It took 10 years of experience before I could answer this question with confidence. In addition to an entire year of blogging–posting only images that I loved–before I could tell you exactly what 'my look' was. As a new designer, I would say "I can do anything, any style, I take your look and make it beautiful", because I needed the work. Now that I've done everything, I know what I like to do and what I'm good at.
Anyway, it's much easier as a designer to improve upon an existing look than to create something from nothing. That's when having a 'signature look' really comes in handy. The opposite is true with specifying colour. It's way easier to specify colours when starting from scratch than to walk into an existing home, take all the fixed elements, good and bad, decide which to ignore, what you absolutely cannot ignore and pull a space together with the right colours.
My advice to any designer starting out would be to distinguish your look and find your 'niche' as fast as you can. Especially if you have a blog. When I hit a site and read a post where the designer is saying "There are so many supercalafragalistic-expialadoshus kitchens out there I can't decide, and here are some of my favourites. . . ", I am not left with 'that's bad or 'that's good'. I just keep surfing. When you find a blog where a designer has an aesthetic you love, you keep reading because you know you're probably going to find the answers you are looking for.
Copyblogger wrote a great post last week about money booths. You know, the one where it's swirling all around you and whatever you can grab in 30 seconds you keep? If you try to grab the big clumps you end up with nothing. Same with establishing yourself as a designer or a consultant; "Instead of painting a picture with individual details, we try to go for a "clump," a generalization that can cover every client and every scenario." It's way too hard to make everyone happy and even harder to run a business doing it this way.
Recently I received this email from a reader: "I am currently trying to plan my new kitchen remodel. . . but I am horrid at it. I have been looking on-line for ideas and the photos with white cabinets are the ones I am drawn to time and time again. . . but friends around me are all about wood and white walls. After finding your website and reading about your thoughts on white cabinets. . . I have made the decision to ignore everyone and go with white. I am once again looking forward to my new kitchen and might just avoid an ulcer." Thank you. Andrea. W.
Just before you think this came to me overnight, let me assure you that my 'clean aesthetic' took hundreds of calls to develop. I saw way too many backsplashes and accent tiles that did not coordinate in the slightest before I came to the conclusion that it's a design detail that is better left on the drawing board. That's my opinion and I'm sticking to it. And, my taste and style is not for everyone. If you are someone who wants an elaborate, detailed, accent tiled backsplash, then you probably won't call me to help you. And when I am talking to a client who has hired me because they love my look, I feel like a rock star because everything (well almost that comes out of my mouth is what they want to hear. It's really quite wonderful.
Bottom line, don't be afraid to let your fabulous and unique design opinion out of the bag. Stick to your aesthetic with confidence, and your perfect clients will beat a path to your door!
It's All in the Undertones, download my eBook here. (if you have a computer you can download my book).
To make sure the undertones in your home are right, get some large samples!
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