Style Notes :: What’s Your Style?

Scott and I are still learning a lot about interior and exterior design {well, not Scott for the outside so much – he has a degree in landscape architecture}, but after our work in New York and a major house overhaul in Hawaii, we’ve learned a few things about gathering and tracking ideas, budgeting, figuring out what we can and can’t DIY, and where to go when we need help.

We’re giving ourselves a summer vacation of sorts from major projects {after a year’s worth of going from zero to furnished on a house that’s way bigger than our little Hawaii condo, we need to give our finances a break!} but that frees us up to enjoy exploring our new home town a bit more and to put a lot of effort into designing and budgeting for the next phase of the Big Brick House.

And as we go through that planning and inspiration phase, and ease our way back into the budget DIY projects we love instead of buying furniture, we want to share that process with you! So come on over, pour yourself a cup of coffee, and join me at my desk and let’s talk about our creative process here!

So…What’s Your Style?

Okay, this might be glaringly obvious, but the first part of undertaking anything from a home design overhaul to just decorating is figuring out what you like and don’t like. What’s wrong with the room you’re trying to change? Is it the flow of the room, or a lack of function or storage? Too dark, too crowded, too dated, or just plain needing repair? Those are the things that make us want to overhaul a room – or a whole house, in some cases.

Psst…we did a whole post on how we choose what to renovate over here!

But once you figure out what you don’t like and want to change…how do you figure out what you do like?

1. Gather inspiration.

Here are our favorite places to find things we do like.

  • Pinterest. There’s a reason there are thousands of pinners obsessing over thousands of home decor boards. People like pretty houses. And chances are pretty good, you’ll find something that fits what you’re looking for. We love searching Pinterest for everything from kitchen layout recommendations from architects and designers to DIY projects and plans.
  • Houzz. Houzz is a great spot to find real, professional renovation and remodeling projects along with links to the products being used and even the designers and contractors who worked on the project. We love Houzz for architectural details and large-scale remodeling ideas, and I absolutely love some of their amazing landscape and garden showcases.
  • Zillow Digs. This is an offshoot of popular real estate and property locator Zillow, and gives you a space to look at home improvement and remodeling ideas in your local area. You can filter by cost, by color, by room, and by style as well as location. Most finds give you project estimates by room as well, which we love. Yep, we dig Zillow Digs.
  • But this isn’t a design site, you say. Maybe not, but if you’re renovating a house with the intent to sell later and you want to make some money, you need to be here. This is where you can track home values in your area and see what renovations have ended up making people money and which haven’t. We watch where the neighborhood tops out, too, to make sure we don’t overbuild for the neighborhood. It helps us know what we can invest and still realize a profit.

I have a whole separate post planned on what we look for on Realtor and other similar sites when it comes to buying, designing, and selling our homes. Watch for it soon!

2. Figure out your basic style and color scheme.

You may have heard the “pick three colors” rule, and it’s usually a pretty good one for rooms. We use a slightly expanded take on that for our whole house. It keeps your house from looking too busy or, worse, from feeling like it’s a bunch of different houses cobbled together because nothing goes together at all.

The same goes for style. You don’t want a whole lot of modern furnishings in a place where the hardware, cabinetry, and light fixtures are all traditional or rococo. That isn’t to say you can’t blend ideas together – in our house, the colonial touches the house started with blend well with our personal blend of Old World and New World rustic. We still aren’t sure what to call it. Old World Country? Colonial Farmhouse? We have no idea.

Anyway, you don’t necessarily want a theme for your house, but you want a basic idea that pulls everything together.

Let’s Talk Style.

Here’s a quick cheat sheet for the basic decorating styles {at least the ones that I know of – I’m not an expert by any means!}. It’s helpful to know what people are referring to when they talk about a particular style and its features.

Image via Tractorfarm

Art Deco :: popular in the ’20’s and ’30’s, it was all about rich, opulent glamour. It was oddly popular in the Great Depression, maybe because it helped people escape their harsh reality. If you like bold and flashy jewelry, mood lighting, strong geometry, sleek and lush textiles, and a lot of black and white, this decorating style is for you.

Arts + Crafts :: a style that includes Craftsman style and came about as a rejection of the ornate and overly detailed Victorian style at the turn of the century. It’s all about natural materials, simple lines, and expertly crafted woodwork. If you like seeing a lot of natural wood, straight lines, warm tones, art glass {think Tiffany}, and primary colors, Arts + Crafts is for you.

