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Defining Personal Style, With Michael Smith's Help

May 20, 1999|JEANNINE STEIN

Interior designer Michael Smith believes strongly in designing a home that is true to its owner's style. If you're thinking of making some changes, he offers these guidelines:

* "It's hard to look at yourself from an overview perspective, to step out of yourself, but I think you really need to do that. First, look at your personal style--how do you dress? Are you preppy? Armani? A funky Betsey Johnson? What do you reach for most and are most comfortable in? Ask your friends--how do they see you?"

* "Ask yourself if you're really an English country person. If you wear monochromatic black clothes, maybe you can have influences of English country without re-creating a thematic room, which is a bad idea and won't be right for you. People see a picture in a magazine and get caught up in wanting their house to look like that, but it's not personal, it's not cut to fit."

* "Everybody likes something new in the beginning, but you gradually get sick of it. You need to live with pieces of it first. It's like the way you paint some color on a wall before determining if you like it. People think of buying rooms like they buy clothes. But furnishings aren't transitory, they're around for a long time. So choose a couple of pieces and live with them for a while."

* "People tend to have too many different kinds of things. They want a Shabby Chic chair with a Biedermeier table, and after you get to five or six elements, it's a mess. It's nice to have a connective element. When in doubt, stick to three things--color or texture or style of furniture. Then give yourself a little room to grow. If you want to collect something, start off slowly--don't buy books by the yard. I'd rather see empty bookshelves or paperbacks than leather-bound books in German that are upside-down."

* "People often make the mistake of decorating a house and then moving into it. But when you live in a house you might realize that you don't use your dining room that much, or you need more closet space. If you don't use the dining room, maybe you can turn it into a library, or put a daybed in there and make it a guest room. The thing is figuring out how you live."

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