Part II of What’s My Design Style: Your [Style] Roots Are Showing!

Welcome back to Part II of What’s My Design Style! To quickly recap last week, I talked about why design style quizzes don’t work. I talked a little about trends that you connect with and how making a real emotional connection is what creates a lasting style. This week I’m going to cover why we react to beautiful spaces and how to use that to create your own personal style brand. These are actual techniques I use with my clients.

First and foremost let’s get something out of the way – all trends aren’t bad and just because something is popular does not mean it’s “trendy”. By definition a trend is a general direction in which something is developing AND it also means in fashion or “en vogue”. So, when we say there is a trend toward using subway tile on the backsplash, it does not mean that subway tile is “trendy” and will go out of fashion. Subway tile is sort of like the black pants of the interior design world. Classic with a million ways to dress it up!

Subway tile is a classic!

However, there may be some things that are in fashion that are not classic. Think of things like distressed and glazed kitchen cabinets.  They were super trendy about 10 years ago. They were absolutely gorgeous in many homes, but now in most homes, they look outdated… and worn out! However, for people who love shabby chic and farmhouse looks, they would (and should) never have anything else!

Unless it’s a style that really resonates with you, distressed cabinets may feel outdated long before they are ready for replacement

Think of these in terms of distressed and ripped denim. Jeans are ALWAYS in style. They’re a classic. Ripped and distressed denim comes in and out of fashion, but for people who love a bohemian or rocker look, they never look out of fashion. The ripped and distressed look will always look great on them because they know how to wear it.

Blue jeans are a classic…
… but only some people can “pull it off” perennially

And we all know people like that… They can have a living room straight out of 1983, but still somehow manage to make it look awesome!

So what’s the common denominator there? The people who can “pull off a look” that is not in fashion or even outdated? They are emotionally connected to the style have cultivated because they love it. They’re not concerned with what is en vogue. They’re concerned with does this feel like me… It’s sort of a non-minimalist version of the KonMari phenomenon.  Seriously, I believe that people will be happier and more satisfied with their homes, waste less money, produce less garbage, and have fewer yard sales if they did this work.

So, what is the first step?

Make a list of what you love. Go all the way back to your child hood if you need to. Think about things that have always appealed to you. Your favorite TV homes. Your favorite houses in your hometown. Your favorite buildings. Your favorite vacations. Favorite colors, foods, cars, dresses, shoes…  The items that always seem to make their way into your closet. Think across your life and make a list of the things that stand out in your mind as things that give you an emotional reaction. Literally, what brings you joy!

Mmmmmkay… How do I do that???

Let me give you an example from my own personal design style. (Yes, I did this work for myself!)

When I was young I loved the Brady Bunch house. There was a mid-century house in my hometown that had odd angles and high windows. I loved the way it defiantly stood between all the Ante-bellum and Victorian homes that lined street. Jackie O and Audrey Hepburn are the queens of style to me, especially in the 60’s and 70’s. I love Halston and Diane Von Furstenberg dresses. The sleek, clean lines of that era really appeal to me. The fashion was so timeless and Jackie and Audrey’s brand of glamour was effortless and sophisticated.


I grew up in the Deep South. My grandmother had a collection of chinoiserie that I always admired. The preppy tailored look that is associated with Southern style has always grabbed me. We lived among pines and live oaks and only about an hour from the Gulf Coast. I spent many summers on the Gulf beaches with blue-green water and white sand dunes. I scarfed down more seafood and oysters than I care to admit. The ocean and the beach just have a soft casualness to them that is comforting.

A classic chinoiserie mirror by Worlds Away

In my closet you’ll always find these items: white jeans, brown leather thong sandals, off-white slacks, several pairs of jeans, Chuck Taylors, an LBD, a sailor style striped shirt, red pants, a white oxford, gray cardigan sweater, a black or navy blue blazer, a pair of riding boots, and several wrap dresses.

So, you can get an idea of what I emotionally connect with: Mid-century Modern, Modern design, tailored clothes, preppy clothes, classic wardrobe, chinoiserie, coastal setting, coastal colors.

