We are all consistently looking for character in our homes and even the people we connect with, but for something so sought after, we have a very hard time defining what it really is. We know character when we see it. It’s the standard that sets an interior space apart from the rest and makes it stand out for all the right reasons. We all want our residences to have character, but what does it mean to add character to your home? I’m breaking down the three elements of character and how to tap into each one to create a unique and comfortable space that welcomes you to curl up and leaves a lasting impression.
How Interior Designers Add Character to Your Home
Character separates the Craftsman homes with their warm wall paneling and stained glass accents from the bare-bones modern boxes with their cold gray sheetrock and beige carpets. We talk a lot about character, but what do we really mean by it? Interior designers add character to homes by embracing a multifaceted approach. Three main aspects make up character as a whole — the character of the home, the character of the homeowner, and the character of the interior designer. Good, character-rich design takes all of these unique elements into account, combining them in a way that is never exactly the same on any project.
Tapping Into Character
How do designers tap into these three elements of character? Instead of clinging to a “signature style” and forcing that look onto a space and a client, a designer needs to break free of any preconceived mold and let the imperfections and quirks of these three character facets shine. Interior design affects our mood, and people can instantly tell when a space and style feel forced. As a designer, I start my projects by honoring the architecture of the home. Then I inject the quirks and interests of the homeowner. Finally, I allow my response and interpretation of the two to come out. You must tap into each element of character for a truly personalized and authentic approach.
The 3 Elements of Character Explained
The Architecture of the Home
Tapping into the home’s architecture means honoring the space’s style, history, and quirks. When decorating a historic Georgian-style home, a designer should reference the period and honor elements like paneling and Chinoise wallpaper. Similarly, one should embrace the dormered windows and slanted ceilings in a Cape Cod bedroom rather than try to hide or cover up the architectural feature. The designer should make informed decisions based on the home’s history rather than impose a look from a different time and place. While a client may love the Shabby Chic look, country florals won’t feel right in a mid-century modern home’s sunken living room.
The Personality of the Homeowner
While the home’s architecture must be honored first, there are plenty of ways to inject the homeowner’s personality into the space. In fact, their personal preferences and quirks should be celebrated! Maybe the designer works with them to select colors based on the home in their favorite children’s book. Perhaps we create custom shelving to display their collection of records or teacups or unicorn action figures. A home should reflect those living there, providing day-to-day functionality and personalized style.
The Interpretation of the Interior Designer
As an interior designer, it’s up to me to understand the architectural history of the home and assess my client’s personal style to deliver a design plan. My interpretation of the two will ultimately put a bit of my own character into the space. To get the most out of working with an interior designer, it’s important for clients to trust the process while communicating all of their needs without commanding a specific style or solution. Your designer brings a unique viewpoint and may offer soluitoons you have never considered!
5 Ways to Add Character to Your Home
Highlight the Quirks
Embracing your home’s quirks adds character, whether it’s a strangely angled wall, an exposed brick column, or a stained glass window. Instead of covering these features up, highlight them and embrace them.
Go Bold Where It Counts
Go bold with bright colors and unique patterns in small spaces like entry halls and powder rooms. Try an intricate botanical or bug pattern on your wallpaper to add some whimsy. Small pass-through spaces like these are the perfect place to experiment without the worry of growing tired of your selection.
Big box store furniture is the death of character in the home. Embrace the search for one-of-a-kind pieces to create romantic interior spaces. One-of-a-kind can mean anything from the heirloom armoire purchased at auction to a coffee table found on the curb to custom upholstery selections.
Display Personal Collections
Many of us tend to collect objects, whether from our travels or interests discovered in our youth. Displaying these collections is the best way to showcase your personal character, whether you collect concert posters from your favorite band or shells from seashore vacations.
Don’t Be a Copycat
While it may be tempting to “keep up with Joneses,” no one likes a copycat. Modeling your space off of magazine photos or your neighbor’s home can feel forced and void of your own personal flair. If you are nervous about embracing your character, let your designer know. Discovering your style is a process, but it yields a rewarding and comfortable space.
Character Lies Within
Character lies within — within the space, the homeowner, and the interior designer. Good design responds to the unique nature of the home and how the owners want to live and present themselves. As designers, it’s our duty to use our education and experience to lean into the creative process and search within rather than fleeing to outside solutions.
While we tend to chalk character up to exposed beams and wood paneling, the real character in your home is in you.
Amity Worrel is an award-winning interior designer based in Austin, Texas. She has worked on high-end interior design projects for celebrities and tastemakers in NYC, LA, and the Bahamas. In 2008, Amity decided to bring her passion for diverse design back to her hometown of Austin. Her spaces pull from timeless design concepts ranging from coastal contemporary to cozy cottage to Austin eclectic. Emotional connections, functional flow, and a touch of humor remain central to every interior design scheme. Her work has been published in national and local publications, including The Wall Street Journal, House Beautiful, HGTV Magazine, Better Homes and Gardens, and Austin Home. In her free time, she loves perusing estate sales and diving into design history. Learn more about Amity.