Read an Excerpt
Daring to Be Yourself
Why you need personal style
Today we have such an overload of information that we feel confused and frustrated by the wide range of choices available. Television and the print media bombard us, causing "information anxiety." Glossy picture magazines make real life seem gray in comparison to their make-believe land where skinny models and expensive merchandise show us how we're supposed to dress, decorate and entertain. We feel inadequate as people marketing materialism press on us. Buy and be happy. Bigger is better. Newest and latest is best. Trade in, trade up. Excess becomes a need. We lose trust in sales-people. Worse, we lose confidence in ourselves and in our ability to make pleasing, sensible choices.
All this emphasis on money and acquisition can increase our sense of insecurity and lower our self-esteem unless we focus on what our needs and desires dictate. We must take hold of life, grasp it with both hands.
When I was a young apprentice decorator earning a little over a hundred dollars a week, living in an inexpensive rent-controlled apartment on East Sixty-fifth Street between Madison and Fifth avenues in New York City, I had a small dinner party for a few of the senior decorators and some of my colleagues from the office. After the party was over and my guests were in the elevator, my assistant commented to our bosses on how attractive my apartment was when someone said, "Yes, but Sandie has nothing of quality."
I remember how much it hurt when I learned of this offhand remark; now, twenty-five years later, I am finally able to shrug it off.
The older decoratorwho made the remark is typical of many people who think of quality as high-priced items rather than charm, flair and warmth. To equate quality with money is foolish. My apartment was light, cheerful, full of color and warmth. I had indoor window boxes brimming with red geraniums, and books, music, a warm fire, a general feeling of love and hospitality that had more charm than most rooms filled with "quality" possessions. If we try to keep up with the way our parents or bosses live or with our neighbors or relatives, we will never find contentment. Yet others always are quick to judge us and want to influence us no matter how little they know about us. The answer is to become inner-directed. While we will always care what other people think, we have to find out what really speaks to us even if others won't fully understand.
Much of what I do as a residential interior decorator is detective work. Over the last twenty-seven years, I've helped thousands of clients develop their own style. I ask them questions that will give me clues to translate their wishes and dreams into tangible, workable, meaningful rooms that enhance and express their lives. "How personal do you want your home to be?" "How do you want to feel in your rooms?" "How are you affected by light?" "Do you want your rooms to stimulate or soothe you?" "What are your favorite colors?" "Are there any colors you loathe?" "What activities do you want to perform in your rooms?" "Are the rooms used in the morning? Midday? Afternoon? Evenings?" "How often do you have friends over?" "How do you like to entertain?" "When you are alone in the evening, where do you like to sit?" "How often do you watch television?" "Are you musical?" "Do you like to live in a formal manner or are you more casual?" "How do you dress when alone at home?" "Are you a careful planner or do you act spontaneously?" "Do you enjoy rearranging furniture and objects?" "How neat are you?" "Are you a collector?" "Is it hard to give things away?"
When a client asks me what I think about a decorating matter I inquire, "How does it make you feel?" I interview each family member privately. I take notes and try to come up with plans that will work well for each person and for the family as a whole. My clients seem so appreciative—almost surprised—when I help them get what they want. This book is aimed to give you what you want. Instead of becoming anxious and confused by your options, you can embrace the world's vast possibilities, identifying what speaks to your most real self and editing out the rest. This book is about becoming yourself, being as pure and honest as possible, both inside and out, so that your style truly becomes you in all areas. We are shaped and fashioned by what we have, observed Goethe. When we identify what we love we can more easily find our personal style.
Recording your journey
Because this book is one of self-discovery, I encourage you to record your progress. And to do it in your own style! If you want to keep a master style notebook, you could make it a 9 X 12-inch loose-leaf and insert tabs to separate each different style category. Or you might keep separate style file folders, labeled according to subject (one on home, one on clothes, and others on each of the chapters of this book); these folders could be filed together under the general heading "Style." Many people also keep a style journal, in which they jot down notes about their reactions to current tastes, styles, fads and fashions. If you like to doodle, sketch, cut out pictures or keep notes, you might enjoy starting a style journal. If you decide it would be fun to begin one, art supply stores have inexpensive black bound sketchbooks in a variety of sizes. On the other hand, maybe you're more attracted to the visual stimulation of pictures. When you see something that appeals to you in a magazine you can cut it out and either clip or paste it into a scrapbook or toss it into a box.Daring to Be Yourself. Copyright © by Alexandra Stoddard. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold. <%END%>