Recently I had a long conversation with a good friend about home design. We were exchanging ideas for each other’s houses. After I responded to her first few suggestions with, “I like it but that’s not really my style,” she stopped and looked at me, semi-exasperated, and said, “Then what is your style?”
I was immediately stumped. And not so much because I don’t know what I like as much as because I don’t know how to describe it. The matter is further complicated by the truth that what I’m drawn to is always changing, or maybe more accurately it is evolving.
A short couple of years ago my friend and I had enjoyed watching Fixer Upper together and talking rustic farmhouse decor, or browsing Pinterest for ideas involving mason jars and pallet wood. But as the design world has moved on, so have I. When I brought this up with my friend, she seemed taken aback. She said, “I’m not sure you even know what you like.”
She wasn’t being rude or mean — she was frustrated by not knowing what to look for that would please me. But she hit at a sore spot for me personally.
I have seen the movie Runaway Bride more times than I know. It was a favorite of mine as a teenager. You might be surprised to find out my husband is possibly more fond of it than I am. From the earliest days of our marriage, whenever I was particularly indecisive about something he would quote Runaway Bride and ask me, “What kind of eggs do you like?”
The eggs trope got tired real fast for me. I’ve been told more than enough times for my own liking that I don’t know my own mind. Some of the criticism is fair — I have lacked confidence, I have been unsure of myself.
But some of it isn’t fair.
There’s a difference between not knowing who you are, and acknowledging that you are constantly evolving. As we grow older we (hopefully) grow wiser. We come to know ourselves better and more fully. Sometimes this means discovering something about ourselves that was hidden to us previously. Sometimes it might mean learning that we had been operating on a misunderstanding of who we thought we were. It’s okay to accept that and be open about changing or appearing to change. And in those cases, I don’t think it’s fair to accuse someone of being fickle, or wishy-washy, or not knowing what kind of eggs they like.
It’s a tricky path to walk sometimes, treading the line between being flexible or easygoing on the one hand, and not being a total doormat on the other. Or finding balance between making choices which reflect something external (what I assume others want me to prefer) versus internal (what I actually prefer). When you are too focused on pleasing others, I think (and I say this from experience) you run the risk of eventually not being sure you know yourself at all.
Now to bring this back to the design world. On the one hand, it isn’t fair to say that I don’t know what I like just because I would buy a different sofa today than I would have bought 3 years ago. And it isn’t fair to say that just because I couldn’t come up with a great label/adjective for my style (“It isn’t RUSTIC FARMHOUSE anymore Karen, it’s CALI-SCANDI-BOHO-MINIMALISM.”) But on the other hand, if I’m the kind of person who finds that what they like changes all the time…maybe it is somewhat accurate.
It’s one thing to point out that what’s hot now is fluid, trends are always changing, and to say that’s why your personal style evolves. But it pays to be sure that you can sift out your own voice amidst the ever-changing tide of What Everyone Likes Right Now.