Don’t Let the Algorithm Design Your Home

The Algorithm is Flattening Style — Here’s How You Can Beat It


Are things starting to look the same as you scroll through your social media feeds for interior design inspiration? Let’s take a minute to see what corner of the internet the algorithm has placed you in. If your phone sends you images of white-washed woods, rustic plank tables, and floral textiles, congratulations — you’re Cottagecore. Feeds populated with interiors of clean lines and nature-inspired palettes might indicate that you’re in the Japandi corner (an intersection of Japanese and Scandinavian design). If you still see photos of white shiplap and high-contrast black hardware, God help you because you’re stuck in Modern Farmhouse purgatory. 

Are you starting to feel a little boxed in, like it’s your job to adhere to a high school label in a John Hughes movie? You’re not alone. The algorithm is flattening style, feeding us the same images over and over in what’s becoming a monoculture void of originality. If you stand by, your home will become just another Instagram photo in the never-ending scroll of sameness. 

Don’t let the algorithm design your home. Here’s how to beat it. 


What is the Algorithm?

The algorithm feels like a mystical almighty power influencing our tastes, purchases, and even the final design of our homes. In an NPR interview, Kyle Chayka, author of Filterworld: How Algorithms Flattened Culture, explains that up until 2016, most social media feeds were displayed chronologically. This linear display left it up to users to explore and seek out inspiration on their own. Now, many feeds are driven by algorithmic recommendations that measure your interest and push content you’re more likely to “like” and click. Chayka explains the two-fold impact of how the algorithm is affecting tastes: 

“For us consumers, they are making us more passive just by, like, feeding us so much stuff, by constantly recommending things that we are unlikely to click away from, that we’re going to tolerate, not find too surprising or challenging. And then I think those algorithmic feeds are also pressuring the creators of culture, like visual artists or musicians or writers or designers, to kind of shape their work in ways that fits with how these feeds work and fits with how the algorithmic recommendations promote content.”

When it comes to interior design, the algorithm limits exposure to set styles, and designers are rewarded for designing within those dictated confines — making it almost impossible (but not entirely) to create something bold, new, and exciting. 


The Flattening of Style

What happens when the algorithm captures you and forces the same interior design inspiration images on you day after day? I can attest to the feeling of suffocation that I get when I see the same rooms come up in my feed over and over. There’s a simultaneous feeling of boredom matched with a pressure to conform. Is this the only way now? 

I did not even realize that I felt that way until I traveled to New York City recently and was exposed to some new decor pieces in different showrooms, Googled to learn more, and suddenly stumbled into a new algorithm. I was in a brand new visual world. The effect was eye-opening, like seeing someone decked out in color on a crowded Manhattan street of black trench coats. 

Style may be flattening, but there are other dimensions still out there. 


Sourcing Sameness  

I hope I do not come across as rude when I say this, but so many folks in the interior design field have tunnel vision when looking for solutions to design problems. Why else do we see the same layouts and materials time and time again?

At some level, there is a benefit to uniformity. For example, the basic design of a chair works and shouldn’t be messed with. It’s designed to fit and support the human form. Design can also communicate what to expect. If you are walking into a Whataburger, there is no confusion on where you are or what you can order because the visuals cue you in. A desire for sameness also comes from the basic human need to fit in, which is why we tend to dress like our friends and even furnish our spaces similarly.  

At some point, however, we have to stop being copycats. In his article, The Age of Average, Alex Murrell examines why things are starting to look the same, from Airbnbs to coffee shops to cars. He finds the monotony of cars comes from companies using the same air tunnels for testing, platforms for building, and basic colors to appeal to the masses. 

It’s easy, cheaper, and safer not to break the mold. And designers aren’t taking the risks they used to. 


IRL vs. Virtual 

Having started in this business before the internet was a “thing,” I can remember a time when the only way to find out what other designers were doing was to wait for their projects to be published in a magazine. The timeline of work (and editorial cycles) made it impossible to know what anyone was up to in real time or copy what they were doing. Design showrooms each had their own unique feel, placing bets on what would resonate and trend that year. The result was all of us working in silos, taking different, creative approaches to each space we encountered. 

These days, it is difficult to avoid being influenced by other designers’ work since it is so easy to see online. It can even feel intrusive at times. (Did I ask for this behind-the-scenes look at your latest project? No! But here it is on my Instagram feed.) 

Because we see so much of what other designers do in their clients’ homes these days, it is important to find inspiration from different sources. 


Beating the Algorithm 

Protecting your creative energy and vision becomes even more critical in a world of oversharing. Our clients want their homes to feel like them, and they certainly all believe they are unique. Even when they show us inspiration images, our Austin interior designers always discuss how to take that inspiration and turn it into something that feels like them. 

Unique Interior Design - Austin Texas

My advice for beating the algorithm and finding your own style? Use it AND lose it. Use it to keep up with the latest trends and see what everyone else is doing. This gives you a clear picture of what not to do if you’re looking to break the mold. Using these tools for inspiration and reference is fine, but don’t let yourself be controlled by them. Lose it when it doesn’t serve you. Take a break from the endless scroll and look for design inspiration in the real world. It could come from the scene set in an old book or color palettes created by Mother Nature herself. 


And with that, I think it’s time to log off.

Amity Worrel

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.



Austin Interior Designer, Interior Design