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Apr 28, 2023
Interior design guidebook - Beautiful Homes

The one question we get the most from our readers is how do we decide the style for our home décor? The simple answer - get to know yourself. The detailed answer? Read on

So, you want to renovate, or perhaps you’ve got a new place and need to fix it up. If you’re sure about your style, then that’s great and this article could be redundant. But if you don’t then at this precise minute you’re probably wondering how to get started figuring out what to buy from the many choices out there. We’re going to get right into this question and try find some tangible, applicable techniques.


There are a few ways to try to figure out what you should buy and what you shouldn’t. Of course, you may want to start off renting a few pieces while you figure things out, if so then check out our handy guide of the best rental furniture offerings in the market. But if that isn’t your scenario then let’s try figure this out together.


Answer that Eternal Question - Who are You?

Décor is mostly about what you don’t buy than what you do. When the market is filled with choices then the most difficult part is figuring out what you shouldn’t go with, which trends you must avoid, what objects will not work in the space etc.


To really get to that point, we have to figure out who we are. What I mean is, what’s your design personality? The most accessible form of design in all our lives is the clothes on our back and the shoes on our feet.

  • Before you head to a furniture store, look around the wardrobe. Yes, it absolutely has a connection with what your future living room may look like. All our choices are connected. Obviously, because we’re doing the choosing. The way we dress, what sort of foods we like, the colours we prefer… all of these choices point in the direction of the kind of design we like. So, look around your wardrobe, and write down a few key highlights from weekend wardrobe (like, ethnic, black, colourful, jeans etc.), and you’ll have made the first moves in the direction of figuring out what sort of design you prefer.

  • There are very few décor guidebooks that are rooted in the Indian experience of designing spaces. So, the terms in international design books are often unrelatable for us. But that is not a useful observation, so we’re listing here a few broad classifications of styles; these are based on the variety of homes that our editors have seen across the Indian landscape. This is by no means an exhaustive list, and it excludes several kinds of homes, like high-design homes based on the styles of specific interior designers etc.
Contemporary interior design - Beautiful Homes

A contemporary-modern home is a common Indian reference to a design style that combines entirely different elements together in the same space. Photography by Niveditaa Gupta

I’d say this is a list of the types of self-designed spaces that are usually found in India:

1. Contemporary: sleek, urban, materials including leather, metallics like chrome, grey, black, beige.

2. Contemporary-Modern: this is a very typically Indian way of describing current design styles. By definition these words refer to entirely different periods of design but people refer to it in this way to describe a décor style that combines elements of both current and older ideas. What we’ve understood that to mean (from conversations with designers and homeowners) is that they’re referring to a setting that has both newly-acceptable finishes like concrete, leather, or chrome, and sleek lines, with modern designs such as Pierre Jeannaret’s Chandigarh furniture. In fashion terms, think of this style as a Raw Mango sari and brogues look.

Ethnic interior design - Beautiful Homes

A home that has many ethnic Indian elements of accessories and design. Photography by Prachi Damle

3. Traditional/Ethnic: like it sounds, this is a look that leans heavily on older furniture and antiques. This type of a setting was more common in older homes, when furniture was almost entirely made of teak, or painted to look like it. Today, brand like FabIndia still have a wide repertoire of furniture that’s heavily ‘woody’. Here, Goodearth’s brand of Indian prints, brassware etc. are good examples of accessories.


4. Retro: what we’re referring to here is a style that relies heavily on vintage or  retro elements like old posters, maybe a typewriter collection, and such. 


5. Quirky: think Playclan and Chumbak’s collection of pop-arty designs, or other graphic design imagery and objects.

6. Frugal: We’re using the word ‘frugal’ to describe an interior design style that is spare and committed to having only objects that are necessary, with a special focus on upcycled, repurposed pieces. To perfectly understand this idea of living with what is necessary, I’d ask you to look at the pictures and watch the story of fashion designer Aratrik Dev Varman’s Ahmedabad home. Simple lean design based on philosophy rather than style.


7. Minimalist: Inspired by the international movement, in India many are opting for minimalism. While frugal is a lifestyle choice, minimalism isn’t necessarily so (think Kim Kardashian West’s minimalist style home). In décor terms the style is about open spaces, fuss-free silhouettes and a tight edit of few essentials in not more than two or three colours and their shades.


