What is my decor style? Do I have one? Please give me inspiration.
May 27, 2020 9:26 AM   Subscribe

I'm buying a house (yay!) and moving soon, and for the first time in my life I can make PERMANENT CHANGES to my living space only to please myself. What to do, though, what to do...

I did what you're supposed to do in these situations and got on Pinterest a while back to get a vibe for my aesthetic. Nothing really seems to fit me, so maybe I'm searching wrong.

To give you an idea of what does fit me, I'm going to be setting up a completely selfish gofundme to raise money to buy myself a yard velociraptor, one of the nice ones like they sell in Skymall. She will live in my front yard and I will dress her up for holidays. So I guess...tacky and whimsical is my aesthetic? I have exactly five pieces of flair in my apartment that I feel an emotional attachment to: a big mural a roommate and I painted a decade ago, some wavy bacon shaped mirrors I got at Ikea, a Kandinsky print, a bunch of brightly colored toy dinosaurs, and a Chicago flag. They're not organized in any kind of way though, they're just kind of THERE, and I don't know how to make it intentional.

When I look for decor ideas I see...

...lovely living rooms with brightly colored accent walls and tasteful framed minimalist abstract posters, and I can see that these rooms look very nice. But there's not enough CHAOS for my heart.

...cozy chaotic living rooms filled with plants and luxurious organic drapings, and I can see that these rooms also look very nice. But they also mostly look like a lot of work to maintain, and I'm not interested at all in cultivating another potted necropolis.

...fun techy offices centered around fandoms---you know, toys for grown ups, perfect--but I'm not a full-wall-of-mint-in-box-funko-pops kind of lady. I want to live in a highly personalized me me me space, not fetishize my purchases.

So then I went down a rabbit hole of looking for children's rooms on Pinterest, which seems like it should tick most of my boxes: bright colors, bold, simple, comfortable, and fun with a lot going on. But most of the kids room decor I see on Pinterest looks extremely cultivated, like the aesthetic of a parent who has a master's degree in industrial design and children named Braedilynne and Mackashleigh and doesn't allow sugar cereal in the house. I can't.

Anyway. Are any of you interior decor geniuses who are able to pick out some semblance of a theme from my likes & dislikes and give me some search terms? I would love to see pictures of spaces that look like what I'm looking for, but I just don't know what I'm looking for.

posted by phunniemee to Home & Garden (30 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: It feels to me like you might find inspiration in the 1980s and in pop art style.
posted by jacquilynne at 9:35 AM on May 27, 2020 [2 favorites]

I can’t really speak much to your aesthetic but I will say that if you want some houseplants you should go for it. I can’t imagine a situation where I’d describe keeping houseplants as being even moderate work, let alone a LOT of work. I’ve had some die on me in the past but most I’ve had for years with little work required beyond remembering to water them sometimes. Spider plants are fun and easy if you want to try something like that.
posted by cakelite at 9:35 AM on May 27, 2020 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I feel like I may be asking an obvious question, but you've seen the various features on Amy Sedaris's apartment, right? This video from NY Mag comes to mind. (Also apologies if this misses the mark, but it's what mentally hits for "whimsical" and "chaotic".)

This kind of gets at it? Not the same sort of loudness, though. I've seen "maximalism" pop up before too.

I think you may be on to something, that this may be a design style in need of a term, like "toddler grandma" was for fashion.
posted by supercres at 9:38 AM on May 27, 2020 [5 favorites]

"whimsical" seems to bring up some stuff you might like? maybe like this?
posted by fingersandtoes at 9:41 AM on May 27, 2020

Best answer: I think Eclectic is the word for you! I love your descriptions. You do you, and make it what you want. Remember, a space like this is going to evolve as you find new things to add to your home.
posted by LaBellaStella at 9:44 AM on May 27, 2020

Best answer: Here is my design philosophy:
If I see something I love, (and can afford it and need it obviously) I get it. If I need a chair and a book case and find a pop art chair and an antique wood bookshelf, and I love them both, I get the both, aesthetic and cohesion be damned.
If there's something I need that I don't really give a shit about (my hamper for example) I default to white or natural wood minimalism.

I figure that the combination of being selective in what pieces I bring in (like, I have to LOVE them, not like them) balanced by very very low-statement neutrals, creates an aesthetic that has continuity, and is neither overwhelming nor boring.