I love the look soft dunes and blue green water like you find on the Gulf of Mexico

Sounds like a hot mess, right?? We’ll get to cooling it off next week. For now, take out a piece of paper and make two columns. In the first column, I want you to make a list of all of your “things”. For now, leave the second column empty. We’re getting to the roots of your style!

In the meantime, if you want to work on your personal style brand or have a design project to start, you can book your design style consultation here.

Why Interior Design Style Quizzes Don’t Work

If you’ve ever wondered what your interior design  style is you’ve probably stumbled on a design style quiz online. If you took it, you were probably left scratching your head. You may have even accidentally ended up on a mailing list or been offered a deal on an e-Design package. What you probably didn’t get was a good sense of what interior design style is or how to decorate your home to achieve that style.   

Classically Styled Transitional Bedroom; photo credit: Hannah Glogower photography

You’re probably asking two questions:

Question 1: Why didn’t it work?

There are a three simple reasons the style quizzes don’t really work:

First and foremost, style quizzes are marketing tools that businesses use to collect your email address. Yeah, I probably just made a ton of enemies by saying that, but it’s the truth. All good marketing plans have some kind of email marketing aspect. After all email marketing is still the number one digital marketing technique.

Secondly, the business that offered you this free information want you to still be a little confused. They want you to purchase their services. Again, all part of the marketing plan.

Finally, and this is the BIG reason they fail you, they’re not very scientific. Usually, you will have to select your “favorite” room from two (or more) images. What if you don’t like either one? Or you like both equally? There’s no option to select “neither”.  The images they show you are specifically chosen to highlight a particular set of super trendy styles and the style you like best may not even be represented.  So, the quiz is inherently flawed.

Which one? A. or B. Choosing between two similar styles might not yield accurate results. photo credit: Hannah Glogower

Question 2: If they don’t work then how do I find my style? 

There are so many beautiful styles and trends out there, to be sure. However, picking a trend that is appealing to you isn’t going to help you create a home you will love for years. You’ll be redecorating and remodeling every 4-5 years! And honestly, who has the time and money for that?!?

Cultivating a style that is your own goes a lot deeper.  Being a designer, I am privy to a lot of design problems, but because of my background as a researcher, I tend to see trends emerge. Along the way, I have noted the reasons people become frustrated with the interior style of their home. I see people trying to make their homes look nice and stylish, but not really connecting emotionally to the interior spaces in their home. They can see and identify what they like, but they don’t understand why a certain look resonates with them.

A living room with a unique, personalized timeless contemporary look. photo credit:

So, how do you stop the vicious cycle? Take this quiz and find out!

I jest.

It takes some work, but you can understand your own personal aesthetic and then build your very own style “brand” from that foundation. I’m going to teach you how to do this over the next four blog posts. It’s going to shake out like this:

  1. Your [Style] Roots are Showing (week 2)
  2. You’ve Got a Way with [Style] Words (week 3)
  3. Building a Foundation for Style (week 4)

Next week we’re going to talk about how to get at the roots of your personal style. So make sure you have pen and paper handy!

Let me know if you want to explore your design style in more detail. The initial Design Style phone consultation is free of charge! You can book yours right here.

3 Tips for Designing Small Spaces

Small spaces, like awkward spaces, are found in homes of all sizes. We all have a hard time figuring out how to use the space and furnishing it appropriately for that function. Often, homeowners feel like their small spaces are overcrowded with furniture. Do you want to use your space to its fullest potential without feeling cramped? Keep reading!


When I am challenged by a small space I always keep the scale of the furniture at the forefront of my mind. I recently finished a small space project that included a living/dining area. Initially, the homeowner thought the space was too small for a sofa. We decided to create a simple sitting area with chairs and ottomans. One the installation was complete, the homeowner realized that she needed more seating. I knew right away that a full-size sofa wasn’t going to be practical. We needed something smaller and opted for an apartment sofa. We “downsized” the sofa and made the seating arrangement work.

The lesson: scale it down, if not in the amount of furniture you have, but in the scale of the furniture itself. The average sofa size is >7 feet long. Most sofas are 8-9 feet in length and 36-40″ deep. Apartments sofas are under 7 feet long and never exceed 36″ in depth.

