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Five Tips To Mix Up Unexpectedly Great Style

by | Aug 15, 2012 | Decorating Inspiration, Details

Five Tips To Mix Up Unexpectedly Great Style 

Mixing Up A Great Decorating Style

I’m always growing in appreciation for design. As I learn to love and embrace new things, I hopefully evolve in my own style as well, because that is what happens as you learn and grow. There is no real label for my style any more, but I like that I can’t exactly pin point it or even describe it. It isn’t fully cottage. Or fully traditional. Or modern. Or French or English or American. And it isn’t blogger-style. Wait. Is there a blogger style?

There is freedom in not being able to pigeon-hole your style — to not feel confined by what is expected.

I most admire style when it is just a great mix of the unexpected. Layers of patterns, textures and styles, all happily residing together in a space that exudes personality over predictability. I don’t even mean it has to be colorful or crazy eclectic style, sometimes those wild mixes can be a bit over the top for me.

I’m not really a fan of trying really hard to “design” a room to look good or trendy, I would rather just bring together awesome and unique pieces and let them speak for themselves. There is just a comfortable mix that oozes personal style, even if you can’t quite put your finger on what exactly the style is or how it all came to be.

Five Tips To Mix Up Unexpectedly Great Style

But honestly, I think that undefinable style can be a bit scary.

If you can’t put your finger on what it is, how can you create it or duplicate it? It’s like traveling without a map.

Five Tips To Mix Up Unexpectedly Great Style

When certain patterns and colors are trendy, they can feel safe and familiar because we’ve seen them enough to be comfortable with them. We might use them, even though they may not really be our own style, perhaps because they are a safe choice.

Do you ever choose something knowing everyone else will probably like it (since clearly everyone does judging by its popularity in blogland or Pinterest), even if it doesn’t really reflect our own style?

Hmmm. Stuff to ponder.

Can we find enough confidence to choose what we love, even if we haven’t seen it already repinned thousands of times? Are we that brave to do what we  might LOVE, in spite of how others might react?

This is especially a good question for bloggers like myself, who put their personal style on display every day. 

Five Tips To Mix Up Unexpectedly Great Style

A few weeks ago I was invited to West Elm to check out their Fall collection from South Africa. Seeing all those lovely handcrafted things (some of which are featured in my photos today) really cemented in my mind just how uniquely beautiful our style should be!

It is so easy to get stuck in a style rut when you don’t look at what is happening style-wise in the greater world around you. I’ve been fortunate enough to have traveled quite a bit (never to South Africa, though, darn!) and I’ve always come home with a new appreciation for art, color, style and craftsmanship from different cultures.

Why do some people seem to have so much personal style and others seem to blend in with the masses, never quite finding their own unique voice? It isn’t always easy to know what you love and how to be confidently unique in a sea of what is expected and popular. But if you enjoy creativity and personal expression, you probably want to have your own style, right?

So without further adieu, here are five go-to tips to mix up unexpectedly great style!

Five Tips To Mix Up Unexpectedly Great Style

1. Go Global.

If you want a real personal style that is as unique as you are, I think every home should have at least one piece that comes from another country. Even more exciting and unique would be to mix things up from all over the world!

I really think you can grow in appreciation of a wider range of decorating options when you look at the art and decor from other countries! Venture outside of your local bloggers or stores once in a while for decorating inspiration and see what is happening on the other side of the country or the opposite side of the world! Your style will be all the better for it.

I love that West Elm has partnered with so many global artists to bring a unique flavor to their merchandise so we can shop the world from right where we are.

Five Tips To Mix Up Unexpectedly Great Style

2. Go Classic & Modern.

If you prefer a more modern style, maybe you can add in a classic or even antique piece just to mix things up. Or if you have always had a very traditional style, you might consider adding in a few new touches to create your own modern interpretation of classic style. As you are trying to “reinvent” your old traditional look, don’t go so far as to abandon good quality pieces or cover them all up with paint! Try mixing painted and wood pieces for a more multi-dimensional style.

Five Tips To Mix Up Unexpectedly Great Style

3. Go Fresh.

Let’s say you love a certain fabric pattern that is popular right now. Look for a pattern that might be similar but not the same. Yes, you might feel a little less confident in choosing something you haven’t seen before, but I am pretty sure you’ll be happier in the end because your style will endure past the trends! Once everyone has something, it tends to get tired and dated. Unless, it is classic of course. Classic pieces from certain time periods don’t look dated, they are just classic.