It's similar to like having a simple capsule wardrobe but a lot of cool jewelry to wear.
posted by Grandysaur at 9:49 AM on May 27, 2020 [13 favorites]

Best answer: Maximalist or maximalism are the hashtags you should search on Instagram.
posted by stowaway at 9:50 AM on May 27, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I thought of two things reading your description and looking at the pics you attached: 1, this house that went viral recently (boring brick on the outside, it's all about the interiors that each go All In on things the owner loved); 2, that your vibe is striking me as fairly Mod (not "modern," "Mod"). All the bright colors you're showing us, along with the strong shapes and abstract placement. Looking at artists like Andy Warhol, Keith Haring. More recently, Jeff Koons, perhaps?

On preview, LaBellaStella bringing up "Eclectic" is a likely candidate for more recognized interior decorating styles. In that same HGTV slide show, I think some of the shapes of Mid-Century Modern might pair well with your art, even if I think the colors of that style are a bit more muted and muddy than what you've shown us. And the shapes might not be right, but the maximalist pattern mixing of their Moroccan examples might be inspiring.
posted by Pandora Kouti at 9:52 AM on May 27, 2020 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I'm getting a Memphis Modern vibe - maybe try that as a search term?
posted by prewar lemonade at 9:54 AM on May 27, 2020 [9 favorites]

Best answer: You might have better luck if you look for interior design photos from different countries or regions. I am in England. When I look, there's a very strong farmhouse-y or transitional look to a lot of US interior design compared to the UK. Whereas Australian interiors tend to be more modern/contemporary in vibe than British ones. Maybe trawl through Apartment Therapy house tours by region and country and see if there's a set that you're drawn to.

I agree that 1980s, maximalist and pop art look like good reference points. You may want to also add urban to that list. And then perhaps combine one or more of those with 'quirky' or 'eclectic'.
posted by plonkee at 9:56 AM on May 27, 2020

There is a glut of interior decor images out there - but I've found that Remodelista, despite it skewing towards the higher-end & trending towards minimalism, is generally full of good ideas and good photography, and links to info about the things shown. Random possibly relevant example.
posted by niicholas at 9:57 AM on May 27, 2020

Best answer: Yeah I came here to say Memphis Group. It might be too loud for your tastes? But I could totally see your pieces fitting into something inspired by that.
posted by brook horse at 9:57 AM on May 27, 2020

Two instagram accounts I follow: knitchings and the Jungalow.
posted by Grandysaur at 10:02 AM on May 27, 2020 [1 favorite]

You may also like looking through Hollywood Regency/Regency Moderne styles.
posted by darksong at 10:09 AM on May 27, 2020

Correcting myself since I had a brain fart when typing my comment: what brook horse said. "Memphis Design" or "Memphis Group" are names for the trend I suggested.
posted by prewar lemonade at 10:11 AM on May 27, 2020 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I find looking at Pinterest and/or interior design Instagrams kinda frustrating because they're so curated and tidy and I'm like - where's all the STUFF??? You might have more luck, like I did, looking at something like The Selby, which profiles the homes of artists/creatives. Very often chaotic and messy and extremely cool.
posted by thebots at 10:23 AM on May 27, 2020 [1 favorite]

a Kandinsky print

Maybe a song would help that includes several decorating tips.
posted by The_Vegetables at 10:26 AM on May 27, 2020

Best answer: Also came to mention The Selby. Some great IGs I follow which have the look you like (I call it eclectic chaos) - very colorful brights and something everywhere you look (maximalism) -
Thing is, most you see online (especially design sites and IG ofc) is cultivated and edited, which is not what you're after. But you can definitely get inspired. Your style is amazing and unique and your house is going to make everyone who walks into it so so so happy.
posted by the webmistress at 10:29 AM on May 27, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Remember, a space like this is going to evolve as you find new things to add to your home.

This is sage advice. Don't do it all at once.

25 years ago, when I divorced my then husband who was a very minimalist architect, I was intent on making my new home "homey". Absolutely no more minimalism for me at all ever. So I bought a lot of stuff with no clear plan, but I did have a kind of color scheme for walls and floors and curtains. It worked well, one of my friends said it was the perfect love-nest. But then time passed, and now I have something more similar to a 16th century Wunderkammer, stuffed to the brims with weird, sometimes smelly, things I don't what to do about (because each little thing has a story).
Actually, I moved to a bigger apartment in the same building after the first five years, but that doesn't really make a difference.

