How I Found My Style Renovating My First Home

by Abigail Caplin

Creativity and art have always been a part of my life. It’s something my mom instilled in me when I was very young. We didn’t have a lot of money growing up, so we were forced to get creative when it came to the toys we were playing with, or the costumes we had for Halloween, etc. She always had some sort of craft or project that she was working on – and that she had created for us. Having limits and constraints, I think only helps to cultivate a more natural sense of creativity, especially at a younger age. We learned to naturally think outside of the box… so now, my style and inspiration can come from anything I see or interact with. A sound, a silhouette, the way the light hits a piece of furniture, the colors of the rundown buildings and graffiti art in random towns we pass through while traveling… 


When it came to looking for a house to buy – over and over again I was drawn to the ‘fixer uppers’. I loved the idea of having the opportunity to make a space completely mine – and in the end, I knew that would be much easier to do with something old and run-down, rather than something that was still in good condition or newer.  

I was initially attracted to our home because it fit so nicely with my design style. The arches, the natural light everywhere, the (fairly) open floor plan… it all helped in convincing me of the potential the space had, even though the inside was gross, dirty, smelly… and just plain intimidating. The problem was, I found that inserting that style into a home was actually much harder than I anticipated (definitely harder than curating a wardrobe or designing a single piece of art!). It took a lot of planning and trial and error up front before making some of the more major decisions. I had a few things my eye was drawn to over and over again in my planning phase – and those things became criteria I designed around: light wood cabinetry, black hardware, brushed nickel faucets, white quartz counters. I wasn’t afraid to repeat those materials throughout all the major spaces – to me they built the foundation for all the rest of my design elements I was going to bring in. They created a feeling of consistency and flow, and helped to create the minimalism I was aiming for from the beginning.

It felt like we were constantly having to re-adjust our plans based on some indecisiveness, but also the common renovation timeline delays, materials we needed were out of stock, just the COST of everything! It was a lot to juggle – even with a contractor. I learned to be much more confrontational and demanding than I have ever been before – just to ensure things were done properly. It was well-worth stepping out of my comfort zone in order to ensure the quality was to my standard (after all – I was going to have to look at the finished product every day after it was done!).

As I’m slowly starting to finish out the spaces and add in the décor now, I am noticing that I’m becoming more drawn to more boho/art deco pieces, than the crisper/modern finishes I was initially planning to use throughout. I started noticing that I was missing that warm, inviting feel in some of the rooms, so by mixing the modern material with more relaxed/earthy colors (rust, tans, blushy-pinks, sagey-greens, etc.) and furniture (curved shaped and softer lines), it helps to make the rooms feel more inviting and comfortable.


A few tips I learned: First, when trying to find your design style, I think it's important to figure out what you like and what you don’t like and WHY. Narrow down your inspiration in order to make it easier on yourself! Start noticing the which pictures, furniture, décor items, or paint colors that really get you jazzed – the ones that, if price wasn’t an issue, you would put in your home ASAP. Then analyze them. WHY are you so attracted to that room, piece or color? What is it telling you or making you feel? Then keep looking for other inspiration images and pieces that make you feel that same way.

Choose a color palette and stick to it in every decision you make. Look to your wardrobe to get a hint at the colors you love the most or the hues/tones you’re drawn to. It’s easier to mix a lot of colors that are the same HUE – keep that in mind.

Second, it is possible to stay within a budget, but it's important to PLAN PLAN PLAN. And don’t make impulse buys. If it means taking longer, then be ok with adding an extra week to the timeline in order to wait on the cheaper thing to get delivered or go on sale.

Third, don’t feel like you need to stick 100% to a specific style! You don’t have to be 100% bohemian or 100% modern farmhouse. If you love shiplap AND Aztec/vintage rugs, MIX THEM. There are less rules in design than people think.


For more style tips and design inspiration follow Zoe at @zoecorinne