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#058: Uncovering Your Design Style with Zandra Zuraw

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On the show today, I am sitting down with my friend Zandra Zuraw who is the host of the Style Matters podcast. We are going to talk all about uncovering your design style. Zandra has a really fun approach to this.  She helps people through her podcast, retreats, and courses.  

Her approach is all about slow style. Slow style is building your style over time. I really love this approach because it takes the pressure off that you have to have your space finished right now.  It lets you experience, do things over time, and slowly uncover your style along the way. 

You can download this episode from Apple PodcastsGoogle PodcastsStitcher, and Spotify – or listen to it below!

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in this episode:

[02:42] Zandra’s style process and journey

[04:10] Copying is a great place to start

[06:33] 5 steps to develop your style / Step 1: Assess where you’re at

[07:33] Step 2: Soul work – how to connect design elements to the internal feelings you want to have

[08:45] Third step: find and interpret outside inspiration

[09:52] Stage 4: learn skills and gain knowledge

[10:38] Final stage is celebrating your home

[13:24] 3 guiding principles for slow style / Life informs style

[15:12] Style is active and evolves

[19:46] Set up your environment to help you achieve your goals 

[30:56] Why style matters

[34:25] Tips for avoiding style mistakes

[41:29] What Cara’s obsessed with this week

[42:39] Trend Talk: Greenery Holiday Decor

[02:42] Zandra’s style process and journey

I have definitely honed it over time and I’m very self-taught as you are. It started the way it does with almost everyone I talked to, which was when I bought my first home. We have this innate need to put our stamp on things and to see ourselves reflected in our environments. It’s empowering, it makes us feel like we’re being seen in it, and it makes us feel like we’re growing up a little bit. 

I just fell in love with this idea of being creative and putting my stamp on something. So my first home was sort of in the country in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, so I got on this whole country kick. I was just copying Country Living magazine and then I slowly started expanding. Over the years, I have developed my own style, but that’s where the journey started.

[04:10] Copying is a great place to start

I just copied what I saw other people doing. Copying is a great place to start because if copying you’re really paying attention to the details of what the pros are doing and you will learn so much.

[06:33] 5 steps to develop your style / Step 1: Assess where you’re at

The first thing you really need to do is assess where you’re at both with your own home and what you have. That includes looking at your mess, looking at your clutter, looking at everything you’re surrounded with, what you hate, and getting rid of it without guilt. It also is about assessing where you are in your life emotionally. What’s going on in your life, your lifestyle, whether or not you have kids, whether or not you have a partner, or whether or not you have any extra space in the backyard. The goal here is to get your house helping you achieve those feelings of what you need internally.

[07:33] Step 2: Soul work – how to connect design elements to the internal feelings you want to have

The second step is what I call soul work and that’s where we really dig into it and try to start understanding how to connect design elements to those internal feelings you want to have. This is a tough one for a lot of people because if you’re not the type of person who thinks abstractly naturally, it’s really hard to get over that hump of being very literal about matching the shape of a chair leg to how you want to feel. The idea here is to just figure out for you what feelings different colors, textures, or items evoke.

[08:45] Third step: find and interpret outside inspiration

The third step is to find and interpret inspiration. I’m a huge fan of going outside of our interiors, to find inspiration. I love design magazines and design shows. I also feel like the best way to find a color palette honestly is by looking at a gorgeous picture of a bird that has a fabulous pattern on its wings and different colors from its beak to its feet. I like to get inspiration from places that you wouldn’t necessarily assume you get inspiration from. It could be a restaurant, a hotel, a bookstore, or certainly boutiques. Another great place to find outside inspiration is in nature. In this stage, we do some external work looking outside ourselves.

[09:52] Stage 4: learn skills and gain knowledge

Stage four is really where someone learns skills and gains knowledge. Skills tend to be DIY skills. Learning how to build something yourself and how to realize your vision, when you can’t find it in the store. That’s when you pick up fabric, wood, nails, screws, and make it yourself. This stage is also about other kinds of knowledge gaining like the history of how things are made, how linen is made, how a Turkish rug is made, what does it take to clean a copper pot that you find at a thrift store and that kind of stuff.

[10:38] Final stage is celebrating your home

The final stage is the best stage, it is to celebrate your home. It’s about really embracing what you’ve got. Either inviting friends over and throwing a party or just setting up daily rituals for yourself. 

