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Unearth Your True Personal Style: Secrets to Making Your House Feel Like Home

How do you really make a house feel like home? My condo, for instance, is nicely furnished, but it's still missing that mysterious, magical refinement that makes it feel like my home rather than someone else's. I've tried pinning away on Pinterest boards, but how do you translate that inspiration into your own space?

If you'd like some concrete steps on turning your home into your own personal haven, hear out designer and blogger Helen James. In her new book, "A Sense of Home: Eat, Make, Sleep, Live," out this month, she shares her secrets on how to hone your own aesthetic so your home feels, well, homey!

Ditch the Pinterest board

To get started, you need to figure out what the heck your personal style is. As James explains in her book, it's all about "making your home your own individual sanctuary that is a true reflection of who you are, and where you have been."

In other words, let go of your expectations of making your home look like something you saw in a magazine or on someone else’s blog. It’s about creating a reflection of yourself—your best self.

Create your master collection

But what if you don't know what your personal style even is? James has an exercise that helps you figure it out called the “master collection.” Here's how to put yours together.

Step 1: Pull together objects you really, really like. "Begin gathering objects that you connect with," James says. If that sounds a little touchy-feely, think of it this way: Look for stuff you like because of the way they look, smell, or feel. You should be able to find these objects all around your house, or you can gather them from the great outdoors. They should all be small enough to hold in your hand—cool items that speak to you because of the color, texture, or scent.

Step 2: Keep only the best stuff. "When you have built up around 20 items lay them on a table," James continues. "Now edit." Keep your very favorites and let everything else go. "Consider this your master collection," she says.

Step 3: Take a photo of your master collection. "Keep this photo on your phone, or print it out and place it somewhere where you can see it every day," James says.

Ta-da! This is your aesthetic blueprint and personal color palette. You’ve just figured out your personal style.

How to use your master collection

Now you get to use that photograph and the objects in your master collection to design your space.

You can start with your wall colors, using this trick that James shares: Buy paint samples in all the colors from your master collection and paint each one onto a large white card. Tape these cards right on the wall, and you’re going to get a better sense of the color than you would with those tiny little paint chips from the hardware store.

From there, move the card around to different walls, or take it with you to a furniture store, or to pick out drapes, or lamps, etc. For example, maybe those green grapes in your master collection remind you of what you’d like the bathroom tiles to look and feel like.

Go beyond color: Texture

You’ve probably read that a mixture of layered textures should be a thing in your home. “Think of texture as you would color. You want to play with it," says James. "Having all the same textures in a room will be just as bland as if you had all the same color.”

This is another way you can use your master collection. What were the textures you were attracted to? That’s a good starting place, but here’s James’ tip for layering textures for that sophisticated-but-warm effect: “You need to create contrasts.” Look at what you already have, and add something made from a very different material.

James supplies some examples of contrasting textures:

  • Textured rugs on polished floors

  • Woven baskets on tile

  • Plush velvet against a cool marble

  • Metal and sheepskin

  • Worn wood and deep-pile rug

  • Gloss and matte—i.e., matte walls with gloss woodwork in the same hue

In my own living room, I looked for things that would contrast with my neutral, wool-upholstered sofa. I went with shiny, copper accent tables and fluffy faux fur accent pillows. See? Maybe this home decor business isn’t rocket science after all.

Take it to the nose

Scent is another powerful tool in creating your home environment, James says. You want one of those seriously nicely scented homes—the kind where people walk in and say, "Oh, my God, it smells amazing in here. What is this?" And you respond with a shrug, saying, "Oh, you know, just my signature home scent."

For a quick way to figure out that scent, just go to Whole Foods and sniff all the essential oils. Pick three you like. Done! James recommends adding 8–10 drops of essential oil into a cool misting diffuser.

Use wall space to express what you love

If you have art or framed photos, James recommends hanging the largest ones first, "then add subsequent pieces from largest to smallest." Make sure there aren't huge gaps between pictures.

Don't have art or photos? Art can be anything. "A length of wooden beads from India, a string of agate, a vintage brush, a beautifully weathered piece of driftwood, and an embroidered textile that belonged to a grandmother have all found a place on a wall in my home," says James.

It's your house. You get to decide what's wall-worthy. And taking a few risks, as long as it's something you really love, is another unexpected way to make your house feel like home.

Original Post on - Adriana Velez is a food, wellness, and home writer . Her work has been featured in Healthyish,, Lifehacker, She Knows, and CafeMom.

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