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How to establish your Interior Design style

by Carlene Duffy
Posted: August 31, 2016

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Working out what you do and don’t like can be one of the most difficult parts of the decorating process, especially when we have so much easy access to so much interior design imagery, writes Renovation TV personality and Interior Designer, Carlene Duffy.

And to be honest, I think design and renovation TV shows can make you more confused rather than clearing things up. However, you really do need to work out what your own personal interior design style is before you start decorating. 

Because if you don’t, things get confusing pretty quickly and you may end up making some monumental mistakes. Classical, coastal, boho, minimalist, vintage, mid-century modern, industrial, rustic, retro, Hamptons, Hollywood glam, Scandinavian... Is your head spinning? OK let’s get down to it.

1.    Eliminate

Rustic white brick kitchen with a definitive interior design style

You absolutely do not need to choose only one or even two of the aforementioned interior styles. It is perfectly acceptable to use a good mix of multiple schemes. But where to start? 

Sometimes it is easier to work out what you don’t like in your interior rather than what you do. Most of you will be able to look at the list above and strike out at least three styles that you are particularly averse to and just that, I promise you, will be the first step in your process.

2.    Find your balance

Rustic industrial home office with blackboard, white stool, concrete bricks, plants and lamps, and wooden floors

While I can handle a little bit of everything in my home, there are some styles that I can only handle in very small quantities. Industrial and rustic are two of those. 

For instance, in my home while I have some features that lend themselves to an industrial scheme, such as polished concrete floors, a trestle table on our deck, and a concrete island bench, that is where the buck stops. 

More than this and it starts feeling cold, very utilitarian, and very un-me. So in defining your style, keep your mind open, purchase what you love and play with the balance

3.    Define your colour scheme

Living room side table decorating arrangement with colourful pots, pot plant, lamp, pictures and book

It’s taken me a while to realise that while colour trends can influence your taste, you will probably keep coming back to what you LOVE

I’ve tried to convince myself that I can be really cool and low key with a pared-down and very neutral colour palette but I always end up slowly sneaking colour and layers back into the space because the reality is, neutral and pared-down is simply not me. 

You see I LOVE colour. And while I can appreciate the pastels that are popular at the moment, my heart is with rich, bold colour rather than light and bright or neutrals.

4.    Be a reader  

Beautiful interior design books next to tan sofa

Read far and wide. I’m in the interiors biz so it’s a given that I read more interior design books and mags than the average layman, but this, more than anything, has helped me define my own personal style. Here are 5 of my favourite books, to begin with.

When you flick through mags or scroll through Pinterest, you may be overwhelmed by all the beautiful imagery. But take a note of the spaces that make your breath catch and your heart sing, the ones that you linger on and absorb the most, because you will start to see a theme. 

File those images and keep coming back to them. These images will keep you on track, they will be your guide to creating an interior that is all YOU.


Want to learn more about more about a career in Interior Design?

Enrol in Diploma of Interior design to get started with.

Take a look at interviews, tips and advice from Australia's leading Interior Designers here.


Carlene Duffy

Carlene is best known as one half of Michael and Carlene Duffy; the down to earth Gold Coast couple who shared their highs and lows with Australia on 9’s series The Block ‘Glasshouse’. The dynamic duo also featured in Renovation Rumble, and have together established their business ‘Cedar & Suede’.

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