How to create a style guide for your home remodeling project

Our story so far: My husband Tyler and I bought an old Methodist church to renovate into our home, and after the lion’s share of interior demolition to create a blank slate, we are faced with ten thousand decisions about finishes.

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Up until I turned 50, I was happy to let my first husband decorate the house during my first marriage, and then with Tyler, we literally outfitted the first home we purchased together in the space of six weeks by shopping mostly at big-box stores. We were busy people then, and raising a teenager was our priority.

Now, as I pondered the design of our new home, I decided a vision board was in order. The array of options on display at Home Depot, Overstock.com, lighting stores and the various architectural salvage warehouses we visited overwhelmed us. We needed a method of narrowing down our options so we could actually make decisions when the time came. While Tyler pondered ways to install plumbing and electrical when we began our project, I meditated on the finishing details.

I began with my tool of choice: Words.

When I was a brand manager for a major scrapbooking company some two decades before, I had created style guides for logo use, brochure creation and scrapbook page design. These guides helped far-flung marketers and designers all over the world adhere to a coherent brand message about the company’s products. So I drew on that experience to write a style guide for our new house that would help Tyler and I create a home with a unified design.

First, I channeled my inner Joanna Gaines. She was the design guru behind HGTV’s “Fixer Upper” who managed to infuse her modern farmhouse spaces with clean lines, airy color palettes and recycled shiplap. Her “less is more” attitude inspired me, and her home design jibed with the way I had learned to design newspaper pages back when I was a newspaper copy editor: Form follows function. This principle says the shape of something (a building or a brochure or whatever) should be primarily related to its intended function or purpose. In other words, regarding architecture, don’t design a ballroom for a couch potato, and do build bookshelves for a bibliophile.

Then I invested in an armload of home decorating magazines and spent hours flipping through ideas on Pinterest [I have a Church Sweet Home board on Pinterest you can follow if you’re interested—just click on the Pinterest logo in the right column].

With my concepts in mind, I interviewed Tyler. After all, he was going to live here, too. A focus group is simple to assemble when there are only two people in the group. I asked him questions like “How do you want your kitchen to look?” “How to you want to feel when you walk in the front door?” “What colors do you hate?” and “What one word would you use to describe your style?”

Then I put pen to paper (fingers to keyboard, actually), and began.

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Tomorrow: The mission statement of our home style. Read it here.

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