So what you need to do first is create a solid base for future assembly. In this house, there are very tall wooden panels. So I use color on all four walls, and then paint the panels and the ceilings white to enhance the color. Right now I have a beige study, a sky blue living room, a hallway and and a bedroom that are how the walls look when you scrape down wallpaper and paint (but still with white panels and ceilings so everyone can see it is a deliberate choice). And then the kitchen, dining room and other bedroom are white, but the kitchen has a bright blue floor and backsplash. Before, I had a kitchen with red floor and backsplash. I'd like to have dark floors in the living room, but it's an argument between me and the landlord that isn't resolved. You just pick colors you like. You can always change them. Before I had yellow walls, and yellow is my favorite wall color, but it's fun to try different styles. Some of my parent's friends had an all black kitchen, with red cabinet fronts. The walls, floor, ceiling and worktops were all black. It's the most glamorous thing I have ever seen. Color brings a space together, gives it character and makes a spatial hierarchy where all the stuff you collect is subordinate to the space.
Some people think art goes best with white walls. I disagree. I think some art goes best with white walls, but for instance I think your Kandinsky print would go very well on my sky blue wall. The beige is a great backdrop for a lot of stuff. The scrubbed old paint is fabulous in itself, but I have some quite powerfull pieces that are very black and they look great on that background.
The sky blue is not quite what I had planned for, but if it had been, I would have done gold accents. Improvise. Your mural shows you can do it.

With all that in place, you can start putting in some stuff.

I like colorful area rugs, and I have too many, because my family knows I like them and give them to me, so I roll them up and change between them.

I like curtains that cover whole walls, not just the window opening.

I prefer BIG lamps. I have some smaller ones, and they are fine where they are, but a big statement lamp does the same as the color: brings the space together and creates a hierarchy. Your big mural does the same. Don't have a competing lamp, but highlight it with a serious floodlight.

I have a lot of shelving. Floor to ceiling on all four walls in the dining room, floor to ceiling on one wall in the study and here and there in the kitchen and bedroom. You don't have to fill all shelves, actually in the first apartment, I bought simple boxes and spray painted them a very nice wine red, to contrast the yellow. I was thinking of Donald Judd's box sculptures and hung them on the wall as if they were an art piece. They were empty for a while...

I don't have a lot of furniture. My family is not very happy with this, but I like the flexibility. I like being able to make an 8 meter long table, or a dance floor, or temporary studiospace. The rugs and all the stuff in the shelves and a welcoming table if there are visitors makes the space fill full.

I like many of the homes the Observer shows, though there are often frustratingly few pictures.
Rhapsody in blue: a Milanese apartment
Setting the scene: a home with a dramatic flourish
Love and obsession: how one of the finest UK ceramics collections ended up in a London council flat
An artist’s home by the sea
posted by mumimor at 10:43 AM on May 27, 2020 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Two other interiors inspo instragrams you might dig are Andrew Alford and The Beige Blues. Terence Conran's 1976 edition of The House Book may be right on your alley as well; tons of modern-looking but comfortable and very planty images to find your direction.
posted by mimi at 10:44 AM on May 27, 2020

Best answer: Some of the best design advice I got is: what makes your decorating style and the pieces you select "intentional" is the fact that you like them.

Instead of looking for a style, maybe focus on details. I totally get what you mean about Pinterest, so maybe....ask it for what you're looking for in a different way. Like, instead of searching for room décor ("living room" or "dining room"), do a search for those rooms and add the item you want to display there ("living room collection displays" or "flags as décor"). And then make a pinterest board and start pinning the things you like.

That may help in two ways - 1. It'll narrow Pinterest down to search for a more specific thing, and give you ideas for how to display the specific things you have instead of you just plunking them anywhere, and 2. it'll train Pinterest into showing you similar stuff, and that may lead you in the direction you're hoping to go.

I just tested that on my own Pinterest board - "flags as décor" shows you a lot of crafty American-flag themed stuff, but it also has a couple of pins that show ideas for framing flags, like this and this. "Displaying collections in Living room" has even more hits.

I'd try taking about five minutes tops and just doing specific searches on Pinterest that are sorta connected to the items you LOVE that you mentioned above, and then pinning the hits that speak to you for any reason. Even if the thing that appeals to you isn't what you searched for - maybe they're showing a flag display you're not thrilled with, but you like the couch or something. Then go back and look at those pins again, and scroll down below each one to where Pinterest suggests "other options like this" and pin any of the ones from that as well. And so on.

It's not a specific style, but it's you and it's addressing how to show "you" off. Good luck!
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:44 AM on May 27, 2020 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I can't help with taste, but here are some lesson's learned from a couple of decades of home ownership and three different houses worth of customization.

1. Paint is cheap and easy to do. It's really easy before you move in, and much more of a bother after. Learning to cut in is a key skill that will save lots of time. And a run around with a small tub of polyfilla (not mud) before painting is really worth the effort.

