Three Easy Ways To Figure Out Your Style

One of the most common questions that we hear nearly every day is “how do I know what style really appeals to me? I seem to like a few conflicting things and I just can’t seem to make a decision with any confidence.” Well, here are three ways to get over decorator’s block quickly and relatively painlessly:

Tip #1. Gather inspiration images and see what they all have in common. We’ve mentioned that we keep our favorite rooms organized in a nice thick plastic-sleeve-riddled binder (read more about that here). And this anthology of sorts was really paramount when it came to pinning down our style and learning what we love. It’s amazing how an arsenal of love-it-so-much images can help you identify commonalities in rooms that really grab your attention. Sure you might find that you have a million “favorite” rooms sitting in a pile (or in a binder if you’re Captain Organized like me) but it won’t be until you go through them and make a separate pile of about 15 rooms that REALLY stand out to you (read: the best of the best) that you’ll begin to notice some common color schemes, furniture finishes, and overarching style cues that many of these rooms have in common.

Take note of the wood finishes that you’re drawn to. The wall colors. The furniture shapes. The textiles and accessories. The art. The overall effect (high contrast? dreamy? tone-on-tone? pops of color?). Of course your favorite rooms might not all be super obvious and similar when you study them as a group, but just try to see what patterns you can pick up. Maybe they all have dramatic floor to ceiling curtains or dark velvet sofas? Or perhaps it’s more about patterned rugs or bright modern art on the walls? You might notice they all have neutral backdrops with pops of color in the pillows or accessories. Or a high contrast vibe (like dark wood floors paired with white walls). If you look long enough, we’re sure you’ll see some definite commonalities- and that’s how you can start to develop your confidence and create a real overarching “look” for your home.

This exercise is the single most important thing you can do to help define your style and hone in on your aesthetic, so don’t rush through it or halfheartedly select your favorite rooms without some serious thought. Heck even if you only have five cream-of-the-crop-holy-cow-I-love-this-room images, it’s still more effective than tossing ten more eh-this-room-is-ok images into the mix. So really do some serious soul searching (and magazine and online searching) to see what tickles your fancy. Then lay them all out to study what they have in common- and what you can adapt and introduce into your very own home. Oh and check out these great online sites (here, here, and here) for galleries full of gorgeous rooms in a variety of styles.

Tip #2. Take a few find-your-style quizzes to see what they say that you like. Sure they could all be complete hooey, but it’s not like they can really hurt. And they’re all pretty quick to complete. Sometimes one or two of them will hit on something so eye-opening and illuminating that you’ll literally feel like you finally know exactly what you like. Or at least like you’re a lot closer to cracking the code. Ready to play along? Try this one, this one, this one, and this one.

Tip #3. Don’t get caught up with a label like “Elegant Classic” or “Cottage Meets Vintage.” Sure sometimes they can help (and if a label or a specific descriptor keeps you on track then by all means embrace it). But we don’t really go out of our way to describe our exact style in any words at all. We just know what we like (capiz, jute, neutrals mixed with sea glass-esque greens and blues, dark wood, bamboo blinds, natural materials, glass based lamps, and white white white). Here’s a post all about that. It’s safe to say that we finally know what we love and can easily identify what will fit seamlessly into our house (and what won’t – which is just as important).

But even though we have a handle on what fries our bacon when it comes to furnishings, accessories and so on, if you were to ask us to label our style we’d probably hem and haw while tossing out a slew of general terms like: clean-lined, airy, light, breezy, beachy, modern, classic, transitional… the list goes on and on! So don’t worry if you don’t end up with a specific decorating style name at the end of your figure-out-what-I-like pilgrimage. Just be open to embracing the colors, shapes, materials, and elements that you’ve identified time and time again as your cup of tea. Because a label doesn’t make the room, and sometimes trying to encapsulate your style with some two or three word description is nearly impossible anyway.

Oh and remember that our we-know-what-we-like confidence didn’t happen overnight. It was all thanks to decorating in stages and taking the time to figure out what worked and what didn’t (the wrong paint color can be painted over & the wrong pillows, rugs and blinds can always be returned or upgraded down the line). Sometimes it’s the mistakes that tell you the most about what you like and get you a lot closer to pinning down your true style. So don’t be paralyzed with indecision- it won’t get you anywhere! You have to start somewhere, and after you try out these three style sleuthing tips you’ll hopefully have a nice little map that will get you closer to your own personal decorating holy grail.

