Interior design is about knowing your style and designing around it.
But what if you don’t know your French Country from your Asian Zen, or your Minimalist from your Industrial?
If you are looking around your house and see a mish mash of travel souvenirs, wedding gifts, hand-me-downs and second hand finds, then categorising your style or deciding your ‘look’ – that label that will say to the world, ‘this is me and this is how I live’ – can be overwhelming.
I think it’s not so important to know your design category, but to more know about what you like. This can only be achieved by researching, finding out what makes you feel good, what constitutes your good living, what defines a home and what you want to surround yourself with.
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Choosing things to go into your home is not meant to be done in one step. It’s a journey of discovery, of layering, of admiring, of saving up for a dream piece and curating an interior story that sits well with you and the people that you share your home with.
When clients ask me to help design their homes, the first thing I do is to visit them in their home. I play detective – looking, feeling and investigating how the inhabitants live in each space.
What items do they love, what needs updating, what needs replacing and what direction do they see the spaces heading in?
Then I ask what inspires them. What type of homes make them feel good? This can be reached with ripped out pages of magazines or a compilation of digital images, either way it pretty quickly helps them and me see what direction they want to head in.
Very quickly I can usually see a common thread of design, something that links it all together and gives me clues to what direction we need to go in.
Whether you are engaging a designer’s services or venturing into your own interior design journey, it’s always good to do the research first.
Really dive deep into what spins your interior wheels, so that when it comes time to make a purchase or choose a paint colour, you have your style story nailed down.
Be curious and you will find inspiration all around you. Use what you see, file it, then reconfigure it to find the style that suits you and your home.
Here are some of my best inspiration go-to resources:
With a plethora of digital imagery on high rotate, I like to flip real pages of an interior design tome. There is something about seeing images on paper (that are bigger than an Instagram square) to pore over and get lost in.
Try the local library and hole up one rainy weekend afternoon and disappear into the world of interior design coffee table books. They still make them, and they are still inspiring. Try:
TV and film
It might seem an unlikely source of inspiration, but I find myself getting lost in set design and looking at details, locations, fashion and interiors that help to tell a story and create the environment for the film. I am a big fan of looking past the actors and plots and find myself getting more than a little distracted by the rooms that they are often in.
Some of my favourites for style references are The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Shape of Water, Parasite, Call Me By Your Name, Sex and the City, Beetlejuice, Hitch and The Royal Tenenbaums.
Browsing homeware stores is another fascinating resource for me and my interior inspiration. How they display objects is a constant source of inspiration. Seeing how other stylists group items and mix colours is always intriguing, and I’m always interested and curious to see design in real life. Try a wander around Paperplane, Merci Paris and Poketo.
While international travel has been off the cards for a while now, I still think it’s a valid way to get inspired. Different cultures use different colours, techniques and design, which can help us to tell our own story.
Travel has to be the best way to move away from the known to help uncover the unknown – we just might have to do it a little differently these days.
Instagram is my favourite way to find inspiration. Not only that but you can save images into folders and neatly pack away images for a dream project. I have folders for each room in the house, and it’s a very easy way to store images to go back to when you are a little stuck for an idea.
Pinterest is another way to store images in folders that is a great resource for categorisation.
Speaking to clients I always get them to make a board for each room we are working on. Quite quickly we can usually start to see a common thread of design come through which helps to unlock design choices and assists designing spaces.
Alex Fulton is a designer and stylist with Alex Fulton Design.