In this month’s installment of Do as a Designer Does, we defer to California-based designer Dee Murphy on honing your design style in the face of a never-ending trend cycle. As a modern yet traditional designer with a flair for the bold, Murphy has a unique design aesthetic that transcends trends.
How do you finalize design plans (or more generally, your overarching design style) when you’re constantly seeing and consuming new inspiration online?
In the past few years, Instagram and Pinterest have grown into consistent and abundant sources of design inspiration for both designers and design lovers alike (even more than print magazines)! Even Nate Berkus admitted that he has countless folders in his “saved” file on Insta.
So what do we do with all of this excessive and at times overwhelming information? How do we develop plans and concepts of our own?
In my opinion, the number one rule of thumb is to steer clear of trends, unless the trend is a reinterpretation of something classic. Trends become “trends” for a reason, right? It usually means the design is fun, new, and something we haven’t seen before. The problem is, the trend quickly becomes ubiquitous and then we’re all tired of seeing it.
So, when I’m finalizing design plans of my own, I might use something “trendy” if I believe it’s a revisited classic, or if it’s a piece that I know will be around for years to come. You can also tweak the trend to make it your own. For example, the Mario Bellini Camaleonda sofa has shown up in the chicest of homes time and time again, but it always has been and always will be a classic (it’s still on my design bucket list!). You can take this sofa and cover it in a patterned fabric (versus the boucle fabric that has now become overdone). You can style it in a maximalist room (versus the minimalist spaces we are used to seeing it in). There are always ways to make something uniquely yours.
Secondly, it’s important to stick to who you are in a design sense. I believe that there is a “niche” for everyone! As a designer with a specific style like mine (colorful, patterned, eclectic), it can sometimes feel daunting when 75 percent of what I’m seeing on social media is neutral, minimal, and modern (although maximalism is on the upswing)! Don’t let this sort of situation deter you from what you love and what makes you, you. I’ve seen people fall into this trap and lose what made their aesthetic special.
If I have a client that asks for a more minimal design (based on inspiration from the internet), I will choose pieces or “moments” that I love, and then gently push them outside of their comfort zone to ensure that their home doesn’t look like everyone else’s.
Finally, let the home tell you what it wants. I can honestly say that every home I’ve designed is unique — I will rarely use something more than once, unless it’s an accessory that works well with all aesthetics when I’m styling bookshelves, for example. A house has a history and a presence that calls on you to tell a story, and that story is unique. You can use Pinterest or Instagram photos to inspire you, or to push you to try something new, but there is never a one-size-fits-all design answer (and if you’re seeing it too much, then you shouldn’t want that design in your home anyways!).
Bottom line? Be yourself. As for me, I will always draw from the classics as well as some new trends I’m loving, but I will spin it with color, pattern, and layers.
Hope this helps!