1a. Paint effects (stripes, stencils, etc) are only slightly more work. (Don't do things like glazes though). They tend to be tiresome/dated after a few years though. As long as you're OK with a repaint every once in a while, they can be a lot of fun.

2. Fixtures: lights, curtain rods, bathroom fixtures are all easy. Taps and shower heads are moderate but doable. Electrical cover-plates, easy; switches, get an electrician unless you really know what you're doing.

2a. Don't under estimate lighting when considering colours/paint. It's huge at setting a mood.

3. Floors: Carpet->hardwood, expensive and hard to do yourself, but worth the effort and increase in durability. Personal taste here though. Tile and hardwood is worth getting someone in for, but installing click floor is something I've done three or four times now myself and can be done as a weekend project. Tile is also fiddly but doable---if you want to change a kitchen backsplash, that's very achievable.
posted by bonehead at 10:45 AM on May 27, 2020 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Oh my god. Link after link after link of things that are just perfect and wonderful. I hesitated to ask this question, now I'm super glad I didn't. I'm a maximalist! Who knew.

1, this house that went viral recently (boring brick on the outside, it's all about the interiors that each go All In on things the owner loved)

Hilarious that you say this because when I saw this house posted on the blue I started writing this question in my head, and somewhere in between I completely forgot about that house. Yes.
posted by phunniemee at 10:51 AM on May 27, 2020 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Two more maximalist, colorful, made-by-the-inhabitant(s) interiors: a Morris-ish painted interior, probably too brown for you, the Bloomsbury house Charleston; images from the Omega workshops which were mostly-Bloomsbury modernist artists making home goods.

I think those are all earlier than your style tastes, but they're colorful, maximalist, and made by the people who lived in them (mostly). I love your mural! More mural!

I also find it really effective to go to the library (oh) and get lovely interior-decorating or historical or travelogue books going as many decades back as they've got. One of the things that burns me out on Pinterest and Instagram really quickly is the historial narrowness they get mostly because they're new, and some (I think) because looks-good-on-a-cellphone is also specific. Looking at old stuff is great because it pings the `lovely' and `oo, out of style, haha' together and eventually I have more sense of what I actually like. Also it's useful to guess what will go out of style before it's worn out.

Coffee-table books do tend to over-represent rooms with ten foot ceilings and windows to match, or rugged authentic cottages with stone walls two feet thick and one (1) stool; collections of women's magazines are probably more relevant, go back at least a century, love modern practical interiors, but are harder to find.
posted by clew at 1:02 PM on May 27, 2020 [1 favorite]

Your design aesthetic may be eclectic.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:29 PM on May 27, 2020

Response by poster: You know what this thread is reminding me is how much I absolutely adored Sir John Soane's Museum when I was in London.
posted by phunniemee at 1:47 PM on May 27, 2020 [2 favorites]

I always try to decide how I want a room to feel and that helps me choose colors. I'd describe your vibe (and mine) as Boho Eclectic Vardo (Romany wagon) with books. I just ordered this because it's 50% off till tonight and I need a hatrack. It might get painted. My house is full of books, oriental rugs, hardly any art because there's hardly any wall space(sad face emoji), and items I think are interesting, beautiful, funny, useful.

Lights that clip onto bookshelves can be aimed to be most useful, this works for me.
My floors are crappy plywood, so I painted them with deck paint then used rugs.
I used broken tiles for the bathroom countertop, and a Talavera sink from ebay.

I'm theora55 on colourlovers, where you can create and save palettes. Great for inspiration. Boho and/or Eclectic and/or Vardo will get great stuff on pinterest. As you pin stuff, pinterest will feed you more of the same, total rabbithole. I love William Morris's patterns and rooms. Take your time, and your home will refplect you and your energy.
posted by theora55 at 5:36 PM on May 27, 2020 [1 favorite]

“refplect” should have a long s instead of the f because it’s a beautiful portmanteau of reflect and respect.

also seconding theora55’s point about time - the artistic house especially doesn’t happen in one go, it forms in layers like a nautilus shell. A nautilus that occasionally takes everything down in one room for dusting/painting/rearranging.
posted by clew at 6:22 PM on May 27, 2020 [2 favorites]

I like to take my time with decorating as well, sometimes waiting a year or more before setting the major look of a space, trying a number of scenarios out in the meantime. The great thing about owning a place is that no one but you sets the schedule.
posted by bonehead at 6:47 AM on May 28, 2020

My favorite maximalist memphisy interior is Pee Wee's Playhouse.
posted by WeekendJen at 1:05 PM on June 3, 2020 [1 favorite]

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