Another place where you can scale down the portions of furniture in tight spaces is with your bed. In a small bedroom, you may want to use a headboard only instead of a bed that has a headboard and footboard. You can free-up 6″-12″ of space by skipping the footboard.

Platform beds are space savers. No footboard gives you at least an extra 6″. photo credit: Hannah Glogower

Occasional tables, such as coffee tables and side tables can also be scaled to help preserve floorspace. You always need something on which you can rest a book or a drink in your living room, but it doesn’t need to take up a lot of space. For example, if you’re having trouble finding a coffee table in a style you love, you can use two smaller items, like stools or a gardening drums, in place of a large cocktail table. The same goes for nightstands.

Another idea for seating is to use slipper chairs or benches instead of club chairs or arm chairs. The arms on a chair can take-up an extra 6″-18″ of space. A slipper chair with a slim profile can create a lot of floor space and visual space in a small room.

Slipper chairs have a lower profile and work in smaller spaces. What these chair lack in size they make up for it in style! photo credit: Hannah Glogower


My second tip is to select multi-purpose furniture. If you’re short on space, chances are you’re also short on storage, which can lead to clutter. To mediate small space clutter, I recommend using furniture with drawers where you can. For example, instead of a console table, consider using a small 3 drawer dresser that is dimensionally similar to a console table.

Open storage, such as bookshelves and media storage, can create a visually cluttered look. From a volumetric standpoint they take up a lot of space. This is another area where that extra drawer storage can come in handy.

This small space needed some extra storage. Instead of a console we used a 3 drawer chest. photo credit: Hannah Glogower

Beds with drawers in their bases are another great multi-purpose piece. These beds are usually low profile and come with or without a headboard. The great thing about storage beds is that you eliminate the dead space beneath your bed. You can store items beneath a typical bed, but if you have drawer storage, the items will be organized and you won’t have to worry about your belongings getting dusty. Under-bed storage is a great place to store seasonal clothing if your short on closet space.

Welcome to Another Dimension

We tend to think about space in terms of floor space or square footage, but our rooms aren’t flat like a blue print! We have vertical space as well and when you’re room is small, you should use it.

A great example of vertical space that often goes unused is the space above a wall hung television. Instead of a short media console, consider creating a media wall and using all of the space around your TV for storage. There are solutions for any budget, everything from Ikea to custom. Keeping the colors and materials light will keep the space open.

This white shelving extends from floor to ceiling. It’s topped off with cabinets for more concealed storage. 

What are some of your small space challenges? How did you resolve them? What are some creative solutions you’ve seen?

Still pondering how you’ll resolve your space planning issues? You can schedule your complementary Design Style phone consultation here.

Subway tile: Trend or Classic

Do you think subway tile is too trendy? I hear this a lot. It’s not a particularly difficult question to answer, but I always feel like I want to expand on the answer a little.

I’ve said it before and it bears repeating, just because something is popular doesn’t mean it’s not a classic. There are styles that are acceptable long after their popularity fades. They transcend the contemporaneous constraints that typically define trendiness. Chanel suits. Louis Vuitton handbags. Chippendale chairs. And yes, subway tile.

NYC Subway Ceiling

The reason I say this is that 3″ x 6″ white tile arranged in a running bond or straight bond pattern has been used for almost as long as subways have been around. They’ve been used in kitchens of the industrial type for nearly as long. So, needless to say, classic white subway tiles give a space a specific feeling. Vintage. Rustic. Industrial.

Subway style tiles in a commercial setting

That being said, white subway tile used in a residential kitchen can be used in many different interior styles. However, with the rise in popularity of subway tile, many variations on the classic have started showing up. There are glass versions. Elongated versions. Colorful versions. Each iteration taking the classic subway a little further away from classic.

Glass subway tile in a smoky tan

I’ve had clients worry that their backsplash selection will go out of style. Thereby leaving them with an outdated kitchen and feeling like they wasted money. The thing you have to keep in mind about a backsplash is that you can easily change it down the road. A beautiful backsplash is like a beautiful piece of jewelry, it can really add a lot of style, but it can always be changed!

