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Expert Advice: How to Define Your Personal Design Style

Ahead of her appearance at the Calgary Renovation Show, HGTV host Sabrina Smelko shares her tips for honing your at-home style.

Home renovations aren’t easy. Between flooring and countertops, drawer pulls and paint colours, there are a lot of decisions to make—so how exactly do you figure out what’s best? For Sabrina Smelko, host of HGTV Canada’s Save My Reno (and Main Stage guest at the upcoming Calgary Renovation Show), home makeovers are smoothest when you’ve got a well-defined interior design style to lead the way. So before you grab your sledgehammers and steel-toed boots, read on for Smelko’s best tips on how to find your signature look.

1. Function First

You may want to scroll through your Pinterest feed right away for inspiration, but Smelko suggests you take some time to learn how you function in your home, first: “What rooms and items get the most use? What’s important to you? What’s your daily schedule like?” she asks. “Tracking your steps and defining what you need from your home is a vital step in the design process.”

2. One in the Same

When you do start looking for inspirational images (it’s time to tear out those magazine pages!), keep your eyes peeled for similarities. “Perhaps you discover that rich walnut wood is found in most pictures, or that navy-walled bedrooms crop-up often,” says Smelko. “That’ll give you a great jumping-off point to start sourcing pieces.”

Slowly adding elements to a room—a sheepskin rug here, a weave basket there—will help determine what best fits with your personal style.

3. Slow and Steady

“A home is a constant work-in-progress,” says Smelko. “Just because you bring something into your home doesn’t mean it has to stay—or that it’s the right fit forever!” Take time to live in a space after its been painted or after you’ve added new furniture and let it evolve over time. No one says you have to get it all done in one day.

Sleek appliances will instantly uplift the kitchen, allowing you to save money on furniture and accessories.

4. Big Spender

Homeowners will always look for a way to save money during a renovation, but to avoid cutting corners Smelko suggests investing in big-ticket items—countertop stone, appliances and lighting in the kitchen, for example—so that you can save money on other things: cabinets, backsplashes (“One of the simplest DIY projects out there,” she says), accessories and furniture.

5. Hooked on a Feeling

Rather than focusing on looks, make renovation decisions based on how you want the space to feel. “Ask yourself if the sofa, the lamp, the rug feels cozy—or luxurious—whatever you’re after!” says Smelko. “If your items pass your adjective test, the room will work in harmony.”

Calgary Renovation Show

BMO Centre
20 Roundup Way SW, Calgary
Friday, January 12 to Sunday, January 14

Psssst! Use promo code WESTERN to save $4 on tickets—buy ’em here.

Looking for more home renovation tips? Check out the Renovation Shows in Winnipeg (January 12 to 14) or Edmonton (Jan 26 to 28).


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