What's a decorating style file? If you like decorating your home, you might already have one with a collection of magazine photos, fabrics and other ideas for your new kitchen, bedroom or house. When I started planning to build a house, I collected all sorts of house plans and circled what I liked on each one, plus cabinets, hardware and fixtures. At the end I wished I'd started collecting light fixtures early because they can be really hard to find.
Another thing I learned too late was room sizes matter. My contemporary home had a wall of windows and sliding doors and I didn't pay attention to where the furniture would go when finalizing the floor plan. This meant we had to buy the smallest sectional sofa and it still overlapped the sliding door. Looking back now, I realize my decorating style file should have included furniture with dimensions, so I was thrilled when Beth Frede offered to share this artile on decorating style files.
Who Should Create a Decorating Style File?
This is a great idea for anyone who is thinking about redoing her or his home, a room in the home, or even just one particular aspect of a room. Most of us are visual creatures. We find it easier to process information that we can see. It might be easy to imagine one or two changes to a room, but with or without changes, it’s hard to imagine a room in full detail without a picture in front of us to jog our memories.
Before you purchase something for your home, it’s helpful to be able to see it in the space first, to understand how it will look with everything else in the space. Will the new sofa you’re thinking about work with your existing chairs and flooring? Will the new window treatments you’re thinking of buying complement everything else in the room? You love your friend’s green‐gray bedroom and might want to replicate it in your home, but will that color look as good with your furniture? Pictures, swatches and samples make it easier to determine what will be a good investment, and what won’t.
How Will a Decorating Style File Help Me?
A decorating style file helps you gather and keep your ideas together in one place until you’re ready to do something more with them. Collecting and organizing your ideas is the best way to prevent overwhelm, and remind you about details you might otherwise overlook when it’s finally time to re‐do that room or space in your home. You won’t have to guess about what you like, or try to imagine how different elements of your room might coordinate. You’ll have examples of things you like, and you’ll be able to see how they work together (or not!) which will help you feel confident about your choices.
What Should Go Into My Decorating Style File?
Think about what inspires you. You can collect anything that fits into your file folder, or you can always choose a different form for your file. For example, photo boxes and bulletin boards are ideal for containing or displaying items that are bigger or bulkier than what a flat file can hold. Some items you might include in your file:
- Pictures from magazines or catalogs of whole rooms or just the details about light fixtures, window treatments, area rugs, etc.
- Photos of friends’ homes that you love.
- Photos of restaurants or other public spaces you enjoy being in, e.g. environments that make you happy.
- Paint samples, fabric swatches, wallpaper swatches, etc.
- Buttons, ribbons, trims, tassels for their color and/or texture.
- Photos of furniture, lamps or accessory arrangements taken at furniture stores.
You can use a box instead of a folder for your decorating style file.
- Natural items like shells, moss, bark, feathers, rocks, or pods.
- A scarf or favorite piece of jewelry
- Flooring, countertop or tile samples, or small hardware like a drawer pull or knob but be sure to write down the manufacturer and style information so you can find these again.
As you’re collecting items for your decorating style file, observe what you like about each picture or item. Does the overall look/style appeal to you? Are you drawn to a particular color or texture? Is it the clean lines or intricate details that you like? This will help you understand and define your personal preferences even more.
Decorator Hint: if you’re stumped about how to coordinate different colors in one room, pick up some sample color combinations from your favorite paint store for inspiration. You can also look at a favorite patterned piece of fabric, where again, the colors have been combined for you. Choosing a color palette can give you a starting point, and can make it easier to coordinate pieces in the room.
Finally, if you’re gathering ideas for a particular room, make sure you include items that fit your intended use for the room. A space that’s beautiful but totally non‐functional will never become your favorite room in the house! Later on, when you’re ready to actually create your room, you’ll want to pay special attention to:
- What your focal point will be, and where to place it.
- What combinations of patterns and colors you love.
- Proportion of color used throughout the room as you don’t want equal amounts of each color!
- Creating a natural flow of “traffic” within the space.
- Creating continuity between the “dream room” and the rest of your home.
- Creating a room that functions as beautifully as it looks!
If you’ve created your decorating style file, and you're ready to start a project but don’t know how to take the next step, it's time to get help from an interior decorator who can quickly show you how to combine your ideas to create a fabulous space.
Note: This article was written before we had Pinterest (our decorating ideas), which is also a great tool for creating a decorating style file … or boards.