Design For Life: How to find your own style

Design For Life: How to find your own style

New Year. New Trends. New You?

Or should this be the year to discover your true interior style?

The one with a little more substance than trend following. The one you’re happy to grow old with through New Years to come.

But designing for life, not just following a trend can feel tricky. It’s far easier to try and replicate a look you’ve seen a hundred times before. Once you start to discover your style though, you’ll find that design decisions command an authenticity and you can begin to create a space that really feels like you. Like Home.

So where do you start?

Mad About the House’s Kate Watson-Smyth would suggest your wardrobe and I have to agree (unless, of course, it’s mine which is currently jam-packed with maternity leggings and big woolly jumpers). Look at the colours, the style, the patterns you like to wear. If it feels good wearing certain colours, you’re likely to respond well to them in your home too. If you like lots of pattern, chances are you’ll want at least a pop of pattern somewhere in your home.

Then look at your home (or previous homes). How have your past design decisions made you feel? Do you love that dark inky paint on the wall or does it leave you feeling a little out-of-sorts? In wanting a new start, a new design, it is all too easy to focus on something new without considering what we already have. But you may already have elements that work. And if nothing works, then at least you know what to avoid next time!

Inspiration not imitation

Then it’s time to look for some inspiration. Whereas a few years ago, we’d have flicked through the pages of a few magazines, now Pinterest and Instagram provide us with endless images of beautifully curated interiors. Colourful. Minimalist. Industrial. Maximalist. Granny Chic. We’re spoilt for choice with images to influence our design choices.

So how do you navigate your way through the plethora of perfectly styled interiors to find your own style and create a space you love?

By all means start online. Create Pinterest boards; it’s the modern equivalent of tearing out magazine pages (which, by the way, I still love to do). Feel free to get lost down the rabbit holes of Instagram; follow accounts whose interiors you love.

But the key to inspirational images is to use them as just that; inspiration. You want to identify looks and styles that you like and respond well to. You’re not looking to copy, but to create something new. You’re building up the layers of your style – not just finding an image to copy.

So, save all the images you love (and I wouldn’t limit the images to the specific room you’re decorating – I’d keep it general if you want to help identify your style). Then take a break. When you come back to the images, look at them critically. Try and identify what it is you like about the images you’ve chosen. Is it the colours, the patterns, the textures you like? And be ruthless, delete any you don’t really, really love. You should then start to see strands of consistency as you build up your style library of images.

Your Story

Your home should reflect your personality. You’re looking to discover your decorating style; a way to tell your story. Don’t get me wrong, Pinterest and Instagram provide a wonderful forum for creativity and inspiration. But you can have too much of a good thing. Either it just becomes overwhelming or, worse, you loose sight of what will actually make you happy in your own home. Styled shots are beautiful to look at but they are often just that; styled shots. Not real life.

And just because something’s nice to look at, doesn’t mean you’d want to live with it!

So think about how you want your interior space to make to you feel. I try and ask clients to choose 3 words to help them focus. Do you want your home to to feel vibrant, bright and alive? Or do you want it to feel calm, cool and airy? Identifying early on words to represent your style will really help you make specific design decisions later on.

The Design Process

When I’m working with clients, it’s at this stage that I ask them to walk away from Pinterest and Instagram. Once we’ve been through all their images and started to build up the layers of their style, we leave the Pinterest boards and focus on a specific brief for the space we are designing.

And when you’re designing a room for yourself, I’d really recommend you do the same. It can actually be quite liberating. Create a brief, work out how you want the room to feel, the colours you like, the style of furniture you want to work with, and then stop pinning. It starts to get confusing, contradictory and that’s when you end up with a space that isn’t cohesive.

Practical Tips

So what about the rest of the design process? Here are a few tips to help you pull your design together.

Get practical: It might not be as exciting as the pinning part, but it’s just as important. List your practical requirements for the space. Identify where you can compromise and where you cannot.

