Apartment Therapy Asks: What’s Your Style?

At Apartment Therapy, we’ve spent more than ten years visiting remarkable homes around the world.  In that time, we’ve managed to document the uniqueness, authenticity, and aspirations of a whole new generation. Thousands of homes have been photographed, their great ideas and ingenious resources recorded in detail, so that we can share it all with you. In the following excerpt, we walk you through one of the early stages of interior design: choosing your style.

What’s your style? The short answer is, whatever makes you feel good.

Style is often hard to label—and it’s going to be something you’re constantly discovering. So when you start thinking about style in your home, never look at it as something that’s “fixed.” Enjoy shifting, tweaking, and experimenting with every room.

In our first book, Apartment Therapy: The Eight-Step Home Cure, we coined the terms Bones, Breath, Heart, and Head to outline the elements that define a room. Understanding them is a stepping-stone to finding and building your style. The goal is to get the foundations, Bones and Breath, squared away, and then focus on the Heart and Head.

Bones are the hard shell of a room: the walls, floors, ceiling, and built-in fixtures. You want to make sure they are all clean, painted or sealed, and in good repair.

Breath is the furniture arrangement. Establishing good flow in every room is key.

The Heart is where style comes into play. It includes all the emotional touches: color, texture, shape, and pattern. These are the first things people notice in a room, so you should experiment to see what feels right.

The Head takes into account details that express your higher purpose, such as religious accessories and family pictures. While technically not a “style” element, they are symbols of your deepest beliefs and will color your home.

Of course, living with someone else means accounting for their (sometimes conflicting) tastes, too. Our advice? Reach a consensus on the first two levels (Bones and Breath); then allow space in every room for each person to express different Heart and Head elements. If your styles truly clash, divvy up the rooms by person—and enjoy sharing them with each other.

See if you can pinpoint your design aesthetic (most likely a mix of one or two—or more—broad “looks”) with a quick study of these four styles.





A design mashup of personal treasures influenced by travel, functional design, and aesthetic passions.

Often bold and bright but can slip into neutral territory if it helps highlight the decorative eye candy.

By its nature, this style is undefined. It’s all about the mix! Layered prints, patterns, and textures.

Global design, film, and art with a strong sense of individual style.




classic glam


The modern way to work with classic elements is to pick and choose your favorites—and then layer them on. More is more.

Bold. Turquoise, navy, green, red, pink, yellow, and white mixed with gold and silver metallics.

Pattern, lacquer, Lucite, brass, wallpaper, bamboo, and mirrors.

Old Hollywood. Kitsch. Vintage decorating magazines and coffee-table books. The big names of twentieth-century interior design: Dorothy Draper, Billy Baldwin, and David Hicks.




new traditional


Classic formal design, relaxed and updated for how we live today. Think familiar shapes in fresh colors.

Rich hues mixed with warm, creamy whites, deep browns, and true blacks. Lighter and brighter accent colors modernize the look.

Dark wood tones, metals, marble, and gilt. Linen, wool, and velvet fabrics. Stripes, plaids, and smaller-scale patterns.

Classic architecture and interior design. Family heirlooms.




simple chic

Beautifully (and thoughtfully) pared down. Individual elements can range from rustic to luxurious, but the overall palette is focused and elegant.

White, cream, pale gray, soft brown, black. Offbeat pastels and clear brights as accents.

Light or distressed wood, linen, cotton, felt, ceramic, hand knits, glass, and pottery.

French and Swedish country homes. Wabi-sabi. Shabby chic.


Getting the style of a home to feel right is more instinct than science. Explore every detail—lighting, color palettes, flooring, and accessories—that brings a home to life and, most important, makes you happy in it.


Excerpted from Apartment Therapy: Complete + Happy Home by Maxwell Ryan & Janel Laban. © 2015 by Apartment Therapy, LLC, Potter Style, The Crown Publishing Group, Penguin Random House LLC.


Feature Image Credit: Oksana.Bondar/Shutterstock

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