8. All of the above: you know what we mean.


Check out some of the popular interior design styles of 2022

Create a Personal Photo Gallery

Gathering paper ‘cuttings’ or screenshots of décor images you like is really important. There’s no telling where you may see them. On Beautifulhomes.com we have a gallery of just images classified by rooms. Similarly, Instagram and Pinterest are great for inspiration. Screenshot as many of the images as you like and keep them in albums on your phone. But also take the time to go through physical magazines and books. It doesn’t matter whether you’re looking at international or domestic imagery. Of course, what you can buy in India is very different from what you could source abroad, but the excavation into style doesn’t have borders. Once you have accumulated a bulky repository of images, like say 30-50 of them, then sit down and sift through your catalogue.

Quirky interior design - Beautiful Homes

A quirky and graphic space that speaks of the personality of the homeowner very clearly. Photography by Pankaj Anand

There’s a pretty good chance you’ll rethink a few. Discard the ones you no longer fancy. Dig deeper into the images you like.

  1. Where are some of these photos from?
  2. Who designed some of these spaces, or how’d they come about?
  3. Is there a designer whose work is resonating through at least a few of the pictures?
  4. Is there a colour family that’s coming up over and over again in these images?
  5. How are the images being described by its source? Use those keywords and terms to get to the next stage of understanding of your own style.

Respect the Space

One way of creating a perimeter around your design choices is by understanding the nature of the building or home that you have. Is it an older building with architectural flourishes from an older style? Does the space have any design features you cannot avoid or get rid off? Those elements will have to be taken into account when you’re choosing your furniture so that the room looks harmonious.


Take a Breath, Go Slow

Understand and accept that design takes time. The only sort of home you can move into with everything perfectly loaded up would be a show flat. Real homes take time to put together. So, exhale…


Have a Look-see

Talking of show flats, these mock-up spaces are fantastic almost-real examples of interior design, and great to see and understand the latest trends and ideas. A weekend spent doing the rounds of a few of these spaces is time well-spent in décor research. When the Lodha World One project was launched in Mumbai many years ago, I remember, they had show flats most exquisitely created by Armani Casa. So, even if you’re not necessarily looking to buy, a visit to a show flat is not a bad idea.


Do the Rounds, and then Do it Again

Hit the shops, as they say. Look at what’s available in the market. When you do remember:

  1. Go armed with the proportions of the space. The best design is simply about proportions. Accessories must not be too small or too big for a room; everything in balance—that is the basic and most important principle of design. Doing the rounds of the stores will help you understand products in relation to the size of the home. You don’t want objects to be ill-fitting in any way.
  2. Understand retail prices, and create a budget based on what you’ve learned. This forms a very important cut-off point for your project. So, even if the trend of the season calls for a chandelier your budget will tell you if it’s actually feasible to have one.
Book on rules of interior design - Beautiful Homes

Interior designer Kelly Hoppen's The Golden Rules of Design is a masterclass in designing spaces. Image courtesy, Amazon.in

Reach for the Experts

One of my favourite interior design guidebooks is the Kelly Hoppen manual, The Golden Rules of Design. Hoppen’s rules, which she succinctly writes in point form in every chapter, is a great groundwork for understanding the basics of proportion, layering etc. And what makes it especially useful are the images, of course, because she illustrates each point with an image from her vast repository of work. Ignore her style, which may or may not be yours, and just take a highlighter to the rules that appeal to you. Another olden goldie is this one: Design Rules by Elaine Griffin. She’s got a few layout suggestions in there as well, and it’s really useful because the grounding principles are sound even if the proportions are for American households. I love Queer Eye, for Bobby Berk’s rules of design, and Fixer Upper, another show which also has some dramatic transformations. Watching a few of these interior design shows will get your eye used to paying attention to details and understanding trends, and perhaps even realizing what you like, or don’t like.

Begin to Mood Board

Once you have a certain amount of imagery in your folder, or album, start assembling a few ideas together. Get prints of some of the images you’ve taken and pair samples of fabrics, and images of products together to see if things go together. This is best done on a corkboard, where you can move things around and play with styles. Remember, the idea here is to see most of the things you’ve saved sitting in front of you so you can once again edit, edit, edit.


Remember this is not a Home Makeover Show

When you’re decorating on your own accept that completion, fruition often takes some time and it should. There’s always a possibility that you didn’t find the perfect something you were looking for, if you’re a Monica Gellar type then you’ll wait, if you’re a Chandler then you may just go ahead and buy the thing that works best in the moment. But it is perfectly normal to finish a décor project in stages, when resources and choices perfectly align. It’s a real home not a TV show.


Most of this piece is really about the ground research and must-knows before the design choices are made. Get started with a design project knowing that it’s going to enrich your sensibilities in many ways, and you may soon find some of interior design choices translating into the wardrobe even. 

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