How to Define Your Style

Starting up new projects is always a thrill for us. We love the design process, of course, but we also love getting to know our clients and really putting the pieces of the design puzzle together to create a home that is perfect for them – not for us, not for a magazine, but for them and the way they live.

Because of this, we like to help people understand and define their personal style. For some design enthusiasts this may sound simple, but for those who haven’t thought much about it, it can be a bit more difficult to figure out – especially if you don’t even know where to start.

So here is a good beginning… the four most common design styles we work with are traditional, transitional, contemporary, and eclectic.


Those who like a traditional style like to stay in their design lane and love the “old school” rules of decorating. Think brown furniture with darker wood tones and period antiques that may have provenance to them. This style is for someone who really enjoys formality when it comes to design.





A mix of the traditional and contemporary. This is perfect for someone who might have grown up in a more traditional home, so enjoys some of those pieces, but wants to stay current and have a few contemporary pieces throughout – that might be light fixtures, finishes, or certain pieces of furniture. We find most people in the D.C. Metro area tend to fall into the transitional category, having perhaps inherited something from their parents or grandparents, but like incorporating new and more modern pieces in as well.




Pieces are sleeker, have clean lines, and overall, the look is more edited. Pieces become much more purposeful in these designs and everything has a very specific place. The patterns in contemporary spaces tend to be more graphic and more about texture than about actual pattern. Finishes are more minimalist, have fewer embellishments, and are sleek and clean.




This is a fun style as it has a very bohemian vibe (it’s pretty much the complete opposite of contemporary). This style is for someone who is not tied to any particular definition of style and is okay to have things that don’t all “go” together, but in that varied mix, it all blends well together. It is the most free form, there are no rules, and there are usually lots of rich colors, textiles, and patterns of all kinds.




Now, how do you figure out what your personal style is? We always find it useful to go into our clients’ homes and see their space and get a feel for how they live. Even if they say they are not tied to anything and we can take it all away, there is something about being in someone’s space that helps drill down the look and aesthetic they will be most comfortable in.

Of course, we also have people show us Pinterest pages or magazine pulls so that we can understand what’s in their mind’s eye. We ask about color preferences, formality preferences, and how they live and function in their home – we get to know their way of life.

Another fun way to determine your interior design style is to take a look at your overall style. Open your closet and take a look at how you dress. Do you only wear black and white – maybe you are more contemporary? Have a closet full of color – eclectic might be for you!

It’s also possible to be a little bit of everything. Don’t feel like you have to be boxed in by one definition of style and just because you’re one style today doesn’t mean you’re going to be that style the rest of your life. Don’t be afraid to lean in and try a little bit of everything. Design style, like all style, is an evolution and you don’t have to define yourself in only one category. Your home is about creating a place full of comfort and joy, whatever your style might be.


  • The latest from Alex

Alex Deringer and Courtney Cox combine their formal training in design and fashion with their renowned sense of style in Ivy Lane, a full-service interior design firm that curates casually elegant family dwellings that are elevated by a unique spark. Whether an entire house renovation or a one-room makeover, Alex and Courtney’s extensive experience and collaborative dynamic inform a successful design philosophy: thoroughly understand the client’s lifestyle, bring a thoughtful spatial perspective, and enliven the space with the freshest aesthetic interest.

309C Cameron Street
Alexandria, Virginia 22314


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