I was 31 when I became a Pinterest addict. A former magazine editor, I was accustomed to finding inspiration in publications and around the web, but as a new mother renovating a very old home, the online image-sharing platform took idea-gathering—for nursery décor, for organizing ideas, for fantasy vacation homes—to a whole other level.
It occurred to me one day, as I pinned yet another DIY art project that I’d never actually complete, that this profusion of inspiration wasn’t getting me any closer to my dream home, and certainly not any faster or with more purpose. The avalanche of ideas simply piled atop all of the other ideas I found in books and magazines. In fact, even the advice in my favorite home-décor books and blogs rarely translated into action.
The problem? Most of what was out there was one-size-fits-all: Use this type of bed in this type of space. Follow this formula for combining colors. Describe your look as X, Y, or Z.
Even how-to articles with options for high budgets versus low ones seemed to be asking the wrong question. I thought what if instead of asking what do you like, we asked what are you like?
When it comes to our homes, it's time to get personal.
Just as a teacher needs to adjust his or her methods to reach visual, auditory, and hands-on learners, perhaps the "lessons" for creating a home you love need to be tailored toward all the different types of people out there. Immediately I recognized parallels with ayurveda, the ancient healing system from India that helps people fix inherent imbalances in the body. According to ayurveda, three energies flow through us: vata (air/space), pitta (fire/water), and kapha (water/earth). These energies exist in a different balance in each of us, and our individual energy makeup, or dosha, informs how we interact with the world.
As the thinking goes, someone dominated by kapha can be calm and grounded but also sluggish and stubborn. A vata-dominant person can be energetic and adventurous but also lack direction. A pitta can be determined and efficient but also impatient or easily agitated. The ayurvedic approach uses nutrition, mindful exercise, and bodywork to balance the overly dominant energies that throw us out of whack and to boost the energies we lack.
I realized with amusement that these descriptors echoed how I, and friends of mine, approached our homes. At one friend’s best, she had bold style and a fantastically adventurous appetite for décor. At her worst, she’d find herself buying things without the foggiest idea how she’d use them and could find herself with rooms full of odds, ends, and clutter. Some friends were very budget- and timeline-centric with their décor projects; others liked to let their homes evolve without direction and over time.
Simply recognizing what type of design creature you are is an exercise in self-awareness.
When it came time to research and write my own décor book, Your Home, Your Style, I toyed at length with the idea of design doshas, profiling many friends and colleagues to figure out how many designing types there might be in the world. After studying their habits and décor hiccups, I arrived at not three but five decorating dispositions:
You want your home to be an expression of your personality. Strengths include identifying items that just "feel like you"; challenges include pulling it together.
Places to prioritize: Any spaces where you can craft a narrative, such as an entryway or a gallery wall.
You want to decorate each space once and never think about it again. Strengths include setting and following a budget; challenges include making impromptu decisions and giving the space its "soul."
Places to prioritize: Function-driven spaces like kitchens, mud rooms, and baths.
You want every item in your home to tell a story. Strengths include collecting antiques and mementos from your travels; challenges include letting go of items that have sentimental value.
Places to prioritize: Living and sitting rooms where you can showcase and talk about your finds.
The Dream Weaver
You want your home design to be transporting or make you feel like you’re on a chic retreat. Strengths include choosing products that create a distinct vibe; challenges include combining old items with the new.
Places to prioritize: Relaxing escapes such as bedrooms and formal living rooms.
You want everything you see. Strengths include rearranging spaces over time; challenges include committing to a look and sticking to a budget.
Places to prioritize: Mantels, coffee tables, and bookshelves, which you can rearrange constantly.
Unlike ayurveda, there’s no energetic healing plan or herbal therapies to get anyone closer to the house of their dreams. But simply recognizing what type of design creature you are is an exercise in self-awareness. When you know your disposition, you’re better equipped to take others’ advice or leave it; to recognize when you’re repeating the same mistakes; to talk yourself out of those mistakes; and to make joint design decisions with a partner, because you recognize that décor disagreements are not just about style or stubbornness.
Our habits and choices are often deeply rooted, unlike that DIY indoor herb garden I pinned three years ago but have yet to make.
If you're designing with a strict budget, check out these inexpensive bedroom hacks.