Creating a coherent and polished look for your home doesn’t always have to require a high-priced designer. With a little bit of time and effort, you can determine your own design style and create a space you love. As our lives evolve, so does our sense of style, and you may notice home decor items that no longer reflect your current tastes. This dilemma can become especially obvious with a change in season – or just before the arrival of guests to our homes. If you feel like your home has an identity crisis and you are unsure of your style, look around you for inspiration and try these steps to get clarity:

  1. Take an inventory of your current furniture, art, and home décor to identify the pieces that you love. Remove what you don’t love.
  2. Look through Pinterest and magazines and make note of what speaks to you. It could be the entire look or just one small element.
  3. Gather items around your house in colors that resonate with you – look for inspiration in flowers, food, fabric, and your kid’s box of crayons. This will help to determine your color palette.

Now, look for a common theme in the colors and elements you have identified; what descriptive words come to mind? The most interesting homes layer different styles sourced from a variety of places that reflect the homeowner’s personality. Peggy Miller, owner of At Home in Suttons Bay, suggests that you “Live with what you love … and your design will follow.”

Once you have identified your design style, it will be easier to avoid the common decorating pitfall of random purchases that don’t fit your style. Armed with this information, you are ready to begin shopping, and there are plenty of options, from big box stores to local boutique and resale shops to the many online options. Tools such as Pinterest and design blogs can provide a home furnishings shopper with endless inspiration, access, variety, and experimentation. You are only limited by your time and your budget.

Heading to the internet may seem like the quickest and easiest way to bring your ideas to life. Not only will you find some great bargains, but you can do it in your pajamas from the comfort of your couch. There are so many options, but online shopping can also be overwhelming, if not downright dangerous. Shopping on the World Wide Web has its drawbacks; items can arrive damaged, and returns can be a nightmare, if not impossible. If you are someone who needs to touch, feel, and try out a piece before committing, then shopping the websites of major chain stores might not be for you. Matching colors and determining scale can be nearly impossible from your computer screen, let alone the challenge of determining the quality and craftsmanship of an item.

For the shopper who likes a treasure hunt, you have the option of shopping antique or resale stores both locally and online. It takes time to comb through the inventory, but the result can be home décor with a unique story behind it. For others, searching for antique pieces can be frustrating and time-consuming, and it’s important to do your research to determine if you are overpaying for a piece that is not an authentic antique. On the plus side, buying used furniture can be eco-friendly when those old pieces are repurposed. Buying antique or used furniture helps preserve valuable forest resources. There’s always room for a little bit of vintage in every design. From teak bowls to velvet mustard pillows, quirky salt and pepper shakers to old maps adorning empty walls, little trinkets here and there bring personality to a room. Mixing antiques with modern pieces can create a tasteful and trendy look that is applied by many designers.

Your local home décor boutique can offer you the best of all worlds, with substantial bargains, the opportunity to take a piece home and “try it on,” and a trusted friend to consult with about your design needs. Get to know your local boutique and antique shop owners and employees, as they can provide you with a wealth of information on the spot. Be sure to bring paint samples, fabric swatches, and photos of your most challenging issues. Reclaimed wood and repurposed vintage finds are sustainable, environmentally friendly, and a current trend you will find in many boutiques. Your favorite small shops will likely offer a mailing list or are active on social media, and following them can alert you to special sales events. Strolling through the many shops either at home or while on vacation, and armed with the design ideas that you have identified, can be a fun way to spend an afternoon, and will evoke great memories every time you pass one of your purchases on display in your home.