Do you really know your decorating style?

— You have a new home or your first apartment and dozens of crazy ideas to make it look the way you want. But do you really know your own decorating style?

Perhaps it was easy to see that your mom had a taste for historic, Colonial decorating. Maybe you’ve always marveled at the way a friend embraced midcentury modern style to create the perfect “Mad Men” pad.

But if your decor seems to lack that kind of continuity and flair, you’re not alone.

Fight feeling overwhelmed

In this day and age, asking someone to name their decorating style is almost a trick question, said Better Homes and Gardens home content director Jill Waage.

Thanks to nebulous decorator terms such as “eclectic” or “personalization,” interior decor isn’t as easy to typify as it was even 10 years ago. (Remember “Moroccan style”?) That makes decorating harder than it used to be, Waage said.

Since 1924, Better Homes and Gardens (first published under the name “Fruit, Garden and Home” in 1922) has been giving all manner of home economics and homemaking advice. Readers’ questions have always betrayed an anxiety over home decor.

“Pick a decade,” Waage said. “People are still looking for tips about how to use color, arrange furniture, always looking to make their home better.”

What’s different in 2014, Waage said, is that homeowners itching for a living room makeover are indelibly changed by the design information available to them.

By now a generation has grown up witnessing complete home redecorations within the span of a 30-minute television show. Early adopters of Pinterest and devotees of tutorial-disseminating decor blogs are largely empowered — or sometimes overwhelmed — by this media, Waage said.

The magazine still delivers decorating tips and examples, but instead of a few fresh looks every month, tips now include online color choice generators and automatic room planners.

Even with a new understanding of the mechanics of decorating, it’s still difficult to orchestrate the room of your dreams, or even realize what it is you like in the first place, she said.

So what’s a DIY decorater to do?

Be brave enough to try

Bravery and experience are what helped self-taught blogger, photographer and decorator Emily Clark handle her home decor. Figuring out which interior styles influence you is born from self confidence that only comes with age, she said.

She no longer focuses on the giant set of matching furniture she and her husband bought as newlyweds in their first grown-up home. She encourages slowing down to make decorating a gradual process.

“It’s about not second-guessing yourself. As you get older, you get more confident in your decisions,” Clark said.

It has been 15 years since she lived in her first apartment, and her family now lives in its second home — and Clark finally feels comfortable broadcasting her style to people around the world through her blog.

“A lot of people get stumped or scared they’re going to mess up,” when applying their tastes to interior decor, Clark said. But discovering what you appreciate about decor means you have to be brave enough to try decorating in the first place, she said.

“Taking chances and enjoying where you are and what you’re looking at every day. It’s better than sitting around looking at blank walls, worried about what to do,” she said.

“My philosophy has been, if I don’t love it to begin with, it can’t get any worse. If I have a piece of furniture sitting here that I detest to begin with, slapping a coat of paint on it isn’t going to make it any worse.”

Through clipping magazine images from Southern Living or House Beautiful and looking online when she decorated her first home, she uncovered some obvious patterns, she said.

“There are things I am naturally drawn to,” she said, “I love black and white stripes, I love blues, I love textures. I like a good mix of things.”

What she doesn’t like, even among her decor blogging peers, is the accelerated pace of decorating trends and how many bloggers adopt them, making those ideas feel a lot less personal.

“I want to know what you like, I don’t want to know that you bought every Nate Berkus piece at Target,” Clark said.

When she finds a blogger whose home shows a distinct personality, “it motivates me to get off the computer and do stuff to my own house,” she said. “That’s a good house!”

It’s OK to call the pros

Alexis Kraft, owner of the Kraft Studio design firm and an interior design professor at Parsons The New School for Design in New York, teaches his students not only how to recognize and manifest the decorating styles of clients, but also how to do the same for themselves.

“A designer starts to realize early on in their education and in their career that they need to have a sense of style,” he said. “They need to embrace and embody (a design style) that then becomes marketable for them: Their style becomes part of what (potential clients) are attracted to.”

That ability is something of a superpower, he said. “I like to think anyone can be an interior designer, but it’s not something everyone can do,” he said.

He likens interior decor to music. “We all have opinions of (whether or not) music is good,” he said. “Not all of us can be musicians.”

The interest in design, an innate sense about art and an ability to understand the relationship between objects and space is part of why interior design is such a specific career path, he said. Interior designers spend years in school and internships learning little details like where to mount a toilet paper holder or how a kitchen tile can keep a remodeled kitchen looking fresh for decades.

Kraft can not deny the grip that a modern, DIY attitude has on Americans. Miraculous TV makeovers or bloggers who document their decorating adventures are compelling, motivating voices in the interior design conversation, he said.

But there’s a chasm between the way we talk about design and the effort it takes to create a beautiful room in your own home.

“There is still an art to it that has to be developed,” he said.

If you’re not happy with the look of your home, you can work to hone that artistic ability — or you can call for backup. Sometimes, he said, hiring an interior designer is the way to discover your style.

What’s your decorating style? Share your thoughts in the comments, on Twitter @CNNLiving or on CNN Living’s Facebook page.


™ & © 2014 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.

