Defining – and Designing – for Your Style



By Alisa Murray –

All of your possessions are symbols and speak of your truth.” I knew I had heard this somewhere before, and yet I could not get my memory to release from just where.  And then, it hit me, and I flew from my bedroom straight away to my library, and there it was in the yellow book from my designing school days – the bible of decoration – Alexandra Stoddard’s The Decoration of Houses.  It is perhaps the most important statement when I am designing a space for a client. This space is not my space; it’s yours.

Your Style vs. A Designer’s Style

Often designers get into their own mode, and each client begins to look like them.  They get lost in a sea of a designer’s dream instead of their own. I recently saw this with a client who was charged $25,000 for a room that when finished looked like a room her best friend had recently remodeled using the same designer. She was not pleased, nor was her husband, because their home did not reflect their style.

I know many of you love Joanna Gaines and her shabby chic shiplap style of decorating. My daughter and mother-in-law watch everything she does and love each house as they show it on HGTV. I wonder, though, about the uniqueness each client must invariably not feel as each one of her projects look rather similar. It works for Joanna’s home for sure, but should a designer’s personal style seep into every clients’ home? I would be the first to argue absolutely not!

Make It Uniquely You

If Stoddard has taught us anything, it is that each room in your home should be treated like a garden, and each possession in your home should have meaning and purpose – not quickly bought to just fill up the space. Decorating is like photographing a legacy wall of life for a family in that it takes time and has to reflect the inhabitants of that space in that time. To be a client’s portrait artist is to walk through life with them over a long period of time, and in being their designer, the relationship is not changed. I think that’s why the transition from capturing my clients to then helping design spaces that work for them and them alone has been such a natural progression. Their uniqueness is what brings each project so much joy to take on and develop artistically speaking.

One client came in a few weeks ago and saw the new harlequin ceiling in my kitchen and the leopard stairs and asked me if this was what I was doing in my clients’ homes? I laughed and said, “never” because I am quite certain that my home is a little over the top from what my clients would be comfortable in – think dark castle like with a touch of Beauty and the Beast.  It would never occur to me to give my style to a project, only my expertise in what best suits that client. My home reflects who I am and is continuously evolving as I do artistically. When my clients enter my space, they feel an immediate and intimate connection to me through my choices of texture and fabric selection, my paintings and images that I have captured.  My space is filled with things I love: velvet, feathers, sparkly beads and animal prints.  My space is supposed to reflect my style, and it does.

So that brings me to the biggest question of all. Does your space reflect you? Are each of your rooms providing you with the comfort and utility that they need to make your space your home? If your colors on the walls have not been changed since you moved in and are the same throughout your house, the answer is “no.” If you are not super charged to make it a great day when you drink your coffee out of that special cup that you found on such and such trip,  then the answer is “no.” If your bathroom doesn’t make you feel just as good as if you went to the spa, then it’s time to find the true essence of you that can be and should be in each space. It’s not difficult, but most people need a little help figuring that out. It’s a journey and each day gets you that much closer to creating a space that is unforgettably YOU!