How to Find Your Design Style (Hint: Not Through A Quiz)

(Another post borrowed from my blog Arte Styling. Originally published in July 2010, the overall theme is basically the foundation for The Brave New Home.) 

If you're looking for a quick 10 question quiz you've come to the wrong place. But don't worry. There are plenty of those online. A few more clicks and you'll find one. And at the conclusion of a series of spiritually empty questions that you find yourself struggling to answer due to the fact that you can't understand what the photo is trying to communicate,  it will tell you if your style is "French Eclectic","Farmhouse Chic" or "Modern Traditionalist."You'll have all the answers in the palm of your hand and can effortlessly move forward with confidence in all your decorating decisions.

Yeah, right.

The big problem with these quizzes is that they don't really help anyone. Sure it's fun to take a quiz. We plug in a bunch of answers to some questions sprinkled with pretty pictures hoping in excitement that a miraculous discovery about ourselves will be made. That, somehow, the magazine page or computer screen will have access to our deepest, most intimate thoughts and will be able to give us something useful - some sense of identity. A greater understanding of who we are and how we relate to our homes.

I took a few of these quizzes the other day. I wanted to see who they thought I was. One quiz confused me with it's photos. I liked a picture of a dog so I selected it. And I also liked a photo of a dad and son playing outside in the grass, so I picked that too. And there was a shot of a bedroom that had bold colors. I liked the color combination. At the end of the quiz I was defined as having a predominantly "Asian" style (their words, not mine.) There is definitely nothing "Asian" happening in my place. Another quiz deemed me "French Eclectic." I'm not quite sure what that meant and wouldn't have the faintest idea how to create it. Besides, I can't pronounce French to save my life. Maybe that's the "Eclectic" part?

This is just one of the many rooms I found that calls itself "French Eclectic." Pretty, but not really me. Where's the color?

I could go on and on about these quizzes and how I think they do more harm then good, confusing us with labels, and perpetuating the useless idea that we all need to fit into some sort of style mold. But I won't, because the topic of this post is "How to Find Your Style." And I personally try to keep my posts on topic so you, the reader, can get what you came here for.

So, how do you go about finding your design style? If you don't have any quizzes to take, and no labels to attach yourself to, how can you possibly figure out who you are?

1) The first step is to slow down. No one finds their style in 10 minutes. You might realize you like a color in a few minutes, or a new textile design. Or you might page through a magazine and fall in love with an image of the most beautiful room you've ever seen. But these are only pieces. And our personal design styles are made up of many, many pieces. Pieces of memories and experiences and color preferences and travels and relationships - all those little things that make us individuals. The truth of it is, our design styles are as unique as our DNA.

2) The second step is to forget about trying to label yourself. Because we have such unique, individual styles there is no way we can all be defined by 5 or 10 different variations of design themes. Don't feel obligated to call yourself "Urban Chic" just because some quiz labeled you as such. These labels are pretty useless. They might help you search for and pull images for a blog post, but they don't define you. Nothing defines you but you.


3) The third step is to look inside ourselves for the answers. This might seem a little granola-y, but it's the truth. No one can tell you what you like or don't like. That's the beauty of design! You get to decide for yourself. You really do hold the answers to your own style. Trust yourself. Tune out the outside noise and listen to your inner voice. It knows more about your style than any quiz.


Finding your own design style isn't always easy. That's probably why so many of us don't do it. It takes time and fearlessness - two things many of us often struggle with in our day to day lives. But it really is the only way to create a home worth living in. And, who knows? Maybe you'll come up with your own label someday that accurately depicts who you are and how you live. Just promise me you won't make up another style quiz about it. We have enough of those.

Be Brave.