Secrets of the world’s most fashionable women

— Walking the streets of the world’s leading fashion capitals — New York, Paris, Milan, Tokyo — one might expect to see women strutting sidewalks in the most avant-garde of outfits.

After all, these women have access to the most creative fashion minds on the planet, said Eva Chen, editor of Lucky magazine. But what you actually see, she said, is a flood of impeccably dressed women wearing black.

“It’s an urban uniform to wear black and dark colors,” Chen said. “I look at the way I dress and how my editors dress, and there are days when people look super New Yorky.”

But why? Here are the secrets.

Secret No. 1: Build on black

Black, navy, brown and dark greens and purples are practical and typical winter wear colors. On a blustery winter day, these dark hues are thermodynamic armor. But it’s the artful eye of an urban fashionista that turns them from drab to fab.

Women in New York, for example, effectively color-code their closets, Chen said. The black skirt they just bought will pair easily with the black blazer they already own, the black boots, the black sweater, the black shirt that are already in their closet. “Black is always chic,” she said, so there’s an added aspect of wardrobe longevity.

“It’s easy for me, when I’m shopping, to rationalize a little black dress, a blazer or a motorcycle jacket,” said Janelle Lloyd of the street fashion and decor blog Girls Off Fifth.

“I have three of each of those things in my closet. Those are things you’re going to throw on every day and look chic and look classic and wear for a lot of different occasions.”

Twenty-four hour transitions are the key to Lloyd’s wardrobe. It’s not uncommon for one day’s outfit to need to function as casual, business, cocktail and gala wear. The safe bet, Lloyd said, is on black.

“We don’t go home after work and change,” she said of her fellow city-dwellers, who often follow a full day’s work with drinks, dinner and the periodic gala event.

“Instead, you’re switching from a flat to a heel or you’re throwing on a different jacket instead of your blazer from work,” she said. They just cart the makeup, shoes and extra jacket needed to go from day look to evening look inside a roomy bag.

Secret No. 2: Treat neutrals like dark colors

In the fashion world, black is the universal color of style, Chen said. The day-to-day wardrobes of busy urban women are built on black and other dark colors like navy. (A current trend is mixing black and navy in the same outfit, Chen noted.) From there, they add color.

“As an editor, two years ago — which kind of gives an insight into my fashion mind — my New Year’s resolution was to start wearing more color. And by color, I meant gray,” she said.

That’s part of the secret to big city style, she said. Fashionable urbanites think differently about color.

For example, layers of pale neutrals, including such business-appropriate colors as beige, khaki, camel, blush, white, pale blue and cream, are not only beautiful in their own right, Lloyd said, but go together as easily as the utilitarian, darker options.

“They are really a staple in a woman’s wardrobe. Urban women love to look fashion-forward, but we’re also really busy, and these colors are easy to put on,” the blogger said.

Sarah Owens, Street Style expert for trend predictor company WGSN, studies fashion from the runways and the streets. In the same way that catwalk trends tend to trickle down into mainstream fashion, street trends tend to “bubble up,” she said. Somewhere in the middle is how the majority of urban women dress.

The dark palette city women prefer is available to shoppers through both high and fast fashion. Although runway fashions and magazine spreads might be dominated by color and pattern, Chen said, designers know that their customers value practicality. They often create commercial collections of their runway lines that feature simpler silhouettes executed in black, navy and beige, she said.

Secret No. 3: Punctuate with strong color

Lest these ladies be thought of as one-note dressers, Chen points out that there are a few bright colors that regularly punctuate big city fashions.

“What we’re seeing a lot here in New York and also on the runway is a bright, electric blue,” she said. Shocking blue is a great color to break up a dark wardrobe with because it’s a strong statement color, but at the same time, it could be considered neutral, Chen said.

“It’s not girly; it’s not too muddy or earthy; it’s just a strong fashion color,” she said.

A strong red is also a New York favorite, especially on lips, Chen said.

For the upcoming spring and summer seasons, dark forest green has become another power color, as evidenced by the recent collections by Marni, Bottega Veneta and Gucci. “Everyone here at the (Lucky magazine) office is going crazy about forest green,” Chen said.

Lloyd, who calls New York home now, spent her formative years in Atlanta, where clothing tends to be more colorful, she said.

“Women in the South have been peacocks for many years,” she said. “Southern culture has always been very strong, so they’re not necessarily going to look to a city like New York for their fashion choices. They’ll make their own.”

It’s a fashion sense that makes perfect sense to Owens. U.S. cities with Latin American influence like Miami are more willing to experiment with vibrant color.

“Those places in warmer regions, like Brazil, Ibiza, when I go to Mexico and cover Fashion Week there as well, everyone is in head-to-toe color,” she said. “Cities like New York and Tokyo are a little more grounded in their seriousness and their sophisticated color combinations and palettes.”

Of course, the tonal differences between cities go beyond color. When Chen lived in Los Angeles in 2013, she looked forward to wearing all her “wildly impractical” shoes, since she would be driving to work instead of walking.

“That said, when I was in LA, I didn’t wear any of those shoes,” she lamented. Turns out, that city’s style was way more relaxed than she expected.


™ & © 2014 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.