As for not wasting your money, tile backsplash is a style investment, and like any other investment, the money can be big or small. A simple white ceramic tile backsplash can be as little as $2.00/square foot. Glass tile can be quite a bit more expensive with designer brands costing upwards of $100/square foot. An average kitchen has about 15-30 square feet of backsplash, so it’s easy to see how material costs can quickly add up. However, compared to counter surfaces and cabinets, the backsplash is going to be a smaller investment. Either way, you can switch out a tile backsplash if you want to freshen the look of your kitchen.

Transitional bathroom backsplash with mixed material mosaic and 4×4 white ceramic in a straight lay pattern photo credit: Hannah Glogower

My advice for making your selection: Let your style be your guide. If the style of your kitchen is classic and traditional, you will probably want to stick with more traditional shapes and applications – subway, 4″ square, ceramic, natural stone, neutral colors. However, if your aiming for a transitional, retro, or eclectic look, bring on the color and shape! You can really experiment with mixed surfaces, glass, metals, and handmade tiles! Ultra-contemporary or minimal? You might consider using the counter surface for your backsplash.

Contemporary kitchen with marble counters and backsplash

The Verdict: To make a long story short, subway tile is a classic! Subway tile may come in and out of popularity, but it’s a classic look that can work in many kitchen styles. However, if you feel like being brave, shake things up a little and get creative! You can always update your backsplash later!

Make sure you sign up for my newsletter here. And if you want to set up your complimentary Design Style phone consultation, you can do that here.

Solid Wood Flooring versus Engineered: Pros and Cons

Should I get engineered wood or solid wood? This is such a great question and I hear it all the time. It really all comes down to this: What kind of investment are you willing to make? Engineered wood can range in price from $2-3/square foot at discount retailers to $12/square foot for for high quality engineered wood, while solid wood can range from $10-12/square foot for domestic species like oak, to more than $20/square foot for exotic species. From a pricing standpoint, there is some overlap, but what are the real differences

Reclaimed wood floor

Engineered Wood: What’s the Scoop?

Engineered wood covers all manner of sins, as they say. With such a diverse range in colors, styles, and pricing you have a lot of choices. Deciding what will work best in your home really comes down to what your goals are and how much money you’re willing to spend.

The most important thing to know about engineered wood is the wear layer. Wear layer is the part you see after the wood is installed. It’s the part of the floor that becomes worn and damaged over time. Most engineered wood that you buy from discount retailers and big box stores will have a very thin wear layer. A thin wear layer means that you cannot sand and refinish the flooring if it gets damaged and worn over time. A thin wear layer is considered to be 1-2mm thick. The 2mm wear layer can be refinished, but it really depends on how significant the damage is. There are engineered wood that have very thick wear layers, which can be refinished multiple times, but as you might imagine they are more expensive.

Wear layer on top of the click lock plywood plank

If you have a limited budget and are going to self-install, the cheaper engineered woods may be the way to go. Buyer be ware, though. The claim is that engineered wood will last for 15 or more years, even the thinner wear layers, but I have personally owned engineered wood that only looked good for 5-10 years. So, while your pocketbook may thank you now for the lower cost solution, you may need to replace it in just a few years.

Solid Hardwood: Know Your Stuff

Solid hardwood is a great investment, but it is usually an investment. If you select solid wood, your making a commitment. Solid wood be refinished several times and really only has a couple of drawbacks. However, the drawbacks will be the same as engineered woods: water can damage wood and if you have large pets, their nails can scratch the floors and dull the surface.

Golden Oak, very popular in the late 1990’s. The question on this homeowner’s mind: Can I refinish it?

The awesome thing about hardwood is the variety of finishes and the ability to change them. Right now oil finishes have become popular. These are great because they are better for the environment and it’s easier to make repairs. You can easily sand and oil out any scratches or gouges when the floors are not stained and simply oiled. And while solid wood is more of an investment, you won’t be hauling a load of lumber to the landfill every time the floors start to look bad.

The Verdict

If you can do solid wood, go for it! If you’re not ready to make that investment and commitment, know what your getting! Aim to select an engineered wood with a thicker wear layer so that you can get more longevity from your floors!

If you need help selecting flooring, set up your complimentary Design Style consultation with Paradigm Interiors here.

Also, make sure you check out my Facebook page here.