One of the great joys of owning your own home is that your home is truly yours, and you are no longer shackled by the whims of a landlord when it comes to giving your home the personality and style that you long for. Yet decorating can be a daunting task, particularly for first-time homeowners who have never had the complete freedom to decorate as they please. Most people know what they like or dislike, but haven’t had the opportunity to define their style, which can make shopping for accessories and furniture—even paint and lighting fixtures—difficult and overwhelming. One of the best things you can do before you begin to decorate your new home is to stop and consider what your style truly is, providing a focus for your efforts and helping you target the look that is right for you.
While there are as many styles as there are homes in the country, most households find their tastes falling into one of a few main decorating styles. Reading through the following list, paying attention to the characteristics of each style, can help you determine what your style may be, and can start your decorating endeavors off on the right track.
Modern homes are characterized by a sleek, geometric minimalism, and muted neutral tones. Modern style is inspired by the mid-century aesthetic of the 1950’s and 1960’s, which emphasized clean lines, and eschewed excessive decoration; a paragon of the style was achieved by the designers Charles and Ray Eames. Today’s homes that adopt the modern style tend to have a casual feel, functional furniture, and an open, bright look. Modern homes suggest a simplified, efficient lifestyle that prizes form and function, and embraces innovation.
Traditional homes are inspired by the traditions of Colonial styles, harkening back to the architectural and design elements of the affluent Colonial Americas, which in turn were taken from English Country style. Elements of traditional décor include matching furniture sets, precise symmetrical alignments of furniture and accessories, and deep, saturated colors like scarlet, robin egg blue, or mahogany. The overall feel of a traditional room is orderly, and calm, refined and elegant, and has a formal air. All Traditional homes offer a peaceful and serene environment, imbued with an historical homage.
Country style is actually an umbrella term that covers a variety of different rustic decorating styles. The common theme among all of the country styles is a preference for an understated, casual and comfortable look that incorporates vintage or antique items; a light, colorful palette; and accessible, functional furnishings. Country styles range from the floral, gilded-accents of French Country (think roses and golden mirrors), to the heavily rusticated Early American (think farmhouse sinks and dining room benches). The feel in all of these homes is relaxed and eclectic, with an inviting, lived-in look. A Country home suggests the slow, relaxed and simple life of the country, and its attendant celebration of natural materials, flora and fauna.
European is also a general term for a Continental-inspired décor, which incorporates the warm, antique elements of Spain, France and Italy. Elements of this design approach include wrought-iron accent pieces, pottery and ceramic tiles, warm color palettes and rustic accents that evoke the European countryside: think “Italian Villa” or “Winecountry Resort”. The feel in a European-style home is aged and elegant, with restrained aesthetics focused on quality, heirloom pieces, and special focus on lounge areas, the kitchen, and the bedroom. A European-style home is a wine-and-cheese type of house, built for the daily-comfort and warmth of friends and family.
Whatever decorating style you may gravitate toward, it is worth the investment of time to read further about the style, and peruse examples in books, magazines, and on the internet. You may find, after all, that you don’t fall neatly into any of these decorating categories, but rather prefer to pull elements from each one, to create your own, unique look and feel. Or, if you are a by-the-book type of person, this research will serve to guide you as begin the process of decorating and furnishing your new home. Either way, the journey of defining your own style can be extremely rewarding, and is part of what the joy of homeownership is all about.