Hello! I'm Suzannah, a serious DIYer and mom of two little ones. Follow along with my DIY fixer upper house renovations, sewing and crafty projects, real food recipes, and de-stressing goals.
I believe you can love your home just the way it is, AND have the power to design and make big changes to make it better.
I'm also the author of DIY Wardrobe Makeovers!

Recognizable designer aesthetics and how to define your home style

One of my goals for the year for my home is to define/refine/identify/hone my design style. I’ve been exploring new things the past year, maybe even since we bought our historic home 3.5 years ago, but really in the exploring phase and still figuring out how to put things together. When I look at my Instagram feed (a good summary of what I’ve been doing and loving lately) it’s not as cohesive as I would like. I look at pictures of my home and I’m not sure, if I was someone else, if I would be able to identify them as mine.

But I realize there are a few designers who come to mind for me as having a really distinct, unique, high-quality style, whose work I can pick out easily when I see it. I figured I would study a few of my faves and think about what makes their styles distinctive. Some beautiful images and analysis below!

4 designers with distinct styles

Lauren Liess

I’ve enjoyed her work for a while, and she’s the author of three great design books (Feels Like Home, Down to Earth, Habitat). Her style felt a little different than others when I first discovered it a few years ago, because she uses more natural elements and funky antique pieces then I was used to seeing. A lot of her portfolio are more modest/normal sized homes, 1970s cedar contemporaries, traditional smaller colonial revival homes, etc. They all feel relatable to me, and yet she has made them all feel so special and intentional by adding character details (like the antique wood knobs and antique brass plates she ordered for her doors at her last house).

Some things that really stand out about Lauren's style:

Natural botanical patterns on pillows, bedding, and curtains. A lot of these are from her fabric line. Oh, the curtains! She has been making the case for patterned curtains since back when everyone was just doing white ones.

She also uses warm, soft whites, no pure or cold or blue whites. I’m sure she uses a lot of different white paints in her projects, but they always feel warm.

Funky antiques, turtle shells, animal heads, playful but grown-up rustic things. There is a quirkiness to Lauren's designs that makes them all feel like they would fit in in a beautiful forest woodsy vacation home around nature.

Gallery walls. There are a couple of particularly memorable ones of Lauren's that stand out to me. I’m inspired to try one in my dining room!

Like some of the other designers I’ll talk about today, Lauren always uses the same photographer. I’ve heard designers say that that is huge for them and it makes sense, and creates a reliable type of imagery for their work. In fact occasionally I’ve seen an interior photographer shoot a different designer's work and be a little confused about which designer did it!

Heidi Caillier

Heidi's style is really fresh and different to me. She’s based in the Pacific Northwest and definitely has some English-inspired design, so she uses rich, muddy, darker colors compared to a lot of the white walls and minimal backgrounds you see in design nowadays. Some things that make Heidi's work recognizable:

Floral upholstery. I think I heard her say on a podcast once that every house needs a floral chair!

Mixing patterns, like gingham and small-scale William Morris wallpaper. Always in rich colors.

Midcentury modern pieces used in very different way. Like, in a really warm cozy room with some grandma florals instead of in a stark white A-frame living room window like you often see.

Really old stuff. Civil War era reproduction quilting look fabric on a lampshade, Prince of 1820s fashion plates, really traditional dining furniture. Her spaces have a maturity and also kind of a house museum feel.

Not as well-known but I really enjoy following her on Instagram. She always captures beautiful light moments and simplicity mixed with really rich materials like marble and gold. Some things that are recognizable in her work:

Thick gold frames, on both mirrors and artwork.

Velvet! I remember a little velvet fringed stool in a bedroom she did. I’m sure it was vintage, may have been recovered, but how unique and interesting. Even velvet chaises in these images.

White walls, light curtains. But diamond paint leaded glass and romantic chandeliers to keep it from feeling modern.

All images from Carley Summers's portfolio.

Amber Lewis of Amber Interiors

I’ve been following her for years and years. She’s huge. Her style has evolved over the years. When I started following her, her style was already distinctive but different than it is now: California beachy vibes, big blue and tan beach photography, tropical plants, muted vintage rugs. Now, it feels a little bit more grown-up, way more muted, and with a tiny mix in of the modern traditional, English-inspired design that a lot of people are moving toward now. 

Some things you can always recognize about her style, which have all been copied by others over the past few years:

Did I mention muted vintage rugs? She always uses real ones (well, until her line with Loloi) and sometimes she finds just absolutely huge ones. (They’re probably very expensive! I’ve ordered some similar smaller ones on Etsy.... now they are actually feeling a little too distressed for me, but hey, maybe that something I should work on as I identify MY style.)

Faded linen couches. I remember reading in her book that you should never bring things into your house that you expect to look exactly the same after use! Comfy couches certainly are an example of that.

Vintage Thai cotton and wool homespun look pillow covers.

Patterned tile floors with blocky-legged vanities and globe sconces. 

Whitewashed/stripped antique furniture. Everyone's putting Oven-Off to antiques now because of this look.

All images from the Amber Interiors portfolio.

How to define your home style?

As for me? It would be easy for me to "define my style" if I decided I just love love loved everything about one of these, and just go with that. I think I used to feel that way about Amber and Studio McGee. Now my world is bigger and I'm excited about more, different things and never want my style to feel boring or like a copy of something else. So... I have to work a little harder to identify my design style for my home! 

Still working on it, but I think I'm going to start by picking my favorite things in my home and going for more of those. Not-too-fussy vintage landscape paintings, patterned or colored upholstered furniture, antique wood pieces. Just for starters...!

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