But enough about what we think. We’d love to hear any and all tips that you guys have on the subject of pinning down your style and making your house feel welcoming, chic, and oh-so-you.

Psst- Looking for more decorating advice when it comes to pinning down your style and figuring out what will work. Here’s a post all about avoiding decorating ADD and here’s one about keeping things looking layered and lovely as opposed to hodge podge or matchy-matchy.


  1. Misty says

    I love taking those find your style quizzes! While reading through the archives on YHL, I came across the binder idea and can happily say that I have also started a binder to collect things I covet. Thanks for the tip!

  2. says

    I keep an inspiration binder with clear plastic covers too..
    I cant define my style yet.. but I’m getting there! Thanks for the post!

    ps. is there a YHL style? There should be..

  3. keri says

    not sure if it’s because i’m on a mac (though, using the latest version of firefox) but the ikea quiz just stays on the “IKEA Business” loading screen, and the HomeGoods one is stuck at the first question – there’s no next button. Anyone else having issues?

    Loved the Ethan Allen and Sproost quizzes! They hit my style on the nose :)

  4. says

    I actually use Image Spark which works like an online binder to upload images of beautiful rooms and furniture that I find on the web. It automatically lists the source website and I can put in notes of what exactly I like about the image, if I want!

  5. says

    ‘Sometimes it’s the mistakes that tell you the most about what you like’

    I coudn’t agree with you more. Sometimes it’s worth it to buy something and then find out it totally doesn’t work for you or the room. Practice makes perfect.

  6. Sophie says

    You have such great ideas! I’ve started to keep an inspiration folder. My problem is that I like everything! I’d like to think I’m a positive person so I can see parts of any room that I like :P

  7. Melissa Sonnek says

    This is a great post. Thank you!

    I’ve gathered tons of inspiration photos of rooms that I love, but I always get stuck on what to actually do to my own house. I’ll have to try some of your ideas.

  8. Leigh Anne says

    Hey Sherry,
    I’ve really just begun my “DIY Journey” and am looking for some inspiration as my husband and I tackle our home room-by-room. What are some of your favorite magazines/books for finding inspiration images?

  9. Jennifer says

    I started an ‘idea binder’, as I call it, before I became a homeowner b/c it was so frustrating to see these great ideas and not be able to do anything with them. Now it’s fun to look back and see which ideas ever turned into reality.

  10. says

    I keep binder full of images I like, too, organized in plastic sheets. I sometimes also make a collage of images to “design” a room, which I also stick in the binder. I cut out a breakfast table I like from a magazine, glue it down on a white sheet of paper, then add a chair design, a swatch for a wall color, etc. I actually did this as a little kid for fun! I still do it now because even though it’s time-consuming it’s really helpful for picturing a whole room!

  11. Beth says

    Most of the images I like fall into two categories. 1) white walls with really bright pops of color in the furniture or accessories or 2) muted/mature palettes, like you guys have. But in my own home, I always choose colored walls because I can’t stand living in a space with neutral walls. Then, because I have color on the walls, my furniture tends to be more neutral. So I never end up decorating like all the images I’m attracted to. Is that odd, and is there a name for that style? :-)

    • says

      Hey Beth,

      Hmm, no name that we know of. You know we’re not very serious about “decorating style names” anyway. We say make something up. A whole new term! Go for it. And everyone else, feel free to chime in!


  12. says

    Great tips! I was super overwhelmed before starting our kitchen renovation. I did the same thing, looked at as many images as I could until I began to see a pattern of what I was drawn to.

    Then you just have to trust yourself! And if it doesn’t turn out ‘just right’, it’s usually something that can be changed….you’re not stuck with it for the rest of your life. :) When I took that pressure off, I was able to enjoy the process.

  13. says

    How incredibly helpful!! Thank you for this post! I’m going to buy a binder and some plastic sleeves after work today! I’m hoping my husband wants to help with it so we can develop our style together. While I love our house and most of the decor.. it is starting to get a little hodge-podge! I think if we did the quizzes and binder together our vision will blend! We’re moving in two months.. what a perfect time to start off fresh by purging some of our old things and bringing in some new to compliment whatever styple we pin down! :) Eee.. I was so worried about moving.. now I’m excited! Thank you!

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