Even with a classic, you could liven it up in a new color or interpretation if you want something a little different! To get a fresh look, try something that is new to you, that you wouldn’t normally pick, and something you haven’t seen in everyone else’s house yet.

Try unique combinations of textures and layers for your own fresh interpretation of style.

Five Tips To Mix Up Unexpectedly Great Style

4. Go Crazy.

Go crazy in a good way. Pick something a bit risky for your house, something that you happen to love. Use something in a new, unexpected way. Choose the fabric or color or material or accessory or furniture or that everyone might think is the wrong choice for whatever reason (too hard to maintain, or too bold, too light, or too dark, for instance) or is totally not in style right now (zig when everyone else is zagging!). And then embrace your choices every day because YOU LOVE IT regardless of what “they say.”

5. Go Bold.

Small and plain is safe. Normal and expected doesn’t command attention. Almost unnoticeable can’t be wrong because no one would know it was wrong anyway. But BIG AND BOLD? That is daring. A bold pattern on a chair? A giant light fixture over your table? A big bright sofa instead of a safe neutral? An extra large mirror over a cabinet instead of a bunch of smaller  or barely noticed accessories?

While you want to be careful not to overpower your room, it is fun to go BOLD in a few places and tell the world you are confident in your style choices. It is your house, so live boldly and with confidence in what you love.

 Do you feel like you have your own unique style?


  1. Kelly - Talk of the House

    Great tips here…can’t decide if I like #2, 3, or 5 the best…probably 5 since there are sooooo many monochromatic rooms out there on the web and on pinterest right now. I love color. That red bench up there is gorgeous!

  2. Alison

    Loving the classic look : )

  3. KJ

    Love your blog! It makes so much sense and truly is inspiring. I feel like you are talking directly at me!

  4. Elizabeth

    Wait, WestElm is featuring South African designers? That is awesome! I have lived in SA for almost 9 years – originally from Portland OR- and there isn’t a more beautiful way to express personality than from this place! From the pics it looks like West Elm has managed to stay away from the boring stogy “african” pieces in favour of a more Afro-Chic feeling. Love it!

  5. NanaDoll

    I couldn’t help but laugh as I read your tip on global purchases. I go out of my way to find things NOT made in China…I want the legitimate global, which is what you were actually describing, but so much seemingly authentic “stuff” isn’t. I could’t tell you what my style is–it evolves constantly. Somewhere between the eclectic-traditional-cottage-modern-wannabe chic. :) It’s a good thing my husband is a good sport because he gets stuck helping my evolving style become a reality!

    • Melissa

      Yes, I do mean REAL global if possible :-) I love your style description, that is exactly how I feel about mine….love that!

  6. Megan

    This is something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately – I’m in the very early stages of re-making my living room, and I feel really stuck. I’ve thought I would have better luck at finding my true style if I stopped looking at *anything* on pinterest/home blogs, because it’s so easy to do exactly what you say: choose what’s familiar simply because it’s familiar. Thanks for giving a voice to what I’ve been thinking!

    • Melissa

      I agree, you have to be so careful what you look at or it is easy to be swept away with a look that is just entirely wrong for you :-)

  7. Amy Smith

    I think one can and should combine the “go global” idea with the “be authentic” mantra and purchase at least one piece of art or objet’ for display on every vacation you go on. It doesn’t have to be expensive, but the joy comes from seeing it displayed in your home each day and recalling the fun memories of that particular trip. I have picked up inexpensive art prints that remind me of wonderful cruises and trips with my husband to Key West, Islamorada and St. Thomas, and I see them every day in my kitchen and master bath and they make me happy because the subject matter means something personally to me, and it brings back those fond memories. Since I don’t have tons of money to jump on all the cute/trendy seasonal looks that I actually like, I find that making your own pillow covers is a very simple, affordable way to freshen things up from season to season. You can usually get a couple of yards of fabric in a bold color or pattern for a reasonable price, or you can even use 2 large napkins sewn back to back to make pillow covers. Way cheaper than buying ready made pillows in those latest styles!! Same thing for making an inexpensive seasonal table runner that can brighten up your dining room. The important thing to ask yourself is ” do I (emphasize the “I”) like it personally?”, and if you’re not sure, try to articulate why you like it. That may help guide you to things you have a personal connection to or passion for as opposed to “these are hot right now, I need to have one even though I don’t see my family using it”. Good example are the moroccan poufs and grainsack or chevron cubes that are so “in” right now. I think they are very cute/colorful/stylish, but at my house, I don’t have a place for one or two right now, and the dogs would most likely ruin them anyway. Case closed on the poufs. Sorry for rambling, but I think the “be authentic” rule should guide all of your choices and can be individually applied to each of the 5 tips you listed, to further refine your personal taste.

