How to Find Your Preferences for Your Home

How to Find Your Preferences for Your Home

Discover how to personalize your home by aligning it with your lifestyle, exploring styles, and embracing the process as an evolving journey of self-expression and comfort.


It’s hard to say what makes me feel at home. I know it when I feel it. But it is a problem when I don’t feel at home and can’t verbalize why. 

One of the first things that struck my co-founder Dane and me when building a company in Home and Decor was just how alienating some of the terms could be. After two years in furniture, I still don’t really know what Mid-century Modern is. 

Moreover, whether or not a piece of furniture is mid-century modern – likely not all would even agree on this –- hardly matters. What matters more than what a piece of furniture is called is whether or not I like it and whether or not it fits into my life. Whether it can feel like home.

My wife and I once hired an excellent interior designer. Most of what she did was help us find our preferences. She did this in many ways, but three that really impressed me. 

  • She asked questions to identify how we had already used our space and gave us a shared language where we had none. 
  • She proposed a plethora of options we would have never even seen on our own for us to react to.
  • She helped us synthesize our preferences and acted as a quasi-marriage counselor as we navigated decisions.

What Do You Do at Home?

A great deal of good design is simply aligning space with its function. Moving through your personal and family routines can feel effortless like everything is in the right place. 

Instead of starting with styles or en vogue trends, begin by taking inventory of what you do at home. Many of the things you’ll do at home are universal. Not all are. And the importance you place on a given activity and the way you do it certainly are not.

A well-functioning home will complement your lifestyle. If you love to read, you can prioritize a cozy reading nook. Perhaps you want a vibrant space for hosting friends. Or a serene space for meditation. Or a well-equipped and comfortable kitchen to cook home meals.

Unless you’re interested in big lifestyle changes, the best place to look for what matters most to your lifestyle is to take inventory of what you’re already doing. Ask yourself: Does my current space support and enrich the essential activities that define my daily and weekly routines?

You may aspire to incorporate new habits into your days and weeks. If you want to read more, make a cozy reading nook, and you will likely read more. We can dream our homes into being just as we dream ourselves into being. You might begin by visualizing your ideal week at home. See yourself moving through each moment. What kind of space are you in?

You also may be just one of many people that live in your home. Your partner, roommate, parent, or child will each have their own daily routines and their own aspirations. How do you cater to all of these routines and aspirations in a small space? This may seem intractable, but there is much meaning in making it work.

What Does Home Feel Like?

Good interior design may seem like a kind of magic when you encounter it. Why? A well-designed space facilitates a function and evokes a feeling

The emotion of a space is elusive. It is easy to point to what I do. It is harder to identify how I feel when doing what I do. It is harder still to identify how the space informs this. Moreover, feelings, by definition, will vary by person and be informed by so many other things.

Just as designing for function – What do I do, and how does my home support this? – designing for emotion starts with self-awareness. How do I feel when doing each of these activities? How do I want to feel when doing each of these activities – or, more to the point, all of them together – and how does my home support this?

This is art, not science. One thing to consider is where you have felt most at home in the past. If you aspire for a vibrant hosting space, where have you experienced the most memorable hosted meals? If you aspire for a reading nook, what nooks have informed your love of reading?

This may be deeply introspective, involving self-understanding and a kind of courage that is quite hard. Yet a home of this kind can support your life and growth unlike anything else, and so it is worth the effort.

Aesthetics Beyond Labels

For some people, function may be enough. For others, the function is just the beginning. How a home feels is, first and foremost, a reflection of the spatial arrangement and what activities happen there. Next, it’s a reflection of an aesthetic – a sort of silent language of colors, textures, and items, which, taken together, express the personality of our home.

Some words help build a shared language. Words can help me differentiate a moody, minimalist living from a cheerful, eclectic one. Yet any aesthetic – including all common styles –  is ultimately visual language. Many people may describe the same space in different terms, so words will only get you so far.

How do you determine which style feels like your home? A good place to start is to look at as many things as you can tolerate quickly. This starts to build your understanding of the possible universe of styles and their combinations. You can’t see everything. To navigate, simply focus on what visually appeals to you. See enough things that appeal to you, and patterns emerge.

Why spend the time to do this? When I build a space that is an expression of myself, it feels much like wearing an outfit that I feel confident in.

One reason we built Spoken is that there simply wasn’t any one place to see a lot of furniture of different styles without a lot of noise. The noise gets in the way of preference finding.

Preferences are Revealed, and Change

When you start, you may not know exactly how you want to feel in your home or what spatial arrangement or aesthetic choices will lead to this. This is OK. Making your home is more of an endless experiment than a careful arrival at a final form. 

You might have to experiment with many different styles and arrangements before you feel confident about knowing your home’s function and style. It may take years longer to feel your home’s function and style is fully expressed – you have to find pieces that fit the space and do the work to find them. 

Even then, moving spaces gaining and losing partners, and family members may reset your process. In the meantime, you’ll have to manage every other important aspect of life. Curating your home is, at best, a side gig.

Since making a home is a process and not a destination, the best heuristic simply is: do and get things that feel good to you and organize them in ways that feel good to you. Everything else – “mid-century modern,” “minimalist,” “cheerful” – unless those words are helpful, is noise.

The process is also inherently messy. A space may never feel “right,” though it can feel “good.” And it surely can feel better or worse with adjustment. So curating your home is also a never-ending side gig.

Making Your Space Your Home

Even without a professional designer, you are very capable of designing your space in a way that reflects your life and your preferences. Simple introspection can help you name your activities and routines at home. Look for inspiration, both online and in the real world.

Creating a home that truly feels like your own is a journey of discovery, one that evolves with you over time. It's about exploring, experimenting, and finding joy in the process of shaping a space that reflects who you are and who you aspire to be. 

Your home is more than a place; it's a story of your life, told through the objects and spaces you choose. Take your time, trust your instincts, make mistakes, and enjoy making a home that is uniquely and authentically yours.


Geoff Abraham

Co-founder & President of Spoken

Geoff is the co-founder and President of Spoken. He is a Dad. He holds a BA from UT Austin (Plan II) and an MBA from Stanford. Geoff has built several successful businesses, including a bicycle taxi business in San Francisco which he ran for 10 years with his wife, Mimosa. He is an executive coach, and he actively invests in seed-stage startups via The Explorer Fund.

Read more
© 2024 Treehouses, Inc.
© 2024 Treehouses, Inc.·About·Privacy·Terms·Log in·Sign up·Collections·Blog·Tiktok·Instagram