interior based questions. We try to understand how our clients currently live and how they ideally want to live. We ask questions about life goals, travel, family, places they've lived and develop common themes and contrasts.
To help you understand the quiz, I'm breaking down my style and how it's evolved to be my own over the years. I've taken the quiz many times to test the results. Out of the 20 something questions, you basically need to answer 2-3 questions that pool you in a specific style. I took the quiz and my results in order are Minimalist, Modern, Scandinavian.
Let's start with Minimalist. Stark, cold and basic? Sure, if not done well. Minimalist Style can also be simple, sleek and warm.
Minimalist design started in the 20th century as a reaction to overly classical details. In a nutshell, the pieces either serve a purpose or bring you joy. This pared-down aesthetic exemplifies simplicity at its best.
Lines are clean in a Minimalist's world. Materials are natural and the palette is neutral. Life is uncomplicated because of this attention to detail and focus. Less is more is often the mantra but it's not all about a plain, white box or ultramodern space.
- purity in shape and color
- built-in furniture and storage
- floating shelves
- muted colors
- multipurpose pieces
- white surfaces
Often confused with Contemporary Style, Modern Style is deeply rooted in history. Modernism began with the Impressionists and others who used abstraction in the 1930s. It predates Mid Century Modern and is definitely before Contemporary.
Modernism is based upon new technologies of construction, particularly the use of glass, steel and reinforced concrete; and upon a rejection of the traditional neoclassical architecture and Beaux-Arts styles that were popular in the 19th century.
If you're a Modernist, you are intrigued by emerging technology and believe in innovation. You like neutral tones and polished surfaces. Gropius, Corbu, and Bauhaus are where you look for historical inspiration. Your design philosophy is function should dictate form and your coffee mug says "less is more".
- geometric shapes, rigid square, clean lines and perfect circles
- simple and minimal adornment
- neutral color palette
- polished surfaces
- glass, steel, concrete
Associated closely with Minimalist, the Scandinavian design philosophy is built on the principles of affordability, simplicity, and functionality. Survival during the early-twentieth century required all objects to be functional and using minimal supplies to create. Over time designers began to see beauty in the necessary simplicity, giving emphasis to it while incorporating modern textiles.
Despite these potentially austere priorities, the Scandinavian home is warm, cozy and inviting because of the use of natural light, layers of texture and textiles. Scandinavians have a word that embodies these feelings, hygge, which loosely translates to a mood of coziness and comfortable conviviality with feelings of wellness and contentment.
Ideals of Scandinavian interior design —the premise that beautiful and functional furniture should not only be available to the wealthy—which is why they use low-cost materials such as form-pressed wood, plastics, and enameled aluminum to mass produce highly affordable furniture.
- texture play in textiles
- the palette is primarily white and light gray
- whitewashed or light wood flooring throughout
- white walls
- sparing pops of bold color
- upholstered furniture with exposed wood or steel frames
Over the years, these three styles have evolved to be my own because a number of reasons, not just because they are on trend or I like them. They make sense for my lifestyle. Each style balances a part of my life and I'm constantly tweaking it to make my own.
Minimalism isn't for everyone. Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against stuff but there are two reasons why I've turned into at least a semi-minimalist. Since I was 18, I have lived in almost 20 homes for one reason or another. Part of it was college and moving in and out of dorms or apartments every 9 months, the other part is a little crazy I can't believe it myself and had to count again.
Moving means packing up all of your stuff, loading it in a truck, driving somewhere, unloading and setting up a new home. So much stuff gets tiresome when you move it all the time. I realized quickly that stuff didn't make my home or me. So most of the stuff I own, I love. I still have a few small piles of things I'm trying to get rid of but it's pretty minimal.
I also grew up in home with a lot of stuff. Nothing against my family but there was stuff on every surface and one of my chores as a kid was to dust. That meant I had to pick up all of that stuff and dust under it. Instead of dreaming of a house keeper, I imagined not having all the stuff and my chores would go so much quicker.
Bauhaus, a movement during Modernism, is hugely influential in my own interiors. I first learned about it in college. Bauhaus loosely translate to school of doing and while my education, experience and intuition guide me, nothing teaches me more than actually doing. Over the years, I've learned a lot by testing scales, proportions, materials and ideas in my own home. I've learned not only what I like but what works together to feel harmonious. The clean and simple lines of modernism compliment minimalistic tendancies too.
I loved Scandinavian design in school but it wasn't a reality to find vintage or even new pieces in east Tennessee when I was young. I liked the clean lines, skinny legs and lighter wood. Now that I live in the NW, Scandinavian has become an even bigger influence. Partly because it's more available online and also because of the climate in Portland. In the winter, the days are very short, gray and often rainy so lightness, whether it's the color or silhouette helps make the dark days not so dark. Textiles also add to the coziness of a home.
This is just the beginning of a bigger discussion about style and how my own style has evolved over the years. Take the quiz, it's fun and definitely not rules to live by but hopefully you can pull a bit of useful info for your home home. There are 22 style options with multiple pairings. And if you need help, we're just a click away!