Interiors: ‘Start by asking what kind of mood you want to create’

WHILE there are some people who appear instinctively to sense which elements make up their personal style, there are many for whom this seems daunting.

Calling on the help of an interior designer will help you establish your preferred style, but it is possible to learn how to do this yourself. While designers tend to use a kind of style shorthand – retro, vintage, contemporary boho chic – it is more useful to the home decorator to approach this from a different angle. Start by asking yourself what kind of mood you want to create.

Think about favourite places you have visited. What was it (inside or out) that attracted or inspired you? Was it the colours and textures? Was it the architecture of a streetscape? The clean lines and freedom of an urban restaurant? The warmth and welcome of a country pub?

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Make a list of all the “hard” elements of your favourite places. Alternatively, think of an outfit you feel good wearing. Or the decoration at a special celebration. Again, list those qualities which attracted you.

From your lists you are probably more than half way to determining your own style preferences. On the whole, did you tend to favour casual or formal, warm or cool, quiet or busy? Test out your conclusions by collecting – from newspapers and magazines – interiors images you like. If they confirm the conclusions reached by analysing your lists, you have probably determined your personal style preferences.

If, on the other hand, your results are inconclusive, ask whether you have identified several different styles or whether you tend towards an eclectic taste in which case you know you will have to take this into account when planning your next decorating project. k

• Pat Elliott, The Borders Design House. Visit our website for design services, courses and workshops. Start a new career as a Homestyle Advisor with our distance-learning interior design courses (07765 057 409,