On reality TV, people describe themselves one way, but then viewers witness what they are really like. It only takes one surreal episode from the "Housewives" series or "Wife Swap," for example, to see how far a person's projected image can diverge from how they really live.
Which brings us to an important home reality question: Does your design style reflect your "authentic" self, to get a little Oprah-y? Is your home dressed for success?
"Often, you're cohabiting with someone who's quite different from yourself," says Middleton, a home stager and real estate professional in Cary, N.C. "You have to adapt your personal style to someone else's personal style. So often, we get clients, who, when we're done with the house, say, 'We should have done this sooner.' "
Couples tend to give up on the idea of developing a clear home design vision for the sake of peace. Whether going solo or sharing space, it is possible to project a truer image of oneself through design choices, Middleton says.
Look for Inspiration
Start by considering items around your home that you especially like. It could be a piece of artwork from a trip, a painting, a favorite outfit or a piece of fabric. "I have them bring out things they like and encourage them to try using these things as their inspiration," Middleton says of her clients. "Find a color palate they like and have everything relate to that."
Someone who owns a print of a Monet painting may favor a romantic style and have a preference for the soft pastels found in Impressionist paintings.
"You probably wouldn't buy modern furniture," she says. An oversize, fluffy couch would probably suit your taste. The inspirational piece, she says, is a key in defining the colors and the styles you favor."
Inspiration can come from apparel. A favorite dress or a man's tailored suit accented with a red tie suggests an individual who prefers a tailored, sleek environment with clean lines and minimal clutter, Middleton says. Design-wise, this can translate into pops of red accents, such as red pillows or artwork with red in it.
Backgrounds, such as wall colors, would be neutral, Middleton says. And to avoid going too dark, accent colors inspired by tan pinstripes, for example, could translate into tan rugs and other accent pieces, Middleton says. The white linen shirt becomes white accents such as a white throw, white curtains and trim, a chandelier, sleek chrome fixtures or a white picture frame that "really pops."
The look can easily be changed by swapping in accessories with new colors, Middleton says. "Nothing is built in."
Designer Mindy Miles Greenberg also suggests checking the closet for design inspiration.
"People who like a traditional look at home might be a person who has some Ralph Lauren in their closet," says Greenberg, who blogs at encoredecorblog.com. "People who like to wear BCBG might like a more forward, modern home."
Whatever a person's design personality, Greenberg says their overall vision should take into account motif, function, color and comfort. Decorating your home is about dressing for success," Greenberg says. "You dress for work, you look the part."
Likewise, a home needs to reflect a level of furnishings that reflect an individual's best self.
"That's why people hire designers," says Greenberg, who encourages homeowners and renters to at least consult with a designer to save much more money over time. "They hire a designer to take their aesthetic to the next level."
Avoid Theme Rooms
Middleton says one of the biggest mistakes is creating different themes for different rooms – hotel style in a bedroom, for example, and country French in the kitchen. This leaves a home feeling disconnected. Instead, choose a theme that connects every room. This doesn't mean every room must look alike. Consider how the red accents from the tailored suit or the soft pastels from the Monet are tools to help pull a theme throughout the house.
Those with eclectic interiors can solve conflicts by looking for a connection between pieces, Middleton says. For example, furniture in different styles might have a similar leg style or the same wood. A sofa may be contemporary, but its color may work well with a traditional chair.
Here's a trick Middleton uses. Stand in the room and squint your eyes. The piece that stands out is the focal point of the room. Is it the focal point you want? If so, build the room from there.
"Make sure pieces are related," Middleton says. "You could have a modern piece next to an old weathered piece, but they're both beachwood. You want to find balance."