    • Melissa

      Absolutely! I agree on being authentic and applying it to all our choices!

  8. Deanna

    I am so thankful that in my early married years, nearly 25 years ago now, I watched the early design shows – Lynnette Jennings, Christopher Lowell to name a few. They taught me the basic of good design, room function, how to mix patterns, not to be afraid of color. I learned so many things that I just do instinctively now.

    I don’t ever follow trends or try to keep up with what others are doing – I was inspired long ago to make my home personal for our family and friends. To bring a sense of warmth and welcome into our home, not a “please don’t touch” sensibility, which is good because we have 6 kids and have friends with many little ones as well!

    I think your blog is wonderful – you have great style and show others how to be inspired to do things in their own homes!

  9. Loretta

    I loved this article. So practical and straightforward. Thanks.

  10. how2home

    These are really great pointers. Going bold, fresh, modern is definitely our thing!

  11. Remodeling Guy

    Hi Melissa,

    I think there is absolutely “blogger style” and I’m of the opinion that it must certainly be the highest form of style available to the human race. Just sayin…

    Love the “Go Global” and “Go Crazy” ideas. Although I have to confess I often just Go To Ikea… loser..

    Have a great day!


  12. Franki Parde

    Hey, Tim! Doesn’t get much more “global” than IKEA ‘s ideas! franki

  13. Flower Patch Farmgirl

    “When certain patterns and colors are trendy, they can feel safe and familiar because we’ve seen them enough to be comfortable with them.” This is ALL kinds of genius! You nailed it, sister.

    ps – LOVE West Elm and their new line!

  14. Kim Moore

    I was thinking about why some decorating ideas seem ” crazy” to some of us. I think an idea sometimes feels a little too out there because we haven’t already seen it a lot. The marketplace, and our friends’ homes, instruct our eyes. If we haven’t seen a lot of a particular color combination for example, no matter how beautiful, we will likely feel uncomfortable with it. The level of discomfort might be the difference between trend setters and trend followers…

    • Carrie

      Kim Moore, yes! This is what I was trying to get across in my comment. You said it much more elegantly than I did. :)

  15. Carrie

    Thank you for the post! I definitely feel like I have my own style but I think lots of people are afraid to do what they haven’t seen before. Sometimes that rubs off on me. I do believe that there is a blogger style. Luckily I am on such a strict budget that all I can do is use what I have. Thus I have no garden stools or starburst mirrors, regardless of whether those would be my style.

  16. michelle

    Love this post. We just moved into a “new” house and I’m using all of my “old” stuff but it looks new in different rooms. Some of my pictures are in different rooms than before and furniture used in different ways. I really wasn’t crazy about the wall color in the master bedroom and had all intentions of painting. But I went to Home Goods the other day and found a new bedding set that I just loved and, wouldn’t you know it, it matched the wall color in the master bedroom. Now I love the wall color and I’m not going to paint. That one purchase ( along with a new lamp) was such a nice, fresh change for me. And I’m falling in love with my “old” pieces again.

  17. Dormitorios

    I really love your blog! I took so many ideas for my personal rooms that you couldn’t imagine!
    I’m planning to move to a new and bigger house and I can’t wait to be there in order to continue decorating and getting ideas from here! :)
    Keep this way and thank you!