Image via Sand & Sisal

Coastal + Nautical :: There are a lot of areas and influences covered by this style, but basically, if you want to make the most of the water you’re near, or at least feel like you’re near the water, this is your style. This is all about lots of white, lots of light, shell and nautical print fabrics and wallpaper, pale and cool neutrals, and a lot of natural materials in the form of jute rugs, sea grass accents, weathered wood, wicker, and straw.

Contemporary :: This is one of the styles I never fully understood, because while it’s supposed to be representative of right now, right now can become really dated really fast. So a lot of the “contemporary” you see around looks like it was made in the 1970’s. Still, contemporary design is a good fit for those who like lots of open space, minimal designs, natural light, abstract art, and simplicity. If that sounds appealing, this is your style.

French Country :: French Country marries Old World elegance with rustic elements. It’s the perfect happy medium for people who don’t want too much detail but want just enough for elegance, both sophisticated and simple. To me, it’s sunny afternoons scented with lavender and sipping wine, when you’re nice and clean after spending the morning working in your garden. Design-wise, it’s warm colors and neutrals and even the gently-weathered accents are purposeful.

Image via Adorable Home

Industrial :: The Industrial movement celebrates salvaged objects, concrete walls, and pared back architecture. Think all the warehouses converted into lofts in the New York meat packing district and in downtown Los Angeles. Industrial style rips back the walls to expose brick, pipe, and concrete, and celebrates big open spaces. If you like heavy iron, brick, concrete, and raw wood, this is your style.

Image via Magnolia Market

Mid-Century Modern :: This style is all about the post-WWII drive to modernize and move forward, a movement that lasted into the 1970’s {and is making a huge comeback right now}. It is all about contemporary graphic patterns and natural materials, mixing indoor and outdoor living with enormous windows and glass walls, clean lines, statement furniture and lighting {think Sputnik chandeliers}, and pairing neutrals and primary colors with abandon.

Image via Magnolia Market

Modern Farmhouse :: I have to include this marriage of a love of old things in bright new concepts that’s huge these days {thanks, Fixer Upper}. It pulls in natural wood, steel, cream, and neutrals, and pairs reclaimed wood with modern fixtures in a way that makes it the perfect style to integrate anything you might like, as long as it looks well loved. Vintage? Flea market? Antique? Industrial? Bring it on in. And don’t forget the shiplap.

Image via HomeDSGN

Rustic :: Rustic design goes beyond just using natural materials to using them in organic form. Where Mid-Century Modern and Contemporary use sleek and polished wood in their designs, Rustic wants rough-hewn timbers {think beams} and hand-knotted carpets over hand-scraped floors. If you love hammered copper and zinc, patina, distressed and weathered wood, warm earth tones, and barn or rustic lodge inspired elements, Rustic style is for you.

Traditional :: People always roll their eyes at the classics, but they’re still around and considered classic for a reason. Traditional is that style. It’s all about symmetry and dignity, pieces that have a certain amount of gravity and might be old but are anything but distressed. Neutrals are the order of the game, mixing in with statement molding, rich hardwood floors, and Persian rugs. If you like crystal chandeliers, toile, drapes, tassels, collections on display, timeless art, and mirrors, this is your style.

Just a note :: these styles are broad. What you’re seeing is just a sampling of things I like, so you’re getting my taste for designs with lots of natural materials, lots of natural light, and lots of simple lines. Lucky for me, I can find those in just about any style besides Rococo – which is probably why I hate Rococo.

3. Match up the colors, styles, and design elements you like.

So you know what style you want, what colors you want, and the basics of what you want to do now, right? Now it’s time to figure out just what needs to happen to the rooms you want to renovate. What elements from each style do you want to include in those rooms? What will that cost in terms of materials? How much is in your budget?

This is where we get into the nitty-gritty of the actual design process. Every process is different, but we’ll share more of ours later. In the meantime, we’d love to hear what you think! What major design styles are we missing out on? What’s your favorite?


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  • Sarah Preiss-Farzanegan

    Thanks for the ides! We are considering renovating our kitchen in the next year or two, and I have started a Pinterest board to collect things I like (and don’t like), since I am not entirely sure where our style taste lies. Looking forward to the process, and happy to read about how you and Scott approach a big project!

    • Ooh, exciting!! Let us know if we can help at all – if we have dimensions, we can do a prelim sketch and Scott can render it. He’s using the Unreal video game engine to create virtual walkthroughs these days, so you can walk through the place and toggle through options on cabinets, countertops, fixtures, etc! It’s awesome, and we feel like it’ll save us A LOT of time and decisions on our next project! That is, if we can line our tastes up. He was ready to climb into that Arts + Crafts picture while I lean more toward the Modern Farmhouse. Excited to see what you guys end up doing! You have such a great space!