Annie Sloan knows a thing or two about design. As an interior designer, trained fine artist, decorative painter, and the inventor of Chalk Paint, she’s considered one of the world’s leading authorities in paint, color and style.
Sloan recently filmed a furniture painting course with Create Academy, and one of our favorite lessons in the series was about finding and refining your interior design style. In a world that’s so imbued with trends and the design style du jour (looking at you, Barbiecore and Dark Academia), it can be tough to nail down what you actually love—versus what’s trending on TikTok.
While we love looking at upcoming design trends at markets and shows (after all, it’s fun to see what’s next for bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchens and more), combining every single trend in your home won’t help it feel unique to you—in fact, it’ll have quite the opposite effect. Nailing down your personal design style will help you figure out which trends you can have fun with—and which ones you should skip entirely.
Here, Sloan’s tips for developing your own interior design style and adding unique character to your home.
Develop a Color Palette
Sloan says that adding color to your home is necessary. She says, “It feeds your soul. It gives [your space] character; it gives you joy.” She adds, “If you’ve got everything bland, if everything is grays and whites, I think it lacks personality.”
Though Sloan isn’t against using neutral colors, she says, “I do think you need some color. It can’t just be loads and loads of beiges, it’s going to be dull, as far as I’m concerned. She says adding some fun, non-neutral colors “will make everything lively and pop a bit.”
Using layers of color through furnishings, art, fabrics, and paint can also help your home feel more collected and personal. And the beautiful part? Everyone’s palette will look a little different, based on their own personal style. Sloan says, “You will like colors that you particularly like, and I like colors that I particularly like.” She adds, “Don’t feel like you have to match. It’s like your own clothes. You wear certain things and other people wear other things.”
If you feel most peaceful being by the ocean, perhaps you should lean into those soothing coastal shades. If you find inspiration from European libraries, moody greens and browns might be your jam. If the sunflowers in your summer garden make you happy, find a way to add that happy hue to your home. It’s all about finding colors you love and which ones will look best in your home (more on that below).
Learn What Your House “Likes”
Sloan says that certain houses aren’t meant to be painted certain colors, due to their natural light or surroundings. “I lived in a house, which was a very old house, and it did not like certain colors,” she says. “You try to put red in a room, and it looks terrible. Pinks look good in some houses and terrible in others.”
To find which paint colors will look best in your home, pay attention to the natural light and the paint’s undertones, and swatch plenty of different options before committing.
Discover Artists Who Inspire You
Sloan says she looks to certain artists for inspiration—and they run the gamut from Charleston artists to 18th-century European painters. She says, “I don’t actually transfer it directly, but it sort of feeds me, I suppose.” She adds that she finds inspiration from the different textures and shapes of her favorite artwork and tries to replicate the feeling of them in her home.
If you gravitate towards classic paintings by Rembrandt or Monet, perhaps your design style leans more romantic and traditional. If you’re partial towards modern pop art like Lichtenstein or Warhol, you might want to consider colorful, more contemporary interiors. And if you love it all? Have fun mixing and matching old and new furnishings. There truly are no rules when it comes to personal style.
Stay Off the Internet
Sloan says, “You can develop your own style in many many different ways. I’m not going to tell you which is the way you should do it. It might be that you want to look at lots of art, or it might be that you want to look at magazines.”
Though Instagram posts, Google image searches, and Pinterest boards can all be great tools for finding design inspiration, Sloan says the amount of information and flat images, “can be quite overwhelming and a little scary.” She adds, “I think one of the best ways is actually to go out and about and look at stuff in real life.”
She recommends heading to markets or shops where you can physically see and touch things. Seeing things in person will help you gauge if you really love them for your home—or if you just love them styled in a Pinterest-perfect image you can’t replicate.
Mix Old and New
It’s no secret that we love antique and vintage pieces at VERANDA. We think they add timeless elegance and instant patina to any space. That said, a room full of antiques can look like a museum if you don’t also sprinkle in a few new pieces—and your personal style can inform how and what you want to mix.
Sloan says, “Buy things that you feel are good, and don’t worry too much about ‘is this the right thing?’ Don’t compare it to other people. You’re not other people, you’re you.”
VERANDA partnered with Create Academy, a digital learning platform that helps viewers build their creative confidence. Follow along as we break down their lessons from the pros—and use code VERANDA15 for a 15% discount to watch full lessons on topics ranging from design and gardening to wine and crafting.
Jaime Milan (she/her) is the deputy digital editor for VERANDA, where she writes about design, architecture, gardens, jewelry, fashion, travel, wine, news and trends. In her spare time, she can be found shopping at the antique store, cooking, gardening, or teaching her mini Australian Shepherd, Gumbo, new tricks. Follow her on Instagram at @jaimemmilan.