  18. JaneEllen

    How providential your article is to me, it was like it was talking to me. A long time friend was here visiting, she was not at all complimentary of the decorating projects I’d made to gussy up our home. She thought they were all useless and too much clutter. To say the least I was insulted and ready for her to leave right away.
    I’ve always been a crafter and made my own curtains, cushion covers, art for the walls and the shelves. To me that’s normal and I so enjoy it. She said she didn’t know why at 72 I’d want to be making changes or having new decorations.
    I’ve always decorated for the seasons also. I had a table scape on our porch and a few things on the railing and porch floor, she had comments about those also.
    I’ve always been one to look at the new trends to see if any of the items were to my liking or style. I’ve rarely gone with what is trendy. I might use a part of it but in my own way.
    Just imagine how many changes there have been since I was a young woman starting out. I’ve evolved so many times and gone with what felt right to me and our life style, our family of 6. I’ve tried different things out sometimes to see if I liked them and would go to what I knew to be the right choices for our decorations. I love thinking up ways to use parts of new things to fit us now that it’s just the two of us.
    A few years ago when we lived in KY I got a wild hair to paint our living room one day. My husband was gone on the road. I painted our living room with white semi-gloss paint I’d mixed with some of my acrylics to get the right color. Took me a few hours but I got it done. When my husband got home he was surprised to see beige walls instead of all white. I painted the blades of our kitchen ceiling fan also.
    Hubs said he never knew what I’d do while he was gone. Sure helped keep me company while he was gone.
    To me making new projects to improve how our home looks and feels is half the fun. Guess the old friend better not come back any more as I’m not planning to quit decorating and crafting til I’m plain too old and infirm to any more.

  19. Jennifer Talley

    As always,,,,,great advice.

  20. Diane

    Earlier this week we hosted some good friends from our old town for an overnight stay. It was encouraging to hear their thoughts on how my things look in this ‘new’ house. I have really second guessed myself way tooo much. Sometimes its good to see things through the eyes of others.
    My unique ‘style’ is simply an accumulation of things. And when my parents died, as an only, I took home too much. But, the older furniture is not made from today’s cookie cutters. I think I have a more accumulated look in my home. Certainly nothing like the furniture store :D
    Maybe I will learn to make a slipcover for the sofa. It was my mom’s and NOT my style, but it was in great condition compared to my Ethan Allan, which is why I want to try my hand at the slipcover. (fear and trepidation) I would love it to be a neutral fabric…oh how I dream of colorful pillows to change with the seasons…or not.
    For the first time in my life I’m learning to be creative with my home without going shopping. You and the Nester have been very inspirational to me. I may not ‘copy’ either of you, but I’m challenged to use my things differently, and maybe most of all, to use these things I’ve had in boxes and have fun doing it.

  21. Kristin

    As people who living a global life in the foreign service, it is my dream to collect amazing pieces from all over, as friends of ours have. Those rooms/houses I have seen decorated with original art from no-name artists and peices of history in their houses are the most interesting, and comfortable houses I have seen.

    Personally the pins on pinterest that I see repeated a thousand times, tend to become the most bland. I love finding my own treasures to pin and don’t worry if no one else likes it. My board is there to inspire me :)

  22. Lisa

    I really love #5 like one of the commenters above. And I adore those monochromatic rooms on Pinterest, but they don’t ever seem to work in real life, especially with families. Going bold is more interesting but it also works better when you’ve got kids, pets, etc.

  23. Kelly

    Such great advice! I’ve been really into “global” looks lately. It brings so much character into a space!

  24. Jill

    I definitely have my own style. I grew up in a mid Century Skandinavian designed home. I love the coziness of Americana things AND the art that was collected in Africa when I was a child.

  25. Born27

    That is awesome! I have lived in SA for almost 9 years – originally from Portland OR- and there isn’t a more beautiful way to express personality than from this place!

  26. Peggy

    Your tips are great. I have gotten to a point in my life where I am very confident in my style and shun all trends, even if it’s something I’ve loved for a long time (like chevron prints, x-legged tables and desks), but I honestly think that it takes time to get to that point. You need to make a lot of mistakes to get there. I decorate my home in things we’ve gathered during our thirty years of global travel and that mean something to us, things we love (like wine corks), or evoke a fond memory – thinking “green” all the way. My home is still a work in progress, but I’m loving it. My newest addition is an old gold framed mirror that my mom and dad bought back in the 1940s. It’s worn from years of handling, but it’s so special and really adds a je ne sais quoi to our bedroom.


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