[13:24] 3 guiding principles for slow style / Life informs style

Life has to inform style. Where you are in your life, your particular stage in life, your lifestyle has to inform how you’re going to decorate. Your style has to work for you and it’s got to work for who you are. The tricky part though, is when you start living with other people, because you may have a different way of living than they do. You have got to be realistic about what’s going on in your life and make your systems work for you. Because if you try to fit yourself into a system, it’s like New Year’s resolutions, they rarely last.

[15:12] Style is active and evolves

The second basic principle is that style is active. You learn by doing you, you figure out who you are, what you’re good at, what you like, and what your eye is attracted to by trying and playing around.  Just play with what you have, move your furniture around, try out different colors on your couch by grabbing different colored blankets and seeing which one works for you. You’ve got to be willing to play around and make mistakes in order to develop your style. Otherwise, it’s all just in your head and it’s going to be product-driven by whatever the trends are. That’s just going to lead to you getting very bored with what you have, spending money you don’t want to spend, and not feeling very satisfied. Finally, the third principle, as we’ve just been saying, is style evolves over time.

[19:46] Set up your environment to help you achieve your goals 

I talk a lot about setting up your kitchen so that it supports your health goals. Make sure that you do everything you can visually and organizationally to make your kitchen a place you want to be, cook, and experiment. Or it could be your mental health and taking those breaks that you need or getting a diffuser so that you have some lovely essential oils that are being diffused into the air. Plants are huge in terms of not just helping us with the air we breathe, but caring for a living being like that, and watching it grow is so satisfying. Our homes are the place that we have to make that happen. Your home is really a huge opportunity. 

[30:56] Why style matters

I believe everyone deserves beauty. Beauty has become something that we think of superficially and there are a lot of superficial ways to create or access beauty that has to do with kind of putting a mask on, covering things up, or sugarcoating things. But true beauty is different. We need to remember that we are worthy of it, we deserve it, and it’s not extra.  It’s not something that you only get when you have enough money for it or you’ve got the time for it.  It is something that I think we deserve every day and our style is a way to express what we think is beautiful for others to see. Our style is the way that we share who we are, talk a little bit about where we’ve been, and it also starts to shine the light on who we want to become.

[34:25] Tips for avoiding style mistakes

The thing that people struggle with the most is the fear of not knowing if things “go together” or how to mix them together. There is the tendency to make sure things go together, so we buy all new stuff all at once so that everything matches. Also being so worried it’s not going to match that they get paralyzed and don’t do anything. That’s why playing around with what you already have before you buy anything is so helpful. Pull things from other parts of your house and live with it just for a week and start to see how it feels and what changes you need to make.

[41:29] What Cara’s obsessed with this week

So this week is not a thing, it’s a feeling. It’s the perfect time to reflect on what we love about our home.  This is such a good time to reflect on all the ways that our home is serving us, all the ways it’s working, all the things that are going right in our spaces that energize us and support us.  It can be so easy on the journey of DIY and home decor to always be looking at the next project. It’s good to just take a break, look back on all you’ve accomplished in your space even if it doesn’t feel finished yet, and celebrate the wins. I just want to encourage you to be obsessed with the space you already have. Find the good stuff, find those exciting moments, and celebrate them.

[42:39] Trend Talk: Greenery Holiday Decor

We are looking ahead a little bit to holiday decor in terms of Christmas. If you celebrate Christmas, and you’ve started putting up your decor, you may already be set and ready. But for the rest of us that are just now thinking of it, I just wanted to share a holiday trend I’m seeing that I think is really, really cool. It’s pretty much just like greenery, lights, and neutral accents. There’s not a lot of extra over-the-top decor. It’s really focused on fresh greenery and just simple white lights. I know holiday decor is so rooted in tradition. So you might already have a whole opinion on this and you’re set in your ways and you know what works for you and that is fine. But for everyone else that’s undecided, I think this trend is really cool because it kind of lets us step back and not feel like we have to be in that holiday hustle of doing all the things because it’s Christmas.

So if you’re feeling that this trend might be your solution to keeping things simple, find some fresh greenery or faux garlands. Then decorate with some lights and really simple touches that are neutral and not overpowering. It’s going to save you time, it’ll be less expensive, and it’s just visually cleaner.

connect with zandra zuraw:

instagram: @littleyellowcouch // website: littleyellowcouch.com

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