Lay it out: Next think spatial flow. If you’re replacing large pieces of furniture it’s worth drawing a floorpan; either electronically or just with pencil and paper. Measure the room to see what space you have to play with. It’ll give you a much better sense of scale and proportion. If you need more help visualising, then mark out the outline of new furniture pieces with newspaper. And especially if you’re tight for space, make sure your measurements include skirting boards, rather than just wall-to-wall; those few centimetres can make all the difference as to whether a piece fits.

Store it: It may not be glamorous and it isn’t always apparent when you look at beautifully styled interior shots, but storage is key to the success of most rooms. Have a good declutter by all means to reduce the amount you need. But make sure you’re honest and realistic and your needs and your lifestyle. Neatly curated open shelves don’t look quite so fabulous when they have piles of everyday clutter stacked up next to them!

Photo: P.Westwall @ 100% Design, London

Above all, have fun. Whether it’s just a room, or your whole house, it should most definitely be fun. Take your time if you can, and enjoy the process. You’re designing your home after all! So, get out from behind your screen and experience some design in real life. Have lunch in a fabulous restaurant (it’s research, honestly!), visit showrooms (nothing beats seeing and feeling products) or head to a design show (you’ll find products and brands you’d never heard of before).

And a final tip, once you’ve pulled your design together? Add in something a little unexpected. It keeps things fresh, adding a truly personal touch to your design and helping gently nudge you out of your comfort zone (go on, try it!).

A few of my favourite things: Bedside Lamps

A few of my favourite things: Bedside Lamps

Whether it’s for your bedtime reading or morning cuppa, a good bedside lamp is essential. Not only practical, but a pair of bedside lamps leaves your bedroom beautifully styled. And, if you’re feel confident, mix them up. No one ever said they had to match.

Take a look at the lamps I’m loving right now….


#1 Rose tinted glass makes everything better.
Glass shade lamp (£78) from

#2 Simple style. Beautiful combination of marble and glass; just add a vintage bulb.
Oracle domed £49.99 from

#3 Easy and elegant. Choose the dark pleated shade for a touch of sophistication.
Bessy Table Lamp £145 from

#4 Soft and dreamy. Perfect in light airy rooms as well as dark moody spaces.
Eos tripod lamp from www.vitacopenhagen

#5 Sleek and stylish. Brass finish adds a touch of elegance.
Octavia £39 from

#6 Classic combination of blush pink and polished brass. A favourite of mine.
Ewer £59 from





Dark Interiors: Autumnal tones

Dark Interiors: Autumnal tones

It’s no secret that I’m a massive fan of dark, inky hues for creating spaces which envelope and cocoon. Dark, rich walls evoke a real sense of drama, which I love. But, whilst dark greys and navy have been recent go-to dark tones, here I want to explore some other options.

Source: The Design Chaser

So, in this blog post I’m looking at chocolate brown. Brown is not a colour often embraced in interiors and it can be met with a love/hate response. Yet, I’m keen to explore what this often overlooked, rich colour has to offer. Well suited for an Autumnal post, the earthier tones of deep brown can give a really warm and comforting feel.

Perfect for creating a modern elegance, dark browns work well with other deep, earthy colours such as greens and reds. Layering these rich tones gives a really sophisticated feel. Add in a pop of vibrant blue and you’ve got something really rather decadent.


Or keep things simple and dark for a smart, contemporary look. All you need is a little colour pop to finish off the look. As with all dark hues; creating depth in the backdrop really lets a touch of colour sing!


It’s a really effective colour for creating an eclectic look too. Mix up some vintage-style wooden frames for a quirky look or, if you prefer a sharper look use simple black frames and mix in some colourful, vibrant artwork.

Source: Unknown via Pinterst

For a more laid back look, soften it slightly and mix in some simple linens. The warmth of the brown walls here creates a relaxing, sensuous vibe. I really rather like it.


Whilst it might not be a look as easy to pull-off as a moody dark grey or a sultry navy, the earthy, rich qualities of dark brown are really quite endearing. If you want to give it a go, Abigail Ahern’s Bedford Brown is a really good starting point. It’s dark, rich and versatile, creating a really cosy space. Which all sounds perfect for the start of Autumn.

Source: Abigail Ahern