Have you been making this mistake too?
I’ve recently had a big breakthrough in my “decorating brain” thanks to Jackie. This WHOLE time (like the last 7-8 years) I’ve been confusing theme with style. I’ve been trying to stick to a theme (like planning for a party) thinking that was my style and then when I found something that didn’t “match” I’d swap everything out. No wonder I’ve been frustrated all these years, haha! ~ Rose D.
There’s a common misconception, which Rose nailed, that I think holds people back from their true decorating style.
You worry that:
You have to pick one theme and stick with it.
Having a decorating style at all is too theme-y.
There’s a lot of confusion between a decorating style and a decorating theme. They are not interchangeable. In this post, I want to explain the difference.
A Decorating Style is Bigger Than a Theme
What’s a theme? When you think of a theme, you probably think of a party theme. A super-coordinated visual look for a party centered around one topic or idea. A theme is great for a party. Even if it’s totally cheesy, it’s fun…for a day.
The mistake: If you think of your decorating style as a theme, of course, you should be scared. Locking in all your decorating choices to match one specific theme can quickly turn cheesy.
So if a theme is a visual look centered around one specific topic or idea, then what is a decorating style?
Here’s my definition:
A decorating style is a defined set of elements combined strategically to create a consistent atmosphere and aesthetic in your home that ties together a variety of themes that are important to your family.
I know that’s a mouthful, but it’s really important to understand.
Yes, you are creating a visual look with a decorating style, just like you might with a party theme. The difference is a decorating style is bigger than a theme, it can actually be used to string together several themes that you love.
That means you aren’t stuck with creating rooms like this…
I actually think this room is cute for a themed room. And if there is anywhere you can get away with being theme-y, it’s in a kids room. I should know since I went with an overt pirate theme for our basement playroom. But this kind of cute is not what you want all over your house. You’re not making this your decorating style.
Nautical is not a style, it’s a theme.
A Better Way
Instead, you can weave nautical influences in with a few other subtle themes you love, especially those that paint a picture of who you are, like this…
The room above is a great example of using a few themes within a decorating style. You see the nautical touches first, but they’re not in your face. Then you notice a few other objects that reference other themes…the books, the wooden spool, and a megaphone.
The combination of themes in this room is building a story of an avid reader, a crafter or someone that likes to sew, and possibly a former cheerleader, who happens to live near the beach and loves that lifestyle. There’s a richness to this space that simply themed spaces don’t have. This space tells the story of the people that live here.
This room gracefully combines several themes important to the homeowner by showcasing objects that tie back to a specific decorating style. You’ll notice the themed objects in this room are all simple and graphic. Those are qualities that speak to the overall decorating style of the space.
That’s what you want from a decorating style; to tell your story and to unify different themes so your home looks interesting and feels cohesive.
Here are a few more beautiful spaces that follow our example and have subtle nautical touches without being theme-y. They evoke a nautical or beach aesthetic through use of color, texture, and a few themed objects, but the theme doesn’t overpower the space.
Your Decorating Style Is More Than Just a Set of Themes
There’s one other key part of my definition: “A defined set of elements combined strategically.”
The trick to a great style is using themes without being so literal. That’s where style elements come into play. Style elements are a couple of steps removed from the theme. They’re like the essence of the theme—the colors, textures, symbols, or artifacts that conjure the theme.
Choosing a decorating style is nothing like choosing a party theme. For one thing, it’s a much bigger commitment and will influence your purchase decisions for years to come. It’s also not something you choose, it’s something you build.
The only way to get a decorating style that fits you perfectly is to build your own by mixing and matching style elements and applying them strategically throughout your home.
I know that sounds easier said than done, which is why I created How to Find Your Decorating Style—a collection of my best resources and